When Seeing Isn't Believing
“Seeing is believing” is often used in everyday conversation. But what happens when what you “see” is not true? What happens when your judgement robs someone of their freedom for more than a decade? The story of Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton, looks at the power of our words and decisions. Picking Cotton is a fascinating book that dives into the complex nature of human memory while revealing the difficult process of grace and forgiveness.
Jennifer Thompson is a model student at Elon University, hoping to graduate as a 4.0 student and then marrying her boyfriend. Ronald Cotton is an average citizen living in Burlington, North Carolina. Taking only one night to change the course of both of their lives forever, tragedy strikes as Jennifer is attacked and brutally raped by an house intruder. Barely escaping and saving her life, Jennifer is determined to catch the criminal with the help of the local police. Ronald is arrested, but he claims to be innocent. Cotton works endlessly to prove his innocence while Thompson vows he is the man who deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail.
Why You’ll Want to Keep Reading
Picking Cotton is written with alternating narrations, with both Jennifer and Ronald telling their perspective of the crime. The same incident told by two different voices sheds light on the emotions of both victims and the complexity of the crime. Jennifer is absolutely sure about her judgement but Ronald swears he didn’t commit the crime. The mystery of whether Ronald deserves to be thrown into prison is enough for you to keep turning page after page. As you immerse yourself into the case and more evidence surfaces, you become drawn in, hoping to find closure to the mystery. When it seems as if the case has reached a dead end, another piece of information is discovered, keeping the story unexpectable. Besides being a great mystery, Picking Cotton also challenges your perceptions on the human memory and the validity of your own judgements, while provoking thought on the American justice system. It is a remarkable story that teaches the valuable lessons of hope and forgiveness resulting from an unbelievable friendship.
I have never liked American classic novels. I always dreaded reading them in my English classes. To Kill a Mockingbird? More like the way to kill my joy of reading. It was nearing the deadline for our semester reading assignment, and I had one book left to read, so I picked the shortest one I possibly could. I could read The Great Gatsby within the weekend--the only problem being it was another dreadful “American Classic”. Although at the time I would have rather read Green Eggs and Ham to my baby cousin 47 times than read The Great Gatsby, I decided to suffer through a mere 180 pages, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The story is set in the mid 1920s, a time of prohibition and success. Nick Carraway, a want-to-be writer but actual bonds salesman, moves to a small house in Long Island wedged between the mansions belonging to New York’s newly rich. Soon after moving, Nick gets an invite to a party by his mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Nick attends the party, not knowing what to expect. He finds a grand party, but when asking everyone where to find Gatsby, no one could tell him anything but rumours about Gatsby. He also realized he was the only person at the party with an invitation. Finally finding the real Gatsby, Gatsby introduces himself and invites Nick to go hydroplaning with him the next day. Gatsby invites Nick to several more events with him and Nick attends more of Gatsby’s extravagant, full-weekend parties, but Nick is still curious as to why Gatsby is doing all of these things for Nick. While taking his friend Jordan out to eat, Nick finally learns the reason Gatsby keeps engaging with Nick; Gatsby was in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy, and had been in loved with her for five years. Gatsby wanted Nick to invite her over for tea so he could casually stroll in to see her again. There was only one flaw in the plan--Daisy had been married for two years now to a different man, but her husband had been having an affair with another woman. After a brief inner conflict, Nick decides to to Gatsby a solid and invite Daisy over. While things go well for Daisy and Gatsby at tea, as the story unravels and true feelings are revealed, changing the nature of everyone’s relationships forever.
Although this may seem like another sub-par romance novel, this is no John Green or Sarah Dessen book, ladies and gentlemen. The Great Gatsby is an American classic centered around the human’s need for hope in live. Without hope, humans have no way of getting through the hardships in life. Some would say Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy is a bit creepy because he never loses hope that she will end up with him and continues to do everything he can in life to get her back, but the way he perseveres in trying spend the rest of his life with Daisy will keep you turning the pages faster than you can read the words on them.
I had never understood the hype about the classics in American literature. They all seemed to be books about nothing that went on forever, but The Great Gatsby managed to change my mind. This book will toy with your emotions on each page, whether it be making you smile on one or making you cry on the next. Now I understand the reason the Great Gatsby is a classic and has been critically acclaimed for generations. While it may seem outdated, the Great Gatsby will convince you to remain hopeful no matter how bad a situation may seem, making it a truly great book.
