Writing Prompt #251: “50 Masterpieces You Have to Read Before You Die, Volume 1” (Book 1 – “Little Women”)

Image Credit: Amazon

Welcome back!


The first book on the list was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Originally, I was excited. The first and last time I read Little Women was for one of my first presentations / projects in Mr. Degnan’s ninth grade English class, circa fall 2003.

However, now, I don’t quite understand how I remember enjoying Little Women back then. This was a tough read, even with the illustrated version! Nothing against Alcott, but the writing style threw me off almost immediately. I got through the first 60 pages, and found myself setting it aside. I picked it up again, and slowly made my way to the end. But it was painful.

I do enjoy the relationships among the March women, especially during the time period of the Civil War. They all miss their father. But, they also enjoy their lives as best they can. It was fun to watch these girls become “little women” over time. As an only child, this book made think of what it would be like to be in a bigger family.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Kimberly and I are ready to move on to Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.


Have you read Little Women?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #250: “50 Masterpieces You Have to Read Before You Die, Volume 1” (Introduction Post)

Image Credit: Amazon

I’ve partnered with a friend, Kimberly, from a great Facebook group called The Book Drunkard, to read through Volumes 1 and 2!

The goal is to explore as many books as possible – I’m excited!


Here’s the list of the first 50 books:

Alcott, Louisa May: Little Women

Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice

Austen, Jane: Emma

Balzac, Honoré de: Father Goriot

Barbusse, Henri: The Inferno

Brontë, Anne: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre

Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights

Burroughs, Edgar Rice: Tarzan of the Apes

Butler, Samuel: The Way of All Flesh

Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Cather, Willa: My Ántonia

Cervantes, Miguel de: Don Quixote

Chopin, Kate: The Awakening

Cleland, John: Fanny Hill

Collins, Wilkie: The Moonstone

Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness

Conrad, Joseph: Nostromo

Cooper, James Fenimore: The Last of the Mohicans

Crane, Stephen: The Red Badge of Courage

Cummings, E. E.: The Enormous Room

Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe

Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders

Dickens, Charles: Bleak House

Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: The Idiot

Doyle, Arthur Conan: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Carrie

Dumas, Alexandre: The Three Musketeers

Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo

Eliot, George: Middlemarch

Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones

Flaubert, Gustave: Madame Bovary

Flaubert, Gustave: Sentimental Education

Ford, Ford Madox: The Good Soldier

Forster, E. M.: A Room With a View

Forster, E. M.: Howards End

Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: The Sorrows of Young Werther

Gogol, Nikolai: Dead Souls

Gorky, Maxim: The Mother

Haggard, H. Rider: King Solomon’s Mines

Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter

Homer: The Odyssey

Hugo, Victor: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables

Huxley, Aldous: Crome Yellow

James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady

Keep an eye out for new Writing Prompt posts as I read through these books!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #249: An Evening in London

Image Credit: Imbibe

My friend, Ren, and I met through the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook. She loves many things British, and we talk on Messenger frequently. She inspired me to write this post about London society and parties.

Enjoy!


The invitation nearly slipped out of Beatrice’s hands, soaked in sweat. She leaned back in the Uber, muttering to herself.

“You’ve got this, you’ve got this. Everything is going to be just fine.”

The Uber driver glanced in the rear-view mirror.

“We’ve nearly arrived, Miss Winchester. Do you need a water or something from the cooler?”

Beatrice smiled slightly.

“I’d down a nice glass of Chardonnay right here, given the chance,” She thought, praying it didn’t come out of her mouth.

“Miss Winchester? Are you all right?”

“Oh, yes, I’m fine. Thank you, sir. Water, please.”

He fished out a cold Dasani. Beatrice’s hands shook slightly as she unscrewed the cap. She set down the invitation on the black leather seat, wishing she’d asked him to turn around and take her back to her building.

She swallowed, feeling a little better.

“Thank you for the water, sir, I appreciate it. How much do I owe you?”

