Tagged: Jewish Literature
September 16, 2012 6:38 pm at 6:38 pm #604914SIGNTEACHMember
I am the new 11th grade English teacher at a local Chabad school; however, I came in late, and the book selection was not complete. This is my first time teaching English in this environment though I’ve been teaching in Yeshivas a good while..
The books the admin has chosen so far are so bleak and depressing. Those girls are going to look back at this year and cringe when they think of their English teacher! I am trying to find good, engaging, contemporary literature (novels) that are spiritually uplifiting–that have a good positive message–that may even make the reader laugh a little–all this while remaining within the parameters of A) high school B) Chabad, and C) all girls. The read has to be challenging but not to the point of boredom and interesting but not to the point of pop culture.
No romance, no violence, no foul language, but written on an 11th grade level of interest and not tragic. Does ANYONE have a suggestion of a good read for me. I have four weeks until we resume after Sukkot to get this together.September 19, 2012 2:04 pm at 2:04 pm #906348ChortkovParticipant
No romance, no violence, no foul language, but written on an 11th grade level of interest and not tragic
“11th Grade” and “No romance/violence” is an automatic ?????. I wish you the best of luck.
I am 16, and English books are extremely hard to find. Most of the ones i read contain violence [which any 11th grader should be able to take – define violence, please]. It is extremely difficult to find books to interest teenagers that are Kosher.September 19, 2012 3:03 pm at 3:03 pm #906349
Uh, that’s a REALLY tall order… In your case, I would really recommend short stories over novels. They are generally lighter and more enjoyable, and if you are trying to get your students to like reading, then they will probably do the job (if only by virtue of being shorter). I would recommend O. Henry, Amy Tan, James Joyce’s Dubliners, Catherine Mansfield, Mark Twain, maybe some F. Scott Fitzgerald.September 19, 2012 4:58 pm at 4:58 pm #906350
I agree its tough, “Jewish Books” are generally garbage when compared to real english literature.
My best guess for reading that is as kosher as could be is Mark Twain ,Charles Dickens , Ralph Waldo Emerson , Nathaniel Hawthrone (Scarlet Letter?)
Book written in the 19th century generally followed the customs of Elizabethan England, although they might have slight more violence because that was common practice in that time.September 19, 2012 7:58 pm at 7:58 pm #906351bekitzurParticipant
“A Separate Peace”, by John Knowles.September 19, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm #906352superstarMember
classics/novels may be “boring” but they do have a message to be learnt and they are usually 100% appropriate.
some books i recommend: tom sawyer, huckleberry finn, a tale of two cities, the tragedy of pudd’nhead wilson, david copperfield, oliver twist, agatha christie mysteries… i have not read all but the ones i did were well written.
hope i was helpful!September 20, 2012 5:06 pm at 5:06 pm #906354
Read “A Painted House” by John Grisham, and see if you find it appropriate. At the very least you”ll have an enjoyable read. (It’s not his usual mystery/ thriller/ courtroom drama type of novel.)September 20, 2012 5:33 pm at 5:33 pm #9063552bshvatParticipant
contact mosdospress.com You will find everything you are looking for.September 20, 2012 5:37 pm at 5:37 pm #906356on the ballParticipant
Animal Farm by George Orwell – a brilliant and powerful book.
Lord of the Flies by William GoldingSeptember 20, 2012 6:07 pm at 6:07 pm #906357akupermaParticipant
If you don’t need books from the “canon” of literature considered worthy of being taught in universities (and tested on for college admission), consider historical fiction and science fiction. The problem is you won’t have “cheat” books available.September 20, 2012 6:47 pm at 6:47 pm #906358fineschmeckerParticipant
When I taught 11th grade, I did the play 12 Angry Men. It’s totally clean (mayyyybe 1 bad word, just white it out when you make copies) and very fun for the girls to read. There’s also a black and white movie that goes with it, and it’s very clean, too.
I also did The Enemy of The People. There is maybe 1, 1.5 pages of “romance” that you can white out/skip, but I feel that calls too much attention to it. It is so innocent that I doubt most ppl would notice. However, there are so mild bad words that would need to be whited out.
