09 December 2008

Airport Blogging: A cool video, a cool book

I've been away, at a symposium in honor of Grad School Mentor. I'm blogging in my head about that, and grad school, and mentoring and scholarship--I'll aim to find time to actually type said thoughts later in the week.

For now, as I have a few extra hours before my plane leaves, some recommendations:
  • the Dance your PhD videos on youtube, especially the study of dancers, communication and touch. I heard about the Dance your PhD contest on NPR. I've always loved assignments that ask students to translate work from one genre to another, or to use wordless formats to convey a project they will complete with words.
  • American Band, by Kristen Laine, a narrative about a year in the life of a high school band in northern Indiana. I've never met Kristen, but she's married to one of my college classmates and I talked to her on the phone once for 40 minutes when I called, trying to reach my classmate for a piece I was writing for our class newsletter. She told me then about the research she had done for this book (which involved moving her family to Indiana for a year so that she could immerse herself in a high school band's classes, rehearsals, and culture). This book is lovely: great writing, fascinating exploration of coming-of-age themes (looking at the role of religion in some kids' lives, looking at the drive for independence, looking at the role of teachers and mentors--typical themes, maybe, but handled with such care and detail that you can really see how complicated it is to be a teenager). It's smart, readable, and fascinating. Kristen was nice enough to send me a copy of the book (inscribed!); I googled it and discovered she had won the Winship/PEN New England Award last year. I wrote to congratulate her and she offered to send me the book. So she's a Really Nice Person as well as a Really Good Writer. Looking for holiday break reading? or a gift for someone? Check out American Band. (I'm also plotting ways to use parts of the book in class: it's got great examples of using narrative, observational sources--good stuff for teaching research skills and researched writing.)
  • Links on the American Band website led me to this foundation which provides musical instruments for schools. If I can't find a good German outlet to make a donation to this year, I'll give here; Kristin was nice enough to give me her book, and it's reminded me how important music can be for kids. So I'm going to be making an extra donation to a musical organization this year.
  • On our Hanukkah tzedakah night, we'll choose between the Heifer Foundation, Maria's children (which does wonderful art programs for Russian orphans), or the Bebor school in Nigeria (which provides stable education for kids in an unstable area, through a localized effort started by one of our friends). (Shannon's strollerderby post reminded me about this.) What charities do you like to support?


Magpie said...

That book sounds fascinating. I was in the high school band, but not in that kind of school (no big football thing going on).

I like your notion of a night to discuss charity - I've been thinking of doing that. I've a stack of solicitations in consideration, and I think it's time to involve the girl.

Wordgirl said...

I think I actually heard about the American Band piece -- and one of the things I miss about being in academia is the constant opportunity to search for ways to convey meaning -- to engage and inspire -- and in the process you find so much for yourself -- that is certainly lacking in my life now...

as for charities --- I love the Heifer Project -- we always support that each year but I've also been involved with Women for Women International and I really value their work.

G and I spoke again this year about trying to instill the idea of service in W -- he's 8 and I wish we had started much much younger.

kathy a. said...

I support the Southern Center for Human Rights; they work with improverished and marginalized folks who have fallen through all the cracks. http://www.schr.org/

Also a hodge-podge of human rights, social service, and education groups, on a more ad-hoc basis. I especially like local groups providing direct services. And those hotel shampoo bottles, unwanted holiday sweaters, jeans that never did fit, excess canned goods, etc. might be just what someone needs.

My daughter is getting American Band for Christmas; I think she will love it. Thanks for the rec!

Songbird said...

I've given to Heifer, and I'm a regular supporter of Doctors Without Borders.
Glad you had a good trip!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the American Band recommendation. I bought it and really liked it.

kathy a. said...

shameful, but i borrowed my daughter's christmas book and now have read it through. i keep thinking about these people, and about the themes, and how this relates to my life and my daughter's life.

i'm so impressed by the access the author had to personal stories, and equally impressed with observations about how people learn, how they connect, how communities form. good stuff, on many levels.