The man smiled. He’d been driving for Uber for quite a while, and it earned him a good living. He’d paid extra for the car cooler several months ago, and knew when the society season ramped up. The spring and summer were unbearable at times, and it wasn’t just the temperatures.

Beatrice Winchester was his first society passenger of the night, and he knew there were many more to come. The invitation that was fluttering in her hand when he pulled up to her building was the signal.

Beatrice shuffled a bit. She never thought a mix of taffeta and silk could be so uncomfortable, even though she loved the dress the minute she saw it on the dress form in the shop window in February.

“How much do I owe you?”

“It’s nothing extra, Miss Winchester. Unless you’re feeling generous, of course. It’s my pleasure to provide beverages to my passengers.”

She laughed. “I wish you could carry alcohol, sir.”

He matched her laugh. “Nearly every customer of mine, especially at your age, says or wishes the exact same thing. I can’t, by Uber rules, but I wish they would, with so many people asking.”

Beatrice felt a bit more relaxed as the ride came to an end. She liked this driver, James, and looked forward to requesting him for the ride home. It was nice that you could do that with Uber and Lyft, unlike the traditional cabs.

“Well, here we are, Miss Winchester.”

Beatrice turned her head. The butterflies swarmed again.

The office building had been transformed into a gala. So many people were outside, it felt like a red-carpet event for celebrities.

“Are you paying through your phone?”

“Oh, yes, thank you.”

She opened her Uber app, paid her fare, tipped generously, with a few pounds extra for the cold water. And gave him five stars. Beatrice Winchester was hard to please, but this was easy, in comparison to what she was facing.

James’s phone dinged with the payment confirmation.

“Thank you, Miss Winchester. Much appreciated and obliged.”

She tipped her head. “You’re welcome. Are you going to be driving later?”

He smiled. “All night.”

“I’ll wait for you. You’re one of the best drivers I’ve had.”

He smiled, undid his seat belt, and got out to open her door.

“Do you need anything else?”

She smiled, shook his hand, and thanked him for opening her door.

“I’ll see you later, I hope.”

“I hope so, too, Miss Winchester. Thank you again for your generosity and kindness. Enjoy the party.”

She watched him straighten her seat belt, close her door, and wiped his hands before getting back in the driver’s seat. He nodded to her again, cut on his turn signal, and navigated back into what was now heavier traffic.

Beatrice sighed, watching him drive away.

—-

She didn’t want to turn around, but forced herself to. As a promise to her mother last year, Beatrice had agreed to go to at least one society party, if invited. Her mother had married her father long before she was ever invited to any society party, so it was a lot to ask of Beatrice.

At this point, she was 21, floundering a bit at university, and was struggling with general direction. She didn’t consider herself a party girl, but enjoyed going out with her friends. But these society parties were well-respected, and many were honored to be invited. So when the fancy envelope, with delicate calligraphy, showed up in Beatrice’s mailbox in January, her mother was beside herself.

“Oh, Bumblebee, how marvelous! We must get you a dress soon.”

Beatrice sighed as her mom dissolved into another coughing fit. The bronchitis was chronic now, even with a weekly housekeeper, no pets, and no more roses from Dad.

“Mom? Are you okay?”

She struggled to catch her breath. “Yes, of course, Bumblebee. I’m going to sit down.”

“I can always ring you back.”

“No, no. I’m fine now. This is a momentous occasion that needs to be celebrated.”

“Mom, come on. It’s one society party.”

“This one party may make all the difference, Bumblebee.”

Beatrice rolled her eyes, but felt her heart swell. Maybe her mom was right. The party wasn’t until June. After classes ended. The summer was always her favorite season. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

—-

As she rolled her shoulder blades, trying to ignore the still-very-uncomfortable dress, impossible strapless bra, higher-than-normal heels, and copious sweat, Beatrice took a deep breath. She listened. The familiar notes from the string quartet entered her ears.

She hummed along with the beautiful music of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as she pressed her way through the crowd. She clutched the invitation, praying she would find the front door soon.

“May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m here for the party.”

“Your invitation, please.”

Feeling icky, she handed over the damp invitation.

