Continuing the tradition began in 2002 of an all-school summer reading book, the Samo English Department has announced “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls as the 2012 selection.
According the junior Dela Eftekhar, who served on the Samo Reading Committee this year, the book is a memoir that recounts Walls’s journey from childhood to Barnard College in New York City despite her childhood experiences with extreme poverty and hunger, an alcoholic father and a mentally unstable mother.
The book opens with a striking first line : “I was sitting in a taxi wondering if I had overdressed for the evening when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.” After Walls returns to her sumptuous Park Avenue apartment, she arranges to meet her mother and confront her about the dumpster diving. At the end of that lunch, Walls asks her mother, “And what am I supposed to tell people about my parents?” Her mother replies, “Just tell the truth.” From there, Walls begins the story of her life.
“The book documents Walls’s life as she grows up with her siblings and poor parents, who are constantly running from ‘the man’ and relocating because they cannot pay for their homes,” Eftekhar said. “The book is nonjudgmental and objective, which allows the reader to see the whole story without becoming too deeply immersed and lost in emotion.”
The Summer Reading Committee , which consists of students, teachers and parents, selected Walls’s memoir, “The Glass Castle,” as the school-wide summer reading book after reading five books. According to committee member and sophomore Matthew Ware, there were many other books in contention which made for a tough decision.
“This year’s runner-ups were “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin, “Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin and “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow,” Ware said. “The committee collectively enjoyed reading all of the books, but we chose “The Glass Castle” because of its broad-scale appeal and literary quality.”
“The Glass Castle” features a female narrator which is a departure from the previous male voices from “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers and “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah, summer reading selections from 2011 and 2010, respectively. Eftekhar said that the memoir deals with the issues in a severely dysfunctional family and is very unique.
“The book is different from other books because it shows that the American dream is achievable without bringing others down,” Eftekhar said.
After “The Glass Castle” was announced as the school-wide summer reading novel, school librarian Dana Bart-Bell has explored the possibility of bringing Walls to speak at Samo in the fall However, she discovered that the author’s fee of $10,000-$20,000 makes that visit improbable.
“We cannot invite her unless she is willing to donate her time or substantially lower her fee,” Bart-Bell said.
But whether or not the student body gets to meet Walls, students are looking forward to connecting with the author through her work.
In addition to “The Glass Castle,” Samo students are also expected to read at least one other book. Suggested titles may be located on the Samo website’s English department section. Further summer reading advice includes dedicating at least 30 minutes a day for reading and keeping track of important or intriguing passages and character development by taking notes or using post-its.
According to the website, summer reading will make a student, “a better reader, a better writer, and a better thinker; enlarge his or her understanding of people and the world; and help him or her start strongly in English in the fall.”
“I have had different reactions to the reading committee’s book choices each year,” junior Dorcas Kong said. “But despite how boring or tedious a book may seem, there is always something I get out of it in the end.”