Book Club

Avigail Simon ‘22, Staff Writer

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This year, all Ma’ayanot students were assigned to read at least two books over the summer. Those two books included a specific novel relevant to their English class, and one book chosen from a schoolwide list. On September 17, students met in groups to discuss the books they read. This book club is different than the usual events about English class; the students from every grade read the same books, not just one book for each grade. This allowed the students from different grades to interact with each other while discussing the book they read.

Mrs. Appel met with students who read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. They discussed the protagonist’s struggle to find purpose and liberty while entrapped. A junior said, “It was interesting hearing other opinions about the ending of the book, whether or not the main character should have stayed in his homeland.”

Ms. Miller discussed the novel Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue with her group, focusing on the topic of the economic crisis of 2008. The students watched a video explaining how the crisis happened, which banks were involved, and the backgrounds of all the people that were affected. They also spoke about the author’s background and how that relates to the novel.

Mrs. Benjamin, Mrs. Bieler, and Mrs. Baron each led the discussions about The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. They talked about how the main characters were faced with the challenge of losing their identities during World War II. They also discussed what it means to be a hero, which protagonist was a bigger hero during the war, and who had more courage. A student in this group said, “We had such great discussions about the book, it helped me connect to the characters.”

Mrs. Isseroff analyzed the novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid with the students, explaining how doors symbolize new opportunities and new beginnings. They also discussed how the characters change throughout the novel, how they grow apart from each other, and the difference in their relationship at the beginning and end of the novel. A sophomore said that the book was “interesting to read and you never got bored, because if you started getting bored they would just move somewhere else and it would be interesting again.”

Mrs. Horowitz discussed The Stranger by Albert Camus, focusing on how the main character has no emotions and how the students can connect to the main character’s perspective on life. They analyzed a quote from the author, and spoke about the true meaning of the book. A student said, “When reading the book, I found it very interesting to be able to explore the mind of someone who feels no emotion. We discussed not only the notion of emotionlessness, but also how we ourselves connect to the protagonist’s perspective on life.” The novel taught them about their roles in life and about how people can adapt to society’s expectations of them.

Mrs. Rapps spoke with the students who read The World to Come by Dara Horn, explaining how the author depicts the idea of a world to come differently than the way people visualize it. They discussed the life of the main character and what it meant for him to have a symbolic family heirloom that he stole. One of the students in the group said, “I think it’s important to have these discussions because sometimes it gives more meaning to the book. I learned a lot more about the book than when I first read it.” They also analyzed the cover of the book, which had distinct lines for the background, but less detailed lines for the man himself. 

Ms. Strama, Mr. Reiner, Mrs. Tal-Timen, Ms. Gottlieb, Mrs. Weil, Mrs. Gruenspecht, Mrs. Shapiro, and Mrs. Katzenstein each met with students that read the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Many students read this book, and talked about what each character’s personality represented and whether or not they made the right decisions. Morals was an important topic, and they tried to relate them to their lives as if they were in that same situation. 

All the students had a great time discussing the book and sharing their opinions. One student commented, “It was interesting, because we were discussing the book that we read with people in other grades, which is something we don’t normally do.” The teachers that led the group discussions enjoyed the event as well, it was a time to bond with the students about reading. Mrs. Miller said, “I really enjoyed my group’s discussion of Behold the Dreamers. It was wonderful to hear everyone’s insights, but I was really impressed by the way students from each grade were able to contribute to a single discussion. Each and every reader brings something unique to the table, and this was a powerful way of celebrating our ability to listen and communicate together.”

 

Ms. Kur commented on organizing the program and said, “The list includes fiction and non-fiction; classic and contemporary literature; magical realism and historical fiction. The idea behind this move is twofold: first, to give students more choice in what they read and second, to create and celebrate a community of readers.” Ms. Kur and Mrs. Rotenberg worked very hard to put this event together, and it was appreciated by all.

 

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