Alaina Agnello is a junior at Novi High School. She is involved in two competitive dance teams and loves to read in her free time. She aspires to attend Michigan State University to study Journalism.
Growing up, i've always loved animals. I was the one to always cry during a movie that contained the death of an animal, and I even once bawled my eyes out during a mission trip in Mexico last spring because the people there had killed a pig for us to eat. So when Mrs. Maguire introduced our english class to this novel, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Modoc is about a story of how a gentle elephant and her life companion struggled and traveled to stay together, and it is perfect not only for animal lovers, but for everyone.
Bram Gunterstein and Modoc was born in the year of 1896. Not only were they born in the same year, they were born within the same hour. Bram’s father was a elephant circus trainer for a small German circus, and believed that Modoc and Bram were destined to be companions from the day they were born. Starting at a very young age, Mo and Bram began to play together, and eventually grew very close. Later on, Bram followed his father’s footsteps and became an elephant trainer. Modoc’s elephant trainer actually. He was the only one that was able to fully control and understand Modoc, and it seemed like they had a deep connection. They were able to understand each other with one glance, and she always seemed to know how he felt. Deeply believing in training animals with love, not violence, Bram’s gentle approach was influenced on Modoc, and Mo grew up to be a gentle but powerful female elephant, performing in jaw dropping routines with Bram. Although tame, Modoc was a 7 ft elephant, weighing over a ton. She attacked if she had to, but only to protect Bram. The love Bram and Modoc held for each other truly showed how incredible things can turn out to be. Though the two had been inseparable, a day rolled around when the circus Bram’s father worked in had to be sold and the animals had to part from their lifelong trainers. However, Bram and Modoc’s story didn’t just end there. Through exciting beginnings, near death experiences, new relationships, and heartbreak, Modoc and Bram had continuously stayed with each other. When separated, Bram would devote his life searching for Modoc. This book truly captures the love humans and animals are able to contain.
Why I would recommend this book
Modoc, rated 4.2 on Goodreads, is a book that is able to make you cry, laugh, and feel furious all in a few pages. You never really knew what you were going to get in the next chapter, and that made you keep reading. This book contains romance, friendship, loyalty, and betrayal. The author’s style of playing with the reader’s emotions truly makes you not want to put it down.
This book is listed under the ‘Biography’ section, and to be honest, i was quite surprised to hear that. It did not contain the stereotypical biographical format, listing the person’s achievements and inspirations. Maybe it was because Modoc is about a elephant, but this book seemed more like a novel than a biography. I was not a huge fan of nonfiction, but based on a true story, Modoc truly caused me to be more interested in the genre. I am now more open to reading nonfiction, and Modoc really opened my eyes and help me see how fascinating it could be. So for those of you that are interested in opening up to nonfiction, Modoc is a perfect introduction to it.
Grace Choi is a junior at Novi High School. She enjoys reading, swimming, and watching movies. She plans on attending nursing school in the future.
Being Asian American, the name Mao Zedong is very popular among my group of friends and family. I knew what Mao did, and I knew how to use him as a joke, but I never really got in depth of his life and his affect on China. Seeing that the setting of this book, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, takes place during Mao’s rule, I decided to fill my contextual pool a little more.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress tells the tale of two teenage boys, Luo and and the unnamed narrator, who are sent to an isolated mountain to become “re-educated”. “Re-education” meant that the boys had to live like simple villagers to forget their luxurious lives as children of dentists and doctors. Unfortunately, the boys, going through their rebellious phase, resist the education by engulfing into the stolen fantasized stories of western authors, which included Balzac. The book follows the boys relationship with the village seamstress and how the books affect all their lives.
The story is interesting, but in many parts I couldn’t understand the narrator's logic or simply the way it was written. I like books where you can draw lines between each part of the story and have a picture at the end. Unfortunately, for this story I felt like I ended up with a triangle with several dots around it. The book itself is quite short, and I’m the type of guy that needs to know everything. Besides the lack of context, there are two more aspects of the book that just don’t sit well with me.