“Welcome, Miss Beatrice Winchester. There is plenty of food and drinks available, at no extra charge. Bathrooms are to the right of the event hall. Stay as long as you like. Did you drive here?”

“No sir, I took an Uber.”

He nodded. “That’s pleasant to hear. Some guests do drive themselves, and we usually have to take away their keys. We are glad that you won’t be one of them tonight. We are very safety-conscious.”

Beatrice smiled, although feeling even more uncomfortable, if that was possible.

“Well, Miss Winchester, please enjoy your evening. We are delighted in your presence. If you need anything at all, please find one of the staff members.”

Beatrice smiled, thanked the man and woman, and tipped the doorman.

She climbed the stairs, feeling a blister form on her left heel.

“Oh dear. The shoes are coming off sooner than I thought.”

—-

The cold air was welcomed, although the event hall was packed and humid. Beatrice lost count at 200 people, although the room easily held 500. There weren’t many tables and chairs, just the smattering of high cocktail tables in the four corners. There was a massive dance floor. The string quartet was ending Moonlight Sonata as she searched the room.

She absent-mindedly fiddled with her sequined clutch, trying to figure out her next move. The string quartet bowed, and polite applause rose. She clapped along. As the string quartet departed, she saw someone approach a small stage with a microphone.

“Welcome, everyone, to the first society party of the year. We are delighted that so many of you have joined us this early in the evening. We have a lot of great entertainment lined up tonight. We also have food and drinks at no extra charge. We are expecting about 500 people total. Please, enjoy yourselves. I’ll be back shortly to introduce the next entertainment.”

Polite applause rose again as the man departed. Recorded pop music started up from the speakers, and a few women started dancing.

—-

Beatrice was tempted to become one with a wall, but pictured her mother’s face. She was so thrilled this day had come, even though Dad had to take the obligatory photos because Mom was sick in bed, again. She could barely speak, hardly able to tell Beatrice she loved her.

She pictured Mom’s face, then Dad’s. Even though she felt she was floundering in every aspect of life, she knew Mom and Dad were proud of her. After Evan died three years ago, this was such a bright spot. Beatrice was determined to keep buzzing along, even if it was only for one night to buoy her parents’ spirits.

“Hi! I’m Abigail. What’s your name?”

Beatrice smiled. “Hi, I’m Beatrice. Nice to meet you.”

“Do you dance?”

Beatrice shrugged. “I’m pretty daft.”

Abigail laughed. “I’m terrible, but anyone who tells me to my face that can shove it. Come on!”

Beatrice was swept up in the dancing. All the girls on the floor were kind, almost too polite. There was Abigail, Mallory, Melody, Emily, and Wren. Another girl named Ashley soon joined in.

“Where are the guys?”

Beatrice laughed, trying to catch her breath. “I think they’re all intimidated by us.”

Mallory whooped. “They’re all jealous. We’re the best dancers in this whole lot.”

The girls danced for another half-hour, until “Uptown Funk” ended.

—-

Abigail and Mallory, clearly the most experienced society party-goers, showed the rest of the girls the ropes.

“We come for the dancing, and the drinks!”

Beatrice smiled. “So, how is this different from going out to the pub or club?”

Mallory hooted. “This is the fanciest of them all. I love getting dressed up. Sure, my mum is always thrilled and fusses over me, but I get a kick of every party. Some of my gals have found husbands, a few left their guys and fell in love with girls, and the rest of us love being single and partying it up every season.”

“Is there an age limit?”

Abigail waved her hand. “Kind of. The upper age is around 30. It’s ‘expected’ that you have a job, a family by then. But I scoff. I’m 28. As long as I keep getting invited, I’m coming. It’s nice to get dressed up, get your hair done, full makeup, and let loose a little.”

Beatrice shifted. “I’m still pretty uncomfortable.”

Mallory snorted slightly. “I felt that way my first party, too. I didn’t want my taxi to leave. The driver was so handsome, too.”

Beatrice relaxed a bit. “That’s how I felt, too. My Uber driver is pretty hot, if I do say so myself.”

