Last night I interviewed a former student at the charter school I’m writing about, and discovered that Jose is working in construction, studying for his GED and planning to enroll in community college classes, probably at night, in the hopes of earning a college degree. He’s a bright guy who writes rap-style rhymes as his hobby and discusses questions like “what is real?” with his kid sister, who’s on the honor roll.
I’d like to give him some books to encourage him to keep reading, writing and educating himself. At first, I thought of Hemingway’s short stories, and then I thought I should send him poetry books. Blake, maybe? I just checked and I have two copies of T.S. Eliot’s poems (with Prufrock and Wasteland). One was mine in high school; the other was borrowed and never returned from the dorm library by my ex-husband. Of course, I can get used books cheaply from Amazon, so it doesn’t have to be something I have on the shelves now. I’d particularly like to ask teachers who work with teen-agers what they’d recommend. I also have short story collections. I think Jose would get Nelson Algren’s “A Bottle of Milk for Mother,” but I don’t think stories about the marital angst of New Yorkers would do much for him.