What I Wish

Ah, school has started. And yes, there are the good things: new and exciting-seeming teachers. And subjects. And (for some) friends. 

And, to be entirely honest, as a person who works from home, it is a huge relief to me to have my house to myself again. Periods of quiet, in which no one (as far as I know) needs me at all, in which I am not actively messing anything up—these are a balm.


Diana is now 16 (yes, I am sure the thing in the margin is wrong, I will fix it someday) and in 11th grade. And she is taking AP English Composition. And it is not—yet, I must remind myself that this is yet—giving her things to read that make her soul sing.

Admittedly, this a tall order. She is not overly fond of nonfiction, and, too, she has become a most exacting critic, difficult to please and extremely persnickety. But…oh, how I wish she were not reading Malcolm Gladwell.

Is this unfair? No doubt it is extremely unfair. Malcolm Gladwell is, after all, an extremely readable writer. I read The Tipping Point, I read the pieces in the New Yorker. I understand why a teacher would go for him. There is just such a deep longing in me to see her read something that moves her, that breaks her open, that inspires. And for that, I fear, Mr. Gladwell simply will not do.

When I was home with tiny ridiculous babies, or even before that, when I was pregnant and we would play "What would you do if…" bullshit scenarios of a theoretical parenthood: What would you do if you found a bong in your kid's coat pocket? If you had an emergency meeting you were late to, and the light was red and you were with your kid? If we have a boy and he wants to wear high heels every day, possibly damaging his achilles tendon permanently?

But of course, life never asks you the questions whose answers you know. It's just that I never anticipated that school would become such a question. It  seemed a given to me, a thing people just do. I have no way to explain this lack of imagination. I myself was not the world's most natural student, I did not take to school like the proverbial duck to water. 

But for me now, as I watch Diana go through the trials and tribulations, it all seems to revolve around books: the books I wish she were reading. It is far beyond my power to offer or recommend books to Diana anymore. The last success I had was the To Be or Not to Be Choose Your Own Adventure, and since then nothing. I made Rainbow Rowell, Lev Grossman, and maybe a few others unreadable through my recommendations, and then I just stopped.

I guess I hoped that where I had failed, school would succeed. When I see Diana as a reader, I see her as a warehouse filled with explosives (in the very best sense of the term). I wanted school to (ahem) light her fire some more.

I must remind myself that it is only September 16. And she is finding recommendations other places. And the world is a large, strange, unpredictable place, and you don't always know how things will turn out, or what is making a difference.

Oh dear, but the truth is, I devoutly wish there were a Shakespeare course for juniors at her school.

And a good thing: Chestnut has landed an English teacher who wants them to deeply explore old versions of fairy tales. 

2 thoughts on “What I Wish

  1. I don’t know, Diamond — I went to a very prestigious prep school in the south with an incredible English lit and writing program. We had to read Faulkner and Shakespeare and O’Connor and Austen and Dickinson, etc. But what I remember reading most in those days were the books that my father had lying around — Harold Robbins and Peter Benchley and Herman Wouk, etc. etc. It was really in college that my very earnest reading — the kind that began as a child and took a hiatus in high school — began again. In other words, don’t lose hope.


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