It turned out that five of the girls had been James’s passengers at least a couple of times. He was evidently very popular.

—-

“Is he married?” One of the youngest girls, Evelyn, asked dreamily.

Beatrice smiled, and thought she recognized Evelyn.

As Mallory answered in the negative, Beatrice kept glancing at Evelyn.

“Evelyn, darling, where do you live?”

She was startled by Beatrice’s question.

“233 Cornwall.”

“That’s my building!”

“Come off it, really? Which floor?”

Abigail leaned over and whispered to Mallory. “Every single time. There are people who live in the same buildings, and don’t even know it.”

Beatrice relaxed even further after meeting Evelyn. They quickly made plans to meet up again. Beatrice didn’t even need that big glass of Chardonnay to quell her nerves, although she appreciated the offer. She enjoyed herself as the night slipped away. The ladies ate, drank a bit, flirted, and danced.

—-

About 450 guests showed up. The party got a bit raucous after one the most sought-after DJs in the city was revealed to be the main entertainment.

Beatrice felt herself buzzing with her new friends, enjoying the diversity of the group. Abigail and Mallory were the most experienced. Evelyn was starry-eyed the whole time.

Emily danced her feet off with one guy who kept undressing her with his eyes, not that she noticed. Melody was making the rounds with three different girls, trying not to tip off any of them.

Ashley was feeling insecure about transitioning from Adam, but she felt inspired by all the women.

Wren was swept up with a guy that everyone else thought was creepy. He ended up getting kicked out a few hours later because he got himself uproariously drunk, tried to steal the microphone from the DJ, and projectile vomited on the security guards as they were escorting them out.

Abigail jabbed her thumb in his direction and giggled, laying her head on Mallory’s shoulder. “That’s another thing that happens. Every. Single. Time. Without fail. We always laugh at the crazy drunk ones. They get hauled out, and we all dissolve into giggles.”

Evelyn sipped her wine, feeling a bit unsteady.

“Beatrice?”

“Yes, Evelyn?”

“Can I share your Uber home with you? I’m feeling sleepy.”

Abigail chuckled. “That’s the wine talking, dear.”

Evelyn blushed. “It is my first party.”

Mallory sighed. “Don’t go yet, girls. Please!”

Evelyn stifled a yawn. “I’ll go easier on the wine. Next time.”

Beatrice smiled, and helped Evelyn to her feet. “Come on, sweetie, let’s get James and go home.”

Evelyn laid her head on Beatrice’s shoulder. “Yes, let’s do that. Help me not slobber all over him? Deal?”

Beatrice waved at the other girls as Evelyn chattered on.

“Until the next party, girls! Let’s do this again soon.”

James was as handsome as ever, helping Evelyn and Beatrice into the backseat.

As Evelyn dozed off within minutes, James caught Beatrice’s eye.

“Did you have a good time, Miss Winchester?”

“Yes, I did, indeed. And please, call me Beatrice. Thank you for driving us home, James. I have several new friends. And I can’t wait for the next society party.”

James raised an eyebrow, and they both laughed.

“I’m glad you had a good time, Beatrice. Most society invitees do. And making new friends is always good and fun. Thanks for trusting me to drive both of you.”

“We look forward to requesting you again, hopefully soon.”

James smiled, and focused back on the empty streets. Beatrice sighed, checked on Evelyn, and stared out the window. As she watched the city lights pass by, she sighed happily. Mom and Dad would be thrilled, and she was satisfied, too. She wondered when the next fancy envelope with calligraphy would be in her mailbox.

Even if she never got another one, she knew she’d made at least seven new friends tonight, and that was a pretty successful night in her book.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #91: “Just Mercy”

I was fortunate enough to find my copy through a friend’s store on eBay. I’d heard about the book for a good while, and knew I wanted to see the movie. But, I’m the type of person that likes to read the book before seeing the movie.

Bryan Stevenson is an incredible man. This book is not only a memoir, but a history lesson.

Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law School, moved to Atlanta, and then heard about a man on death row named Walter McMillan. He moved to Alabama to run the Southern Center for Human Rights operation in Montgomery. He is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). As of August 2016, EJI has saved 125 men from death.

