Hearts & Muscles – A book… pre-review

Shhh… I’m fairly sure you aren’t supposed to write about a book you are ABOUT to read but haven’t read yet

I’m not exactly a rule follower.

In my head, I’ve been writing a post about nonfiction. I’ve been calling it “Falling in Love with Non Fiction.” (Just a little homage to one of my favorite books, Falling in Love with Close Reading  by Kate Roberts and Christopher Lehman.) Everyone seems to be talking about how important nonfiction is. “We need to teach our students how to enjoy,  how to read, how to understand nonfiction.” I get it! I’m on it. I hear you, nonfiction pushers!  Reading Nonfiction:  Notice and Note  is next in my professional book pile, I promise.  Just testerday  I told a teacher that I can feel my brain beginning to switch over from thinking people just need to chill out – to really seeing past the common core and PSSA reasons.  I understand the heart of why kids need to be reading more nonfiction: We need to teach kids to be life-long learners via nonfiction reading.  They need to know how to get and understand information. See? It was going to be my next post. I have a lot to say about it. But not right now.

Last night I fell extra in love with fiction, even though I haven’t read this book yet.

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My college friend’s new book is getting a lot of publicity (one of my favorite interviews is on NPR here). So, when I heard Sunil would be at the local bookstore, I jumped at the chance to say hello, hear him speak, and of course get my book signed. Mr. Thought couldn’t come, so it was just me and the kids. Three tired kids. Three tired kids who learned a ton. (And one tired mama who took notes on her phone!)

We walked in just as he was reading some inappropriate language. Oops.

(I don’t think my kids heard it all… and what they hear,  we talked about: “He’s a grown up. He used those words for a reason. He’s a writer. . .” and as H put it, “He was just using it as a describing word, mom.”)

It was almost bed time, and E  asked a couple of times, “When will he be done talking? I’m thirsty for water.”  But, they listened. I love that my kids heard a published author talk about writing, and hard work, and empathy.

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I heard these things too. I heard Sunil tell the story of how his finished manuscript was stolen. How he had to start again. My teacher brain yelled, “Perseverance! Stamina! Grit!” I heard him talk about how you have to write every day – you have to “sit at the desk every morning and hope the muse meets [you] there.” My teacher brain yelled it again, “Stamina! Structure to guide creativity!” Sunil said he loves the sound of words, but that meaning is more important than sound. My writer brain is thinking on that.  Then he said that his book is about people, and empathy. My whole brain just nodded in agreement: Empathy!  In his NPR interview,  Sunil says, “We live in an age where revolution — you don’t need to pick up a rifle. Sometimes empathy is enough. Sometimes empathy is a revolutionary thing.” Empathy. I think we need empathy at least just as much as we need facts.

Sunil talked about why this book, about the real life Seattle WTO protests of 1999 was a fiction book. He could have written nonfiction; the protests were a real event. I’m sure there was enough drama during the protests to write a hefty piece of informational writing. Pardon my paraphrasing here… He said he chose to write this as fiction because that way he could make connections and expand on characters. His fiction book happens during the protests in 1999, but the book teaches us more than that. It teaches us about people–their good and evil side, and about current events that parallel those in 1999. It connects to past riots, and those sure to come. It gives characters– people– a voice for what is in their hearts. This was a good reminder to me about one of the reasons I love fiction: Fiction teaches. It isn’t false or just pretend. Fiction books have stories that teach us, sometimes even more than nonfiction.

I’m looking forward to reading this book. So here’s my book pre-review… I think it’s going to be awesome, and I give the book reading, discussion and signing 5 stars.

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