One of the biggest problems I had was the story was that I couldn’t connect with the characters. They live in a different time period, a different country, a different situation, and oh, they also like poetry. The things that the characters would do for a book seemed reckless and irrational. But it turns out that there’s a large difference between how strict being re-educated seemed, and how it actually is. Throughout the story, the village elder, the guy in charge of making sure they stick to traditional simple peasant morals, allowed them to go back to the city to watch a movie, and then act it out for all the other village citizens. I thought the point of re-education was for people to get away from the arts.
One small thing, the book is translated from french, so the language in the written version is a little plain. But just because it’s plain, doesn’t mean it’s bad. The language is quite poetic, but a little off at some points.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress does have quite an interesting story, but the way it was carried out and focused just didn’t give me the full reading experience. Of course I’m simply an 16 year old who never written a book review in his life before, so read the book yourself and make your own opinion
This semester I picked up Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. I'll be honest, it wasn't something I would normally grab. Memoir? Great Depression? Poverty? Miserable Catholic Irish Childhood? Not something that I’d normally want to pick up and read with a cup of hot chocolate on the couch with my dogs draped over my feet. But when our reading list came out and I saw the brief description of Frank's life, I was drawn in. I wanted to know more about his (deep breath) miserable catholic Irish childhood and how he managed to grow up to write about it, to tell his story. So I picked up his memoir, and let me tell you, it was a story that will stay with me forever.
You’re probably wondering at this point what this book’s about. It's the story of Frank McCourt, the son of irish immigrants born in New York City in 1930. With the combination of the Great Depression as well as his alcoholic father's inability to hold a job, the McCourts move back to Limerick Ireland when Frank was 4 years old with his siblings. Unfortunately for the McCourts, their problems follow them to Ireland, where they live in poverty in the slums unable to find stable work due to Frank's father's alcoholism. The story follows young Frank as he grows up among the very poorest of Limerick along with his schooling and the valuable life lessons he learns along the way.
What makes Angela’s Ashes such a memorable read is the way Frank tells his story. His voice is entirely unique in his long narrative descriptions, the grimy imagery of his early life, the detail in which he recalls his earliest and most important memories. The reader feels his emotions and experiences in a very personal way that makes you feel like you've been visited by a ghost. He manages to pull the reader into his life story, make them cry with him, feel the cold nights without coal with him, desperate with him, shameful with him all along his journey. But through all of his misery he comes away with hope for a better life through his education for “you might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”
Frank McCourt's Angela’s Ashes is a memoir that makes someone who avoids memoirs like the plague love memoirs. He so beautifully shares his story that the secondhand sorrow inflicted on the audience is worth it because we get to see the hope that comes from darkest of places. I would highly recommend Angela’s Ashes to anyone who wants of venture outside of their normal book genres. You won't be disappointed by this beautiful storytelling.
Cameron Bennett is a junior at Novi High School. She enjoys reading, kayaking, spinning on the color guard, and traveling. She plans on pursing a degree in microbiology or biochemistry.
Machines Instead of Trees
As soon as I turned sixteen and was eligible to receive an official job, I filled out an online application for a position at Walmart in hopes of gaining some necessary working experience. The process was short and simplistic as I was hired and fit into a fresh blue outfit in the matter of a few weeks. On my first day, I walked into the sliding doors of the massive retail store with a sense of exuberance at the prospect of earning my own money, despite the fact that it was 8 AM on a Saturday morning. However, I would soon find that my enthusiasm would not last for more than a few days.
The work turned out to be monotonous and tedious, forcing me to repeat the same task for hours on end. The situation was further exacerbated by the strictness of my manager, who would snap at the most subtle sign of insolence or incompetence (my co-workers and I secretly called her the Wicked Witch of Walmart or WWW, for short). After each day of monotony with little reward, I would return home, grumbling to myself and listening to Taylor Swift’s upbeat music to cheer myself up.
It was these negative sentiments towards work that led me to pick up Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a book that describes in great length the horrendous working conditions of the 1920’s. The entire story is one of sorrow and misery, revealing heart-wrenching grief with every turn of the page. The disastrous events that fall upon the main character, Jurgis, made my problems seem like trivial quibbles in comparison.
