Tonight is our monthly blogapalooza challenge. We are given a topic and have an hour to write and publish a post. Here is tonight’s topic:
“Write about a book or publication that is special to you or has had a big impact on your life.”
I have written many posts about books and quilting, about books and about magazines. Reading has always been huge in my life and I think I have covered this topic pretty thoroughly for Laura Ingalls Wilder and many other authors who mention quilting. This does not mean I don’t have books left to write about, far from it, I just don’t have quilty books left.
Of the thousands of books which are special to me and have had a big impact on my life, one stands out tonight. I love the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I have read the entire tome in English and French and now I want to reread it. Les Miserables is a novel which has guided me through life and of course, I will tell you all about it.
I taught high school French for 16 years, French I through AP French V. It was the Camelot era of my teaching career. I loved my colleagues and my students and my career sustained me.
I always felt the need to improve my French as it had been my minor and I hadn’t lived in France. I took classes, went to workshops, sought out conversation partners and read magazines, journals and novels. I wanted to up my skills and find things to make French real and meaningful for my students.
We had a book room of every book every language teacher had ever used and I went through them all. I found a selection in adapted French, made easier for students, from Les Miserables. In another book, I found a short chapter in the original French.
Around this same time, the musical was evolving in France and then being adapted to English. My students had heard about the stage show in London when we started reading. I bought the record (remember those?) of the original French play and the original British cast.
The first story dealt with Jean Valjean stealing the bread for his sister’s fatherless children. It was very comprehensible and led to discussions of what had occurred. We acted it out, just the events. Then we judged Jean Valjean and the idea of stealing is wrong but the greater wrong is dying children helped their
French but also their own moral compass.
We listened to the music and we got to go see the musical when it came to Chicago. Students adored it; they sobbed and learned the songs. They came in after school to discuss the idea of law versus the greater good.
It was one of my favorite units to teach. Seeing students struggle to use the French, seeing the larger ideas exploding in their heads and watching their reading comprehension grow was intoxicating. My former students still tell me about how that book affected them.
It also affected me each year I taught it. When my life was more challenging I really identified with Fantine and felt her ballad “I dreamed a Dream” was my song as well. I love this song no matter who sings it but Patti Lupone, the original Fantine, is my favorite.
I never got tired of teaching this work nor of Victor Hugo. He helped sustain me during some of my dark days. I learned from my students as they sought their own truths in the story and each year I saw new lessons in this classic novel.
Isn’t this the very definition of a classic? The themes endure, the lessons grow with you and the meaning only intensifies as the years pass. Les Miserables only improves as you grow older and is a timeless tale.
Don’t you love the term classic instead of old or antique? I do too. It’s good for beverages, fashion and literature.
It’s also good for quilters. We’re not old, we’re classic!
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Here is my last blogapalooza post.