It took me a lot longer than usual to finish this book. I wanted to take my time with it. Ever since the murder of George Floyd in May, I’ve wanted to learn as much as I can about people of color. This book is no exception – Stevenson writes about the appalling history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, disproportionate arrests and heavy sentences, and the struggle of getting relief and overturned convictions for significant sentences, along with wrongfully imprisoned people.

Stevenson’s stories of these people on death row in multiple states, mostly men, but also a few women, were heartbreaking. Some were sentenced to death for crimes that were committed when they were children. Others were prosecuted to the maximum, when the laws that should have shielded them were blatantly ignored. There are more than a few people with physical and intellectual disabilities on death row in the United States.

This is a book that I think everyone should read. Even though it was published in 2014, it is definitely still relevant today.

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation soon.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Tag #96: “Do I Have That Other Book Challenge”

This is my bookshelf in my office!

I saw this on Lori’s blog, All Things Momma Blog, and decided to make my own post! It’s not a traditional tag, but a fun challenge!


Here’s what Lori writes: “The original of this challenge was fun and stressful and now there is another one. Hooray. Part two was created by Keeping Tabs and Current Chapter on youtube. It is a scavenger hunt type challenge with 20 prompts. You’re supposed to time yourself and see how fast you can find all of the books, but I’ll just be picking at the prompts over a couple of days when I have time to do so.”

I had a lot of fun with this. I was able to look at my entire bookshelf in a new light.


1. Do you have a book with a fox on the cover or part of the plot?

No.


2. Do you have a book that was published the year you were born, or within a 3 year radius?

Meet Kirsten was published in 1986. I was born in 1988.


3. Do you have a book with music as a weapon or magic?

No.


4. Do you have a series with mismatched covers?

No.


5. Do you have a book with a shapeshifter?

Fallible Justice, Laura Laakso (ARC).


6. Do you have a book signed by the author?

Columbine, Dave Cullen. Cullen came to my school, Longwood University, in the spring of 2010 to speak and promote his book. I was lucky enough to interview him for Longwood’s student newspaper, The Rotunda.


7. Do you have a book with a mostly red cover?

Finale, Thomas Mallon.


8. Do you have a book between 287 – 306 pages?

True Stories of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Kevin Dwyer and Jure Fiorillo – 249 pages.


9. Do you have a book with a main character who wears glasses?

More Than Enough: Claiming Space For Who You Are (No Matter What They Say), Elaine Welteroth


10. Do you have a book with a title that has the same number of letters as your first name?

No. Since I go by Laura Beth, apparently nine-letter titles are difficult.


11. Do you have a book with cybercrime/technology as a plot point?

The Alpha Drive, Kristen Martin.


12. Do you have book written in another language or translated to English?

No.


13. Do you have a book written by an Asian author?

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng.


14. Do you have a book with a moon on the cover?

No.


15. Do you have an illustrated children’s book?

Thank You, Mr. Falker, Patricia Polacco.


16. Do you have a collection of fairy tales or myths?

No.


17. Do you have a sci-fi/fantasy with an alliance between races?

No.


18. Do you have a book with a narrow front cover? (paperback with a front cover that is slightly trimmed shorter/narrower than the rest of the book)

No.


19. Do you have a book that includes the first chapter of the sequel?

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins.


20. Do you have a book with a broken spine?

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank. I’ve had my copy since middle school, I think.


I’m not tagging anyone for this challenge, but feel free to participate!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #248: “April AND May WIP Writing Prompt Challenge (extended): The Temporary Insanity of Our Empty Streets … CONTINUED”

Image Credit: The New York Times

Here’s the link to Didi’s challenge:

April and May WIP Writing Prompt Challenge (extended): The Temporary Insanity of Our Empty Streets … CONTINUED

As an Author/challenge joiner: All you need to do is use the characters from your WIP (work in progress), or even a published works, and plug them into the given scene for a short story style post. It can be funny, serious, deadly, really just whatever you want as long as it’s true to your characters (as in, what they would actually do in this situation)!! It’s a fun way to be creative with those personalities that you as their creator love so much. It’s also a fun way to introduce them to the world and your blogs, without giving away your plots and twists… Just pure ‘meet my characters, and get to know their personalities’ separate from their book.