Huck Finn was a lot of fun. That’s a classic that everyone does in 11th grade. Definitely do that.September 20, 2012 7:54 pm at 7:54 pm #906359oomisParticipant
Works by Mark Twain,, Twelve Angry Men, as an aside, I HATED Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies was good, Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, King Lear), most of the classics. Stay away from more modern novels, if that is an issue. Most classics are safe.September 20, 2012 9:43 pm at 9:43 pm #906360
Was there anything “wrong” with The Caine Mutiny? Although you probably wouldn’t want your students reading some of Herman Wouk’s other books. How about trying to find books that were very popular in the earlier part of the 2oth century, like The Citadel (Cronin) or a personal favorite- How Green Was My Valley (R Llewellyn- hard to spell last name because he was Welsh.September 20, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm #906361ima1997Member
Also works by Poe. Some good suspense, short stories by him.September 20, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm #906362icedMember
Do Yeshivas like Mir, Torah V’Daas, Chaim Berlin, etc. do these classics in high school nowadays?September 21, 2012 2:32 am at 2:32 am #906363TheGoqParticipant
12 angry men is a great movie ive seen it about a dozen times its good even though it espouses the very liberal tenet that people of color are never guilty and everything that happens to them is due to racism.September 21, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm #906364Matan1Participant
I thought that there was no conclusive evidence to convict him. Not that he was black. In fact, i dont remember them mentioning the color of the defendants skin.September 21, 2012 4:37 pm at 4:37 pm #906365TheGoqParticipant
Matan it was made clear that the defendant was a minority.September 21, 2012 4:49 pm at 4:49 pm #906366yentingyentaParticipant
12 angry men was a very good play to read. also, Our Town
Dandelion wine, separate peace, Huck Finn, Cain Mutiny Court Trial (needs editing for curse words), tale of 2 cities.
Shakespeare- JC, Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and Macbath
phantom tollbooth, animal farm.September 21, 2012 5:28 pm at 5:28 pm #906367
For something contemporary to pique their interest- Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. Extremely well written, descriptive passages great to analyze in class. Autobiographical account of hiker who survived canyoneering accident in Utah aprox 10 years ago. Must read.September 21, 2012 5:47 pm at 5:47 pm #906368
Specifically how will reading any of the above mentioned books help any Yid in practical life?
Please explain (if there really is an answer).September 21, 2012 6:05 pm at 6:05 pm #906369
By the way SIGNTEACH, newly appointed English teacher, I hope you are not grammatically analyzing my posts! And I hope you enjoy the new job! Let us know which books you studied and how it went…September 21, 2012 7:54 pm at 7:54 pm #906370
iced/bubka: It’s a shame that you’ve changed your mind about literature. You seemed so interested in it HERE.September 21, 2012 8:26 pm at 8:26 pm #906371
Bubka: There is much to be gained from secular literature. Not nearly as much as from Torah, so reading secular literature should be kept to a minimum (there is a reason HKBH gave us bathrooms). But there is tremendous Chochmah to be taken from the Goyim too, if you know where to look.September 21, 2012 8:52 pm at 8:52 pm #906372yehudayonaParticipant
The OP doesn’t want bleak or depressing, yet people are recommending things like The Scarlet Letter and Lord of the Flies? I’d recommend Mark Twain — it’s great literature and he was a philo-semite. I’m told that Agatha Christie was an anti-semite.September 21, 2012 8:52 pm at 8:52 pm #906373
Sam2: I asked for specifics. How will reading any of the above mentioned books help most Yidden who read it?
Will reading Macbeth make you a kinder person? A more generous person? Something else?September 21, 2012 9:00 pm at 9:00 pm #906374
Bubka: Hamlet, for example, might give you a greater understanding of the depth of greed and some people’s willingness to do anything to get what they want. Macbeth carries a similar lesson, among others.September 21, 2012 9:10 pm at 9:10 pm #906375
And I take it you find these works of secular literature to be the best and most prudent method (with no unnecessary risk to proper Jewish hashkafas) to achieve the very noble and important goal of obtaining a greater understanding of the depth of greed and some people’s willingness to do anything to get what they want?September 21, 2012 9:18 pm at 9:18 pm #906376
For some people, sure. Life is about balance. There’s a limit. And that limit is different for everyone. Having a Kavua Seder in Shakespeare is bad. Picking up one off the shelf when you need to chill isn’t. It’s a more productive way to relax than many others. (I don’t know how I view forcing high school students to learn these things. On the one hand, they are useful and important. On the other hand, there are other far more important things out there they should learn.)September 21, 2012 9:23 pm at 9:23 pm #906377
Sam2: Seriously. Save your breath.September 21, 2012 9:30 pm at 9:30 pm #906378
OOM: Please don’t take it so hard that Sam said that being Kavua Seder in Shakespeare is bad. Perhaps he was referring to men (Bitul Torah, etc.) and your status as a woman may exempt you to continue your sedorim in these holy works.
