Monday, June 30, 2008

Running With Scissors

I just finished reading Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, which was both riveting and frightening. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your perspective), I couldn't help thinking anything besides this is how some of my students live.

They come from broken homes where alcoholism and unstable parents are the norm. Like Augusten, they move around constantly and may end up living with someone who's not even a relative. Worse yet, I've seen some of the places my students lived (to call them "houses" would be an insult to housing), and imagine them to be just like Dr. Finch's place on the inside: filthy, vermin-infested, and falling apart.

When Augusten and Natalie rip a hole in the roof to install a makeshift skylight and Dr. Finch declares that it gives the room a "sense of humor," I'm reminded of the parents who not only couldn't but actively chose not to discipline their children. Their kids run wild, and then come to school and expect to do the same thing.

When 13-year-old Augusten is raped by his 33-year-old friend Neil Bookman, only to engage in a dysfunctional long-term relationship with him, I'm reminded of how many of my students have described experiencing pretty much the same thing.

"How could she expect me to think about school at a time like this? Furthermore, if I had just stayed in school, look what I would have missed," Augusten muses, and I can't disagree with him. "Why listen to a teacher talk about how many quarters Nancy needs to buy six apples if they are four and a half cents each..." when he has this much excitement and entertainment to deal with? This is the mindset of so many students, it's not even funny.

I guess my refusal to stop thinking about school kind of ruined this book for me. It was a terrible memoir--but a fantastic horror novel.