Donning their cloth masks, Brennan and Kristin both sighed. A simple trip to the grocery store wasn’t simple anymore. It hadn’t been for weeks.

“Okay, B., let’s get in and get out. This is so stressful.”

Brennan reached over the center console and squeezed Kristin’s hand. He wanted to kiss her so badly. Usually, kissing started melting the stress away.

“I know, K. But, we’re here, together. We’re being safe. Right?”

Kristin winced. Everything had gotten harder. She was under the same roof as Brennan, in his own apartment, for the foreseeable future. She should be thrilled! But, then, the lockdown started. And it was driving both of them crazy.

Sure, they’d had a lot of sex, and were generally enjoying spending more time together. But, the simplest things were now so difficult. Brennan had been furloughed. He picked up two different virtual assistant jobs to make up for his one day job. Sitting behind a computer all day was draining. And Kristin, wanting to help keep the lights on and contribute, was able to score a temp job. But it was all online, too.

The apartment was big enough where they could separate for their jobs when they needed to. But, being stuck in a 750-square-foot apartment for days, weeks, and now months, was increasingly challenging.

“Let’s go over the list one more time, and then let’s get this over with.”

Brennan sighed. He loved Kristin, that part was obvious. But, this lockdown was not going the way he’d hoped. His emotions were all over the place. And he felt obligated to help keep Kristin from experiencing a full breakdown. He could see it coming – She was teetering on the edge.

“Okay, milk, eggs, bread, paper towels, bathroom cleaner, toilet paper, if we can find any …”

Kristin sat back in the passenger seat. Brennan saw the tears.

“K., look at me.”

She turned. Two tears spilled out, soaking into the blue floral fabric.

“I love you. I say that to you so much because that’s one thing that won’t be changing. Okay? We can do this. We’re together.”

Kristin sighed. “I love you, too, Brennan. I’m sorry. I feel like all I’m doing is apologizing.”

Brennan stroked her hand, remembering that he needed to use hand sanitizer again before they got out of the car.

“I know you’re sorry. I’m sorry, too. I feel like I haven’t been apologizing enough, you know?”

Kristin leaned over and brushed her lips to his forehead. “What do you feel you’re sorry for?”

Brennan’s eyes turned serious. “I feel bad for inviting you down here, with our colleges closed and shuttered, and then the full lockdown hit. I feel guilty. Maybe selfish, too.”

Kristin laughed slightly. “As frustrating as this lockdown has been, I can’t imagine being alone, living alone, right now. We’re together. We’re healthy. And we’re doing a lot of different things. Your apartment hasn’t been this clean, like, ever. We’re both working. There’s really nothing to feel guilty or selfish about.”

She paused. “Now, let’s get this trip over with. I want to get home, wipe everything down, and then get busy. You know, that busy. That’s the only selfish thing I want.”

Brennan smiled, squeezed her hand, and turned the car off.

“I’m feeling selfish like that, too. Lead the way, darling.”


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #29: Banned & Controversial Books

Found on CNN

This is a topic that comes up every single year!

The idea for this post came from a recent article on CNN: These books are gaining ground in an Alaska town after a school board voted to remove them from class.


The books that are under fire in the town of Palmer are F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man; Joseph Heller’s Catch-22; Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried; and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

Members of the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School Board met in mid-April to “approve the district’s High School English Elective Curriculum and reading list.” After lengthy discussions, “an amendment was introduced during the meeting to scratch the five books off the curriculum. Five members voted in favor of the removal, two voted against. The vote has no impact on the books’ placement in school libraries. In the same vote, the board also removed ‘The Learning Network,’ a resource for educators from The New York Times Company as a mentor text for district teachers.”

Palmer is about 40 miles from Anchorage in the southern part of the state. It serves 46 schools and more than 19,000 students.

