Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Never again will a single story be told as though it's the only one.
-John Berger, quoted by Arundhati Roy in The God of Small Things

It is possible for a critic or student to be so enamored with a text, so overwhelmed with its beauty and anger and ways of speaking, that she almost cannot write a meaningful response to it. She feels that nothing she says will do the work justice, that the author's voice has made hers unnecessary.

She accepts her own inadequacy. Yet she wants to share this book with other people, so it can overwhelm them too.

My natural response to learning something new is to teach it. For that reason, I will try to write a meaningful response. But if you have never read The God of Small Things, you have to. I have made it part of my personal canon. Its overall effect may be small, but I will always view the world differently than I did before I read this book. That is why we have literature,and it is the best praise I can give any writer.

The book taught me that it is not enough to say "there are two sides to every story." As the Berger quote and the Adichie video suggest, there is never just one story; we can never sum up all the sides. I can apply this knowledge right now, as an emerging middle school teacher.

Why do some kids flourish in school while others fail? Is it honest to say that all public schools do a good job of preparing kids for college? Should we choose the books our students read, or should they have some say? How much say? Should we even expect all our students to go to college? What are the other options?

These questions frame current teaching methodology. But there are endless questions to ask in any industry, for any vocation. No matter who you are, you can read The God of Small Things and take its lessons into your life. Never accept a single story.

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