Pumpkins scream in the dead of night

I carved two of these, one is “mine” and the other at my son’s direction. Feel free to guess which ones.

Also, I reread The Call of Cthulhu today, and it brought his to mind; I have probably linked it before, but you need to see it again.

Unread Shelf: October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween! With Puerto Rico and Nebraska represented on the shelf there, I only have four states– Arkansas, South Dakota, Nevada and Wyoming– left to find books from. I’m going to try to wrap the states up in November and then I can go back to countries for the rest of the year.

Oh, great, let’s definitely do this again

I have spent my Saturday playing video games and diligently trying to avoid perusing job websites again. My one goal this week was go to work all five days, and I managed that, but Friday’s events (and forgive me, but I’m going to continue vagueblogging on this) have me even more burned out than I was. Nobody in my building– hell, no teacher I know– can believe it’s only the end of October. It feels like February already, which leaves me in trembling horror about what February is going to actually be like. And again, this isn’t just me. It’s every teacher I know.

The problem, of course, is exactly the same problem we had the last time we went through an I-want-to-quit-teaching phase, which is that I have no idea what the hell else I would do. I’m not about to go back to selling furniture, if for no better reason than I can’t freaking imagine what the supply chain fuckery for those guys must be like right now. People used to get mad when stuff got delayed a week or two; I don’t want to have the conversation where I tell someone that their sofa is delayed six months because they can’t get the wood to build the frame and then once it ships it gets delayed another month because it’s sitting on a barge outside San Francisco with no one to unload it. No thank you.

It would be cool if I managed to multiply my number of YouTube followers by, oh, a hundred thousand or so and could make a living from that, but even if that’s in my future– and it’s probably not– it’s not going to be happening quickly under any circumstances. I’ve pretty much walked away from writing fiction for the forseeable future, although probably not for forever, and even when it was going relatively well that was never making remotely enough money to live off of. Simple fact is that teaching pays the best of all my available alternatives unless I get lucky, and (falls down a rabbit hole looking for jobs again) there are things about my building that I really like. I don’t want to bail on my team, which in a lot of ways is the best group of teachers I’ve ever worked with. I don’t want to bail on my administrators, who I also like a hell of a lot.

I want to teach. I just want teaching to not suck. And the worst thing is, I really think that’s an unreasonable thing to want right now.

In which that’s enough of that

I did something today that, in what … seventeen, eighteen years of teaching? I’ve lost track– I have never done before. I wrote a student up, and after doing the office referral wrote an email to my principal, my assistant principal, and our Dean of Students, in which I made it clear that the student I had written the referral for was no longer welcome in my classroom. Not today. Not next week. Not after he gets back from his suspension. Never. He is no longer one of my students. They are moving him out of my homeroom and out of my class or I will simply send him to the office every single time he shows up. I am done with him, period. If I need to involve the union, I’m going to involve the union. If I need to threaten to quit, I’ll do that too. There are plenty of places that need teachers. But I’m putting my foot down on this one, and that’s simply all there is to it.

It was a long fucking day, in case you were wondering.

#REVIEW: THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS, by Cristina HenrĂ­quez

This is another one of those “made the whole project worth it” books.

You almost certainly know this already if you’ve been a regular reader, but hey, not everybody sees every post, so: my big reading project for 2021 (I am the type of person who has “big reading projects”) was to read one book from every US state plus Puerto Rico and Washington DC, along with as many other countries I could fit in. I’m closing in on finishing the states part of the project, although for a lot of the later states the way I’ve been finding books is by Googling “authors from XXX” and then just … picking something. Some states, as you might guess, have less to choose from than others, and, well, Delaware’s not all that damn big.

I chose well on this one, as The Book of Unknown Americans seems pretty likely to be on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. It’s about a small immigrant community– literally an apartment building– in Delaware at the beginning of the Obama administration. You might remember the massive economic upheaval of those years, and trying to survive while the economy is crumbling around you is absolutely a theme of the book. The book uses the multiple-narrators/POVs style that I will forever associate with Game of Thrones and probably ought not to, following ten or so different people from several different families. The common thread is that they’re all Spanish-speaking immigrants (the two main families are from Mexico and Panama, and others are from other places) or first-generation Americans; some of them are legal, some are not, and they all have different reasons for being here. It’s outstandingly well-done across the board, but there are two highlights I wanted to talk about a little bit.

First, I felt like the book really does a great job of capturing the frustration of being an educated and talented person who has moved somewhere where you don’t speak the language and where your skills are either undervalued or no longer useful. One of the families arrives in Delaware as the book begins, and things as simple as trying to figure out where to buy food are many times as complicated as they need to be because of language and cultural barriers. They end up getting food from a gas station for a while (and feeling like they’re being ripped off because of the high prices) until someone else clues them in on better places to go. Later in the book, there’s a scene where a mother has to confront a local shithead who has been abusing her daughter, and all she’s able to say to him is “leave alone.”

Second, and I’m not going to go into details here because I don’t want to spoil anything, but this book contains what might be the best depiction of a first love that I’ve ever seen. The relationship between Maribel and Mayor is astonishingly sweet, and if I say another word about it I’ll spoil stuff, so just trust me.

My only real complaint is the ending; you grow attached to a lot of these characters and want good things to happen to them, and … well. You’re going to have a moment where you realize what’s about to happen and the dread is going to kick in, and then you’re going to find out you were right, and then the book’s going to manage to end on a powerful and hopeful note somehow anyway, but it’s bittersweet as hell and I didn’t want bittersweet, I wanted happy. But damn, this is a hell of a read, and you should go pick it up. I’m sure I’ll be talking about it again in a couple of months.