I read this book for the first time about five years ago. A pretty hard and fast rule of mine is that I do not reread books. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because the world is overflowing with great books and I don't believe I have a minute to waste with text I've already inhaled. Or perhaps it's my highly analytic brain that's just smug enough to believe that I always get the "gist" of a book, and so what would be the point of going back again?
However, Mary Lee, one of the teachers who blogs at A Year of Reading, mentioned that she rereads this book each August and I thought, what the hell. Maybe I'll break my rule and see what happens.
Well here's what happened: I appreciated it much more than the first time I read it. Which is saying a lot, cuz I liked it well enough the first time. Five years ago, I remember being bothered by Esme's naivete around race issues. But this sentiment was erased this time because I took into account her age at the time (24), the insanity of her situation (first year teacher in a horrible working environment), and her courageous honesty (people ought to be allowed to name what they see, even if they don't acknowledge bigger social contexts). This time through I particularly adored her wickedly brutal, but precise naming of stupidity, arrogance, and grandstanding. And I also loved how she captured that magical way that "performing" is often at the center of lively, effective classrooms.