Or was it Sam’s uncertainty if these works of secular literature, Shakespare et al, should or shouldn’t be taught in Jewish high schools that disappointed you?September 21, 2012 9:40 pm at 9:40 pm #906379
OOM: Eh. That was a legitimate not-trolling question. If he refuses to accept any response then I’ll stop talking or just reply snidely.September 21, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm #906380
“Jewish” Literature is very poor and I dont mean Kafka or Potak, I mean the stuff I see at the jewish bookstores.
The dont follow proper writing rules, the books dont seem to have proof readers and are basically unreadable.
Ive tried reading these books and its impossible. Reading proper works of english literature one can learn the proper way to write in english. (And maybe in other languages as well)
Not everyone can read books in Hebrew or Yiddish and they need these english books and people need Jewish books about Fiction and non-fiction alike.September 22, 2012 9:26 pm at 9:26 pm #906381Matan1Participant
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein has a PhD in english literature from harvard. Although I heard that he said that one should avoid reading Ayn Rand’s works.September 23, 2012 1:23 am at 1:23 am #906382
Sam2: “If there really is an answer”? I don’t think that could be interpreted as anything other than trolling. If you are not willing to acknowledge that the opposing school of thought may have validity, you are not looking to have an equitable discussion.
Also, he is being suspiciously unresponsive to my first snide remark, which I find raaaaaaaaather corroborative… 😛
Matan1: Yeah, Ayn Rand is pretty anti-Torah. Not so very well-written either.September 23, 2012 1:46 am at 1:46 am #906383aurora77Participant
Hello sign teach,
That is definitely a challenge! I am not sure how contemporary you are looking for, but if you can give me a ballpark, I may have some better suggestions than the ones I have thought of first (see below).
I think that perhaps many of the novels or short stories of Willa Cather may be in the vicinity of your criteria. Her work is now approximately a hundred years old though, as it comes from the first two decades of the 1900s. She often writes about girls and women growing up in the Midwestern parts of the United States at approximately that same time, and how they overcame numerous adversities to succeed in many facets of life. Her writing, while often containing positive, uplifting overarching themes, still includes trials, tribulations, and adversity along the way. Her use of language is beautiful. Perhaps this literature is too dated for your purposes though. Nonetheless, I remember finding many of her stories inspiring when I was an English major — I ended up reading everything that she had ever published or which was published posthumously, which took me those four years and then my next three in law school!
Of even earlier vintage, the novels of Jane Austen (with story lines from 18th century England) are amazing comedies of manners for their time periods and have much wit even today. Pride and Prejudice is my personal favorite. To be clear, Austen’s work does involve romance in the sense that various middle to upper class
English ladies are in search of eligible gentlemen as husbands, with all of the attendant social and socioeconomic problems that occur along the way (e.g., issues of nobility, inheritance, dowries, uncouth family members, etc.). However, the novels reflect the morals and mores of the times, such that the men and women are almost always interacting in the presence of their families and communities at approved social events, such as balls, country dinners, weddings, etc. Nonetheless, if Cather’s work is too remote in time for your purposes, Austen’s certainly is.
The previous posters have suggested many other excellent works (Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, etc.) that may likewise not be as contemporary as you are seeking.
I am not sure either, when you specify “no romance” and “no violence,” if you are seeking literature that does not even allude indirectly to either of these things. For example, The Scarlet Letter alludes frequently to the main character Hester Prynne’s sin of adultery (that is why she is made to wear the scarlet “A” at all times in her community), but Hester committed this act much prior to the events of the book; indeed, the book focuses on the various negative repercussions of her sin. I am not sure if this storyline would constitute “romance” for your purposes. Perhaps, despite the fact that adultery is a topic of this book, the treatment of the adultery (e.g., as a sin with negative consequences that the sinner must endure) would make this classic of American English literature an acceptable choice in your school environment. Even should the topic be acceptable, this novel arguably falls very easily into that class of “bleak” literature from which you are attempting to stay away.
I would be happy to brainstorm about more specific and appropriate choices if you suggest how contemporary you would like the English literature to be, and how broadly “no romance” and “no violence” should be construed (i.e., would romance as I described in a Jane Austen novel be prohibitive).September 23, 2012 3:21 am at 3:21 am #906384
You are very perceptive and praiseworthy in your search for appropriate material.
For poetry : Tehillim in English translation, Song of Songs, Haazinu etc etcSeptember 23, 2012 3:48 am at 3:48 am #906385
You must be joking comparing The Maggid Speaks to an author Like Charles Dickens or George Orwell.
Just because someone writes a Torah style book doesnt mean they know how to write in proper english
Ive never read Ayn Rand, but I though that was more philosophy than works .
