Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Gift of Words: Thank You, Brian #SundaySeries #BookTalkaDay

"You can give words, but you can't take them. And when words are given and received, that is when they are shared. . . . The sharing of the words becomes as important as the words themselves. The sensation stays with you, attaches you to the world." 

                                                                    ---David Levithan in Two Boys Kissing

Brian Beech, a former student, recently gave my students and me a huge gift of words. Brian has graciously replaced many books in my classroom library that had disappeared. Among those books is Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan's lyrical novel about gay teens breaking the world record for the longest kiss. 

My students and I have been kissed by Levithan's and many other authors' words through Brian's generosity. And it all started with a Facebook status update during Banned Books Week. I posted a note about challenged books that have disappeared from my classroom library and lamented that while I hoped these books found homes with loving readers, I suspect many had been taken by students who think the subject matter is inappropriate for teens. 

Next, I received a message from Brian: 

The disappearing books make me smile. And feel nostalgic. Please send me a list of books I can send. Queer or other. . . What a great destiny for a book. To be stolen. Every day I walk by books in huddled masses on the curb that would be so jealous. . . I''ll include a couple of books that changed my life, or at least touched it. You can add them to your disappearing library.

Brian put Two Boys Kissing at the top of his list, and I sent him six titles I had on my wish list of books. 

Then Brian sent a follow-up note: 

New York has so many amazing book stores with gently used and reasonably priced books. Are gently read books a problem? That list was only 6 books. Can you send me 6 more titles. Then another 6. I'm going hunting tomorrow and I want a big target.

With the original list of six titles, I had tried not to be greedy, but Brian's request for "a big target" tempted me too much. I sent a follow-up list of almost 50 titles that had disappeared from my classroom. 

To date, Brian has sent 25 brand new books. I have also received a copy of Fangirl by Rainbow Row that must have been read once. It looks spanking new. 

Some of the books Brian has gifted my students and me.
After his day of book shopping, Brian updated me on his adventure. I'm sharing his note because I'm hoping to promote the organization he's supporting: 

I started my day at The Housing Works bookstore. Housing Works is an amazing organization that supports a variety of queer causes. Vital causes that don't get much attention. They provide housing and medical care to gay men living with HIV, support the Gay Men's Health Crisis which provides free medical care, STD testing in mobile units throughout the city, condoms, Sex Ed, etc. They also have great programs for at risk LGBT youth. Mentoring, safe havens throughout the city, counseling, literacy programs. The list goes on and on. All this is supported by their 20 thrift stores in Manhattan and the bookstore. And of course private donors. 

The books Brian has provided my students comprise only part of the gift of words. The notes and reflections on his time in my class have touched me deeply. We teachers set our students free when a class ends or a student transfers, as Brian did during his junior year. My heart broke when he left, but I understood why he chose to transfer to a high school across town where he could study among fewer bullies. During Brian's high school years, my school was far less tolerant than it is now. We haven't arrived where we need to be, but we're better now than we were and will get even better. Brian's gift of words will help in our progression. 

I had hoped to get each book tagged with a note thanking Brian before checking them out, but who can say "not yet" to students eager to open a gift, eager to read a book? I have a list and will add the labels later as the books return and await regifting to the next reader. For now, I tell each student who checks out one of the books Brian sent a little about the donor. 

We are giving, and receiving, and sharing words. We are bound to one another through these words whether in books or through memories. Thank you, Brian. I <3 You. Always have. Always will. 

#BookTalkaDay:

We had a short week this week, so I have only four rather than five book talks to share: 

I am Nuchu by Brenda Stanley (a local author)
Into Thin Air by John Krakaur
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Reality Boy by A.S. King