Genre: Children's/Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Set in the American South after Reconstruction but before the civil rights movement, this book tells the tale of a black family who own their own private farmland, and their efforts to keep that land while battling racism and (to a lesser degree) the hardships of farming life. I read this book when I was younger, and in re-reading it for my children's lit. class, found I still liked it a great deal. I'm not sure if that was a factor in my perception or not, but I found that it tugged at my heartstrings very easily, and had me near tears at times. At times, it can be a little heavy-handed, but it explores numerous worthwhile themes and even made me consider re-reading the sequel. 8/10.
6. How to Read Literature Like a Professor -- Thomas C. Foster
Genre: Literary Analysis and Instruction
The title pretty much gives it away. This book tries to explain how to see patterns and symbols working under the surface of a literary work. If that were all this book had to say, I might've loved it; certainly, I found much of the information useful, and it has to some degree adjusted how I see literature.
A great deal of the book, however, is devoted to the question "does the author really mean that?" Foster believes, and insists, and demands, and shouts that the answer to this question is always yes. I have a lot of problems with this; first of all, many great authors will tell you that the symbolism some see in their work is simply not something they intended. Second, I'm not sure I agree that the answer to this question even matters most of the time-- I personally find that authorial intent is only a minor part of what should interest us about a literary work. Much of the text here is carried out as a pseudo-dialogue between Foster and what he imagines his readers to say in response, which is another problem. As always, when a writer tries to guess his audience's response, they come off as more than a little condescending. Finally, Foster perpetuates the false notion of deconstruction as "joyless" and suggests that since some postmodern critiques of literature are stupid, no postmodern or deconstructionist theory could be worth talking about. So. Great for its explanations of how to look at literature from a classical point of view, not so great for Foster's ramblings, which unfortunately take up a great deal of the book. 5/10.