I cannot compete with this review of Danielle Evans’s Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self:  Ron Charles in Bacon Hat. However, I will add that it is a perfect collection of short stories for the high school English teacher looking to engage some reluctant readers. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the stories contain a lightness it is hard to label. Though I no longer teach in a “brick and mortar” classroom and the virtual school which employs me provides me with materials and curriculum, I still consider how everything I read, see, and hear may be used in education. I get phantom pains of a sort.

The pains get a little worse when I hear a student tell me he does not like to read or write. In my capacity as a virtual English teacher, I must make welcome calls to all my students. One with whom I spoke this week informed me he did not like to read. I said, “As an English teacher, a writer, and a bookseller, you’re killing me.”  We laughed, but really? He nearly killed me.

I’m not at death’s door, though, because this particular student does not like to read. No, the risk is that I will now exhaust myself by spending countless hours trying to figure out what books he might like, how I can reach him, hoping one of the non-fiction selections embedded in the course will suck him into the vortex. It’s a puzzle with a similar theme I have solved in the past.

The age old debate about altruism vs. self-interest plays out here. Over the years I have ransacked bookshelves, twisted myself into comic staged reading knots, and as of late, tweeted to hunt down books and/or inspire the spark of reading passion in my charges. Of course, I want my students to love reading, to learn to pick books that suit them, to go outside their safety (?) net of zombie-filled tales. I would not be allowed to wear my English teacher beanie if these things were not true.

Let me clear, though. I run the risk of “suffocating my own fool self” if I cannot find something a student loves or even begrudgingly likes. It is a matter of life and death . . . for me.

Veronica K. Brooks-Sigler

Bookseller/Social Medium

Maple Street Book Shops