American Sign Language

0CCA6B49-EC67-45D9-AFB2-D0AB23A495BBAbout a third of the students in the first aid and CPR course we completed over the summer were, as my older daughter and I are, employed by schools. The instructor remarked that, like the certification we earned that afternoon, basic ASL skills are also a terrific asset to educators, both in emergency situations and in the classroom. Naturally, then, when the local college posted a fall course schedule that included a four-semester sequence of ASL classes, it seemed like one of those serendipity / synthesis / synchronicity moments, and we enrolled.

The required text for the class is A Basic Course in American Sign Language; I picked up the optional workbook and DVDs from the series, too. Knowing that we appreciate having several delivery options when we study, my younger daughter, who began learning ASL from a college friend last year, recommended Sign School (which her friend played a large role in developing) and the American Sign Language Dictionary app.

While my daughters use their skills regularly, the older in her work and the younger to communicate with her friend, my husband (who also decided to take the class) and I don’t have an immediate need for ASL. Both of us have been teaching fingerspelling, however: he to his colleagues and I to my students. I have also taught my students several signs, including AWESOME, SURPRISED, and INTERESTING.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the fact that, even now, we are still engaged in a version of the family-centered learning project is so motivating. Bonus: My study group lives with me or is only a FaceTime call away!

On my desk

C6008888-0641-43D2-8408-643F4A23B3E8From Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke:

p. 253
She’d always believed that her parents had done right by her, but now, sitting mute at Stanton’s table, she found herself seething over their choices. Why had they kept her life so small? Why had they never asked her what she wanted? At every possible turn, she saw, they’d chosen the path that would keep her weak and dependent. And the fact that they couldn’t see it that way, that they sincerely believed they’d acted in her best interest, didn’t make it any less true, or them any less culpable.

I was certain I had read this novel when it was first published seven years ago, but I have no record of it, nor did it seem terribly familiar after the first chapter, so I picked up a remaindered paperback. While better than some entries to the “If you loved The Handmaid’s Tale, read this!” category of dystopian fiction, When She Woke proffers neither the intelligence nor the pervasive horror that undergird Atwood’s classic.

With some bookstore credits, I purchased Esi Edugyan’s novel, which has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

A few book notes

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What I’m reading now.

■ This week’s objective for the Kristin Lavransdatter readalong is Part 1 of The Wife, the second book in the trilogy. Because this old-fashioned but well-told story is so engrossing, however, I have been completing about one part per week since the readalong began: Last night I arrived at Part I of the third book, The Cross.

■ Since my last post, I have read a number of graphic fiction works, including:

Grass Kings, Volume 1: New World Order (Matt Kindt; 2018. Graphic fiction.)
Dept. H, Vol. 2: After the Flood (Matt Kindt; 2017. Graphic fiction.)
Dept. H, Vol. 3: Decompressed (Matt Kindt; 2018. Graphic fiction.)
Beverly (Nick Drnaso; 2016. Graphic fiction.)

While waiting for the library to acquire Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina (which appeared on the Mann Booker Prize longlist), I borrowed his 2016 work, Beverly, which was alternately damning and depressing. I am also waiting for the library to acquire the fourth volume of Matt Kindt’s Dept. H.

■ I am behind on my Banned Books Week selection, a reread of The Awakening (Kate Chopin), but I have finished The Third Hotel, Laura van den Berg’s meditation on death, grief, falling apart, and staggering on. For the commonplace book:

p. 80
Her husband believed that once the theater went dark and the film began, the viewer was alone — even if they had arrived in the company of others. This solitude was needed to dissolve the logic and laws of the world they had come from, replacing those principles with the logic and laws of the screen; that was how Yuriel Mata’s eels had slipped past. In this way you could descend into the theater with a person you knew intimately and then, once the lights returned, find yourself seated next to a stranger.

p. 88
Her own vast and incurious country often felt alien to her, with its unimaginative pledges and toxic patriotism, its aversion to discomfort and complex thought (the death of her brother-in-law alone had been enough to instill in her a hatred of truisms — what was so impossible about saying, Right now our lives are fucked up and we don’t know exactly when things will get better?), its desire to be recognized as a beacon of justice without ever actually acting like one. At the same time, America was the only country she had ever lived in, and she understood it could be disingenuous, perhaps even dangerous, to allow herself to feel superior to the thing she had always lived inside, the thing that had made her.

p. 93
You are dead, she thought. How could she have forgotten?

She had heard of the syndrome that drove people to believe loved ones had been replaced by fakes, but perhaps an inversion existed, one in which the fake was mistaken for the real, and she was afflicted.

p. 174
She did not know how to grieve her husband’s death or her father’s decline or the choice each day carried her closer to, the choice she was wholly unprepared to make — or would turn out to be more prepared than any person should be.

She did not know how to grieve in the context of her life.

Bullshit, Richard said. No one gets on a plane to see a movie.

Everyone dies at the end, she said, except the hero’s daughter.

p. 200
When a person did not know they were being watched, what they would do when they believed themselves to be in a state of true privacy — that was the lure of of found footage, that clarification of the human mystery, and that was why surveillance was so lethal: a true erosion of self.

■ With only three months remaining, it seems prudent to re-evaluate my reading resolutions for this year.

1. Read from the shelves.
I must make this annual resolution simply to torment myself. Of the 111 books I have read cover to cover this year, 39 were published in 2018. So much for reading from my own library, eh?

2. Complete a close reading of Moby Dick.
I’ve read it once and listened to the spectacular audiobook (William Hootkins; 2004) dozens of times, but I would still like to reread Moby Dick.

3. Reread at least one Vonnegut novel.
Sirens of Titan by Thanksgiving break.

4. Finish reading several books abandoned in 2017 (or *gulp* earlier).
No progress.

5. Read at least thirty non-fiction titles.
I’ve read twenty-three, so far.

Bookishness

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A few recent acquisitions.

So far this month, I have finished nine books:

The Children (Lucy Kirkwood; 2016. Drama.)
Vox (Christina Dalcher; 2018. Fiction.)
The Water Cure (Sophie Mackintosh; 2018. Fiction.)
Dept. H, Vol. 1: Murder Six Miles Deep (Matt Kindt; 2017. Graphic fiction.)
The Walking Dead, Volume 30: New World Order (Robert Kirkman; 2018. Graphic fiction.)
His Favorites (Kate Walbert; 2018. Fiction.)
The Incendiaries (R.O. Kwon; 2018. Fiction.)
Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath (Sigrid Undset; 1920. (Trans. Tiina Nunnally; 1997.) Fiction.)
The Devoted (Blair Hurley; 2018. Fiction.)

This puts me at 103 for a year-to-date total.

My Banned Books Weeks selection is The Awakening (Kate Chopin), a novel I first read more than three decades ago. I wonder how it will hold up. I am thisclose to finishing The Third Hotel (Laura van den Berg), and Fear (Bob Woodward), among other titles, is on my nightstand.

The following passage from R.O. Kwon’s recent novel, The Incendiaries, is for my commonplace book:

p. 58
No loss occurs in isolation, and a side profit of the faith that I missed at times like this was how easily, while Christ shone in each face, I loved. If hatred cuts both ways, to forgive can be a balm, and I often missed, as I would a friend, the more tranquil person I now had no reason to be.

New books

47319F94-9BDD-40CE-8603-754152C9698AFlute practice and lessons. A music theory MOOC. An ASL course. The lawn. (It keeps on growing! That’s the rain and Milorganite.) A long weekend with my daughter. Reading. And work. That’s where I’ve been. But look! Another photo of new books. *wink*