And if you dont like the Merchant of Venice, Then dont read it, there are lots of other books to be had, There are probably more works of Literature in english than any other language.September 23, 2012 3:51 am at 3:51 am #906386
i wish i didn’t have to read secular novels for school because persnally, i think i can gain a lot more and use my time more wisely reading Jewish books.
Buttt.. in 9th grade we read “To kill a Mockingbird” which i think was clean (could be there were some bad words that i dont remember) but we had a lot of discussions in class about racism and bravery and stuff like that, the teacher was challenging too so i wasn’t so easy.
for summer homework in 11th grade i read “Dibs in search of Self” which is VERY clean, (i know beis yaakov that reads it) i was impressed since the year before summer homework book i complained about, because of the author’s word usage. it’s short-ish but i liked it even though others may consider it boring. The main thing is, it’s considered good literature without tarnishing your neshama as much as others…now in 11th we’re reading Pygmailion- i didn’t finish it yet so i don’t know how it is but so far it’s not bad.September 23, 2012 3:54 am at 3:54 am #906387sheinMember
zahavasdad: Which splendid literature did you educate yourself with that resulted in the English writing prowess you display every day on this board?September 23, 2012 3:55 am at 3:55 am #906388
also in 10th grade i read the play of Helen Keller, i think its called “The miracle worker” Which i really enjoyed!-it’s very clean, has a black and white movie that’s verry moving. It taught me to appreciate the senses that Hashem gave me more and to believe in yourself and how to be a dedicated teacher and more..September 23, 2012 5:01 am at 5:01 am #906389
You have got to be trolling.September 23, 2012 5:55 am at 5:55 am #906390mommamia22Participant
How about “The Hobbit”? It’s one of my personal favorites and talks about adventure, which they might enjoy.September 23, 2012 5:57 am at 5:57 am #906391
Okay, can we all please calm down for a minute?
It’s perfectly reasonable to completely abjure secular literature, and I personally think no ill of those who do so. In a way, I can even see it as admirable. It should also be perfectly reasonable for those who do so to accept that as we are all grown-ups and capable of independent thought, there are some who think otherwise. And that they can BOTH be right.
Okay?September 23, 2012 8:08 am at 8:08 am #906392
There is no need to call for calm. Just call for reason.
Some things are not acceptable and that fact is good to accept.September 23, 2012 9:59 am at 9:59 am #906393haifagirlParticipant
If you go to the American Mensa web site, hover over “Learn,” then click on “Mensa for Kids.” On that page you will see something about and “Excellence in Reading Award” program. You don’t have to participate in the program, but if you look at the reading list, you will find many appropriate suggestions.September 23, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm #906394
Shakespeare never met a Jew in his life and the Merhcant of Venice Sjylock has redeeming values.
There are much more anti-semetic books than the Merchant of Venice. The Grimms Fairy tale “A thorn among jews” is VERY anti-semitic (And for that reason is hardly ever mentioned in Grimms Fairy Tales complilations (Although its there sometimes)
Oliver Twist is also more anti-semetic than the Merchant of Venice. Unless you have seen the book, you would never know this.
Pgymallion is a play and is written as such unlike Tom Sawyer.
If you want to say the Maggid Speaks is better than 1984 because its more inspirational, that is fine, you are the first person who compared reading 1984 to attending a “Circus” . If you want to say you enjoyed the Maggid Speaks better than 1984, that is fine too, however they are nowhere near the same literary level.
Fine literatue is like fine wine. Some people are happy drinking the Kedem Malaga wine all the time and others learn to like the better stuff like Merlots and Chardonnays. You may drink the Merlot and say the Malaga is better, and perhaps to your taste it is, but dont go around telling people the Malaga is better than the Merlot and Hashem is more pleased when you drink the Malaga over the Merlot.
OP rather than listening to people here, Why not contact someone at a Bais Yaakov and see what they let the girls readSeptember 23, 2012 1:52 pm at 1:52 pm #906395
*sigh*September 23, 2012 2:05 pm at 2:05 pm #906396
oh no there’s stuff that happens at the end of pygmalion? 🙁 i wish i didn’t have to read it for schoolSeptember 23, 2012 4:33 pm at 4:33 pm #906397yehudayonaParticipant
To Kill a Mockingbird is a favorite of mine, but I didn’t mention it because it’s somewhat “bleak and depressing” and it discusses (alleged) rape and domestic abuse. I think 11th grade girls should be able to handle the themes, but then I don’t run a Chabad school. Out of curiosity, what are some of the bleak and depressing books the administration has chosen? That will give us an idea of what’s acceptable to them.
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