CBR BINGO: Farenheit 451
While I was fishing around trying to find a banned or controversial book for this review, I stumbled across several articles written in 2016 about a 15-year-old girl in a school district near me. When Jeannette Walls’ memoir, “Glass Castle” was removed from the 9th grade reading list at her school, this young woman was having none of it. She challenged her school district at a board meeting and very succinctly pointed out that the material that the parents were objecting to was regarding the treatment of kids younger than the 9th graders who were being prevented from reading it. She questioned why they should be sheltered from things like neglect and alcoholism and sexual abuse when kids her age were having to face it every day. Wouldn’t it be better to gain an understanding of that rather than try to hide it?
My son’s middle school curriculum tackles some very challenging and sophisticated reading material. I knew this when he entered the program a couple of years ago. I was familiar enough with some of his reading list to be a little skeptical. What could my tender 11-year-old possibly understand here? How could he comprehend what was going on in a meaningful way? While I cannot speak for everyone in his class, I have witnessed a young man understanding a lot more than I would have given him credit for. A young man, as it turns out, who can comprehend that tough material in a meaningful way and can come out on the other side of it with empathy and a level of understanding appropriate for his age. This has everything to do with the way that the material is presented and discussed by his teachers.
The idea that we should try to protect our children from the harsher aspects of life is a very dangerous one that I see play out all to often with my generation as they parent. This is where all that helicopter-ing does my son’s generation a disservice.
On the flip side of that coin are Jeannette Walls’ parents, Rex and Rose Mary. Both extremely intelligent and not without the ability to provide for their children, Rex and Rose Mary Walls are mired in their own needs. Often starving and living in unhealthy and dangerous conditions, the Walls children are forced to raise themselves and each other.
Amazingly, Walls’ memoir is almost a love letter to her parents and siblings. It would be easy for Walls to vilify her parents. The book is very difficult to read in some ways because she cannot seem to do just that. Instead, her writing has a bittersweet note to it. Rather than having a judgmental tone, Walls writes about her dysfunctional childhood with a matter-of-fact gentleness. She doesn’t make excuses for her parents or defend their behavior, but instead tells the story of their fierce independence. No matter how misguided, their need to forge their own path was, ironically, the one lesson that they were able to impart to their children.
It is a book that clearly deserves a spot on any reading list, even a 9th grade one.
CBR BINGO: Farenheit 451