Solidarity Week 2021

GLSEN (Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network) celebrates Solidarity Week every November. The name was recently changed from Ally Week to Solidarity Week. I know, at times, it seems people get more hung up on words than the cause but the change is a good one. To me, solidarity is implies an action. It is something you do, something you show.

It doesn’t have to be big to be effective.

When several other teachers and myself started the first GSA at the high school where I worked, one of the first things we did was register our group with GLSEN and print out safe space cards with our group’s logo on it. Teachers and administrators could tape the cards to their doors to show students that their room or office is a safe space for them. A space where they would be supported. As many teachers requested cards (YAY), it felt superficial to at first, like it wasn’t enough to just have the card on the door. But, then I thought about the kid walking down the hallway who didn’t see those rainbow cards on any door the year before or even the day before and then saw a hall filled with them. I know when I was a high school student, seeing those cards on the doors would have meant a great deal to some of my classmates.

Solidarity.

The Symbolism is Great and All, but Why are We Reading This?

I read every book assigned in high school because that’s just the type of student I was. They weren’t bad books, but I also didn’t think they were good. I didn’t really enjoy reading them. The worst was The Grapes of Wrath. It was so long and that poor family. Everything sucked for them at the beginning, in the middle, and in the end…it still sucked. At least they didn’t run over that little turtle getting out of town. And yes, I understood the symbolism of the turtle.

The novels were great if I needed to find an example of an alliteration or a metaphor but that’s not why I read a book. Interestingly enough, the first book I enjoyed reading in high school and made me think to myself: this is good, this is why we read books, is overflowing with amazing examples of imagery, characterization, symbolism, and all those other terms English teachers love. I had to read The Things They Carried for an independent novel project in a creative writing class. It wasn’t my first choice. It wasn’t any choice. I wanted to read What’s Eating Gilbert Grape or Girl, Interrupted. But, when your amazing creative writing teacher asks the class if anyone would volunteer to read the book few wanted to, you raise your hand.

I am not a Vietnam War historian, aficionado, or anything like that but I recognized I was reading something special. So special, that the book has stayed with me ever since that day and I can trace the inspiration for The War on All Fronts to reading The Things They Carried back in high school.

The lemon tree, the necklace of tongues, Norman Bowker in his car, Linda from little Timmy’s class, and all the things those soldiers carried literally and figuratively are still fresh after all these years. Looking back, Great Expectations wasn’t terrible. And I didn’t hate reading The Great Gatsby. But, those books didn’t stay with me. My books will probably never be part of a high school curriculum but that was never a goal anyway. To write a book that stays with someone years after reading it, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Sorry, Shakespeare.