Board members received a one-page flier from the district’s Office of Instruction regarding the potential controversies. “Concerns about the pieces of literature, according to the flier, included sexual references, rape, racial slurs, scenes of violence and profanity.”

All this to say that the books have not been banned from the district. The article was written to make the point that the school board voted in favor of removal.


What about community members?

According to the article, “No community members had signed up to comment prior to the meeting.” And, “since the decision was made as an amendment, community members didn’t have a chance to give their input.”

“The material for the English elective class were reviewed through a stakeholder survey, a community survey and a council of educators — including teachers, librarians and administrators — among other reviewers in the 2019-2020 year, the school district said.” The recommendations were then brought to the school board.


Positive spin on the situation

There is some good news. A Facebook page was created after the meeting, advertising “The Mat-Su Valley Banned Book Challenge.” Any student that read all the works can enter for a change to win $100. However, the administrators of the page have considered upping the monetary prize because of the interest in the challenge. At the time the article was published, over 200 students had joined the page.


Protecting students?

There were several quotes in the article regarding the students, and the school board’s intent to protect them from the content of these books. Many of them depict abuse and violence.

“To think that by not reading ‘Why the Caged Bird Sings’ means therefore children will not be exposed to sexual abuse is … closed-minded and ignorant.”

“‘There are many, many students in our district who don’t know that the trauma maybe they’ve experienced is trauma that somebody else has written about and yes, they can go and talk to somebody then,’ Welton said in the meeting.”

‘”I think you’re putting your head in the sand,’ she said. ‘If you really, truly believe that you are protecting your children, you can protect them by just saying, ‘Don’t take that class.'”


The main takeaway for me is that these books are for an English elective class. To me, however, I think these quotes hit the nail on the head. If these students aren’t supposed to or allowed to read these books in school, what other opportunity would they have to read them? Would these students take them out of the library themselves? Apparently, the chance to win money is plenty inspiring.


If you’re interested, check out the links regarding banned and challenged books below.


For me, I’ve read The Great Gatsby and The Things They Carried. I read Invisible Man and Catch-22 so long ago! I’ve read parts of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I think I’ll add the last three to a future TBR. I re-read The Great Gatsby every year. And I think I should re-read The Things They Carried at some point.

Have you read any of these five books?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #102: “More Pizza And Fries? USDA Proposes To ‘Simplify’ Obama-Era School Lunch Rules”

Image Credit: Politico

NPR is one of my go-to sources. I’ve written several posts on articles from them. When I read this headline a while ago, I knew I needed to write about it: More Pizza And Fries? USDA Proposes To ‘Simplify’ Obama-Era School Lunch Rules


I also saw this article as a challenge to myself.

I’m not a parent.

I grew up with eating some school lunches, but most of the time I brought food from home, since my mom made big meals that turned into leftovers.

In elementary school, we learned about the food pyramid and how junk food was “bad.”

Since I graduated from high school in 2007, the rules and guidelines around school nutrition have changed. In addition, the United States weathered the worst economic downturn, among other things.

So, I wanted to dive in, do my research, and educate myself. And then share that education with you!


I’m not going to go into the entire history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but know that the USDA is the government agency that sets the rules for school nutrition. These rules apply to breakfast and lunch served in U.S. schools.

One of most landmark pieces of legislation on nutrition and schools has been the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It became Public Law on December 13, 2010. It has not been amended since it was passed by the Senate on August 5, 2010.

However, at the end of 2018, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced changes. The idea was to give schools “more flexibility in serving meals that kids will eat,” according to another article from NPR published on December 7, 2018.

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

USDA FNS – Nutrition Standards for School Meals

One of the biggest issues that people have with the new proposal is allowing any entree at any school could be served as an a la carte item for students. This means, if the proposal is made into a final rule, schools can offer pizza and burgers as an option every single day, if they choose. It’s a potential loophole to the previous rules that have mandated balanced school meals.

NOTE: While starting to write this post, I clicked on the link to the proposal from the Food and Nutrition Service on the Federal Register. I couldn’t access the Proposed Rule. There was an Editorial Note in its place, stating, “This document was withdrawn by the Office of the Federal Register because it was inadvertently placed on public inspection. The record will remain on public inspection through the close of business on Wednesday, January 22, 2020.”

This post is nowhere near finished. My research continues!

Hot Topic #28: Foster Care and Opioids

Research published in July 2019 indicates that the number of children entering the foster care system has more than doubled since 2000.

Other reasons for removal, including neglect and abuse, declined.

Coincidentally, Sesame Street introduced a new Muppet around the same time. Karli is staying with her “for-now” family while her mom is away getting better. The Sesame Street initiative focuses on addiction as a whole, but makes the connection to foster care. Karli’s mom is getting help for alcohol addiction.


Resources

More Kids Are Getting Placed in Foster Care Because of Parents’ Drug Use, NPR, July 15, 2019

At This Camp, Children of Opioid Addicts Learn to Cope and Laugh, NPR, October 9, 2019


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #247: October WIP Challenge Prompt: Bewitched!!

Found on Didi Oviatt

I love Didi’s monthly writing challenges!

Here’s the link to Didi’s challenge post: October WIP Challenge Prompt: Bewitched!!

Lizzy adored Halloween. When she and Hunter met, they had bonded over one movie in particular: The Nightmare Before Christmas. Multiple times since then, they’d dressed up as Jack and Sally. Everyone thought they were adorable together.

But Lizzy also enjoyed another Halloween tradition – Becoming a witch. It was a secret from many of her friends at the Lancer Institute, or LT for short. But, the minute the air turned crisp and cool, her witch’s hat, black robes, and potions came out of the closet.

She and two of her closest friends, Brittany and Ashley, gathered in the woods, about two miles from LT’s campus. It was becoming a nightly tradition since that wild October night three years prior.

Brittany was in charge of the massive black cauldron. Earlier this October, they’d constructed a makeshift storage area in their favorite clearing. It wasn’t immediately visible to the average passerby, so the three ladies were pretty proud of themselves. It was a welcome change to Brittany – Lugging that massive cauldron was getting old. Her arms were pretty buff, though.

“It’s almost nightfall, my pretties. What spell should we conjure tonight?” Ashley cackled slightly.

Lizzy looked up at the crimson sky, contemplating. Emotionally, she was sad. Hunter, having to work, wasn’t able to come to the annual LT Halloween celebration. They would still dress up as Jack and Sally, per their tradition, but she was still sad he wouldn’t be at LT to celebrate like he had for the previous two years. She wished he was still a student with her.

“Lizzy? Darling, are you okay?”

Tears in her eyes, she turned to Brittany and Ashley. This felt like a true sisterhood. All of them, at some point, had been rejected by several of the eight sororities at LT. Who needed sororities when the three of them could gather in the woods at any time of night?

Lizzy swallowed. “I want to conjure a happiness spell.”

Ashley and Brittany looked confused. “A happiness spell?”

Lizzy nodded, jutting out her chin. “I’ve been so sad recently. Being here with both of you makes me happy, but I want to be happier.”

Ashley chortled slightly. “Is this because you miss Hunter?”

Lizzy stuck her tongue out. “Maybe.”

The three got to work.

“Double, double, toil and trouble …”

POOF!

As the cloud of hazy purple smoke started to clear, Lizzy felt a bit dizzy. She hadn’t had anything to drink, but she felt drunk. She stumbled a bit, but Brittany caught her.

“Lizzy?”

“I feel great! Oh, wow …”

Her world went sideways.

Lizzy woke up, puzzled as to why she felt the cold, damp leaves on her face. She was on the ground. Alone.

“Brittany? Ashley!”

Lizzy thought she’d heard faint giggling.

“Ashley! Brittany! This isn’t funny!”

Lizzy grabbed her hat, and stumbled to her feet.

“Where are you?”

Lizzy turned in circles, feeling increasingly confused. She certainly wasn’t happy. She was scared.

The spell had backfired. And Lizzy was all alone.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