Inhumanity in the Workplace
Throughout the book, Upton Sinclair leaves no stone unturned, revealing every cruel reality of the United States during the 1920’s. He tells the story of Jurgis and Ona, a happy couple who has recently arrived in America with their family in seek of new riches but is left with heavy debt due to the expense of their marriage. Fully believing in the truth of the American Dream and capitalism, Jurgis vows to pay off the debt with work as he finds a job in a meatpacking factory. However, from the unsanitary placement of spoiled meat in packages for sale to the lack of worker rights and protection, evidence of corruption and immorality is evident in every aspect of the Chicago suburbs that they live in, Jurgis’s family struggles to stay afloat in a society of everlasting deception, fighting to maintain their resolve their to survive and keep their morality.
While reading the story, I had to get a tissue to wipe sentimental tear so many times that I eventually finished the book with a kleenex box at my side. Sinclair writes his characters with such great depth that readers are compelled to form deep connections with them. The amount of detail with which Sinclair describes the inhumane practices of bosses and the upper class in general evokes strong feelings of repulsion and astonishment. Readers will find themselves conflicted between anger towards the injustice of the situation and sympathy for the adversity Jurgis and his family have to face.
The issues the book addresses underscore the deep roots of the problem with capitalism that continues even today in some cases. I highly encourage anyone who wishes to have a more open mind on the American Dream or the basis that the country was founded on. Readers will finish the book with a much greater sense about the complexities of work and a question if the upper class who ran society back then was any better than the animals they slaughtered.
Daniel Yu is a high school student at Novi High School. His favorite classes are English and Psychology, enjoying to read and write in his free time. He hopes to pursue a degree dealing with Linguistics or Speaking.
For this review i’m going to be blunt right from the get-go. This book, or play rather, is not for all audiences. For those of you craving the blood-stained pages and political intrigue of fantasy novels such as Game of Thrones or the action-packed dystopian thrillers populating the YA genre as of late look elsewhere. This tale is slow-moving and subtle and demands maturity and keen observation to fully appreciate. Ironically, both of these traits were absent in my decision to read this book. I picked it up solely because of its slim profile composed of only 117 pages in comparison to the daunting thickness of some of its 400 page counterparts which simply wouldn’t fit into my cramped reading schedule. At first glance my copy of Death of a Salesman nearly made me faint. Its page count was nearly double that of what Wikipedia promised me. I was beginning to feel anxious as I cracked open the book and flipped to the first page. Guess what I found? An introduction and analysis longer than the book. I was simultaneously relieved and vexed. On one hand the shortened reading time was a benefit but on the other hand I was fooled yet again by the pesky introduction. So with all my worries set aside I returned home, sunk into my leather couch, and began.
Willy Loman can’t seem to catch a break. He’s a man of the people, a salesman, a negotiator whose capitalization on social skills is becoming increasingly irrelevant in an age in which knowledge rather than charisma is the key to success. And he’s no spring chicken. He’s in his early sixties and is already showing signs of a mental breakdown. The past haunts him. Willy carries on longer conversations with himself replaying old memories than with his dutiful wife Linda. His son Biff has always been the apple of his eye. The big, handsome football star with a winning smile and impeccable physique that was destined for greatness. Wrong. He’s a 35 year-old high school flunkie who makes intermittent stops at his father’s house only to hash out old arguments. Death of a Salesman peels back the idyllic appearance of an American middle class family to show its dysfunction in a realistic light.
I’m sure that synopsis put half of you to sleep but for those of you still hanging in there you’re in for a treat. Despite the dry storyline and presentation I loved this book’s realistic characters tackling relatable issues such as unemployment, father-son feuds, infidelity, and much more. Despite being originally published in 1949 I feel this play is just as relevant or even more relevant today than it was 67 years ago. The globalization of the work force today directly ties into the theme of intellectual capital trumping all else. Also I believe its theatrical format adds to the atmosphere of the story with specific stage instructions that reveal the emotions of the characters. While the ending is rather predictable, it remains a testament to realism that reveals how life’s tragedies are often abrupt and unceremonious. Now, after completing this play I realize why the analysis is so thorough. There are so many nuances in the text that deserve attention and for once I may actually want to read the introduction and analysis of a book. One final reason to convince the scholarly and mature reader that has hung on thus far to pick up this book is that the theatrical adaptation of this written play received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and is considered a “modern tragedy” that will add leagues upon leagues to your contextual pool.
Ben Doughty is an eleventh grade student at Novi High School. He enjoys English and European history and devotes his free time to Model United Nations in hopes of having a future in political science.
I guess today is the day I will reveal my deep dark secret I have hidden for sixteen years. I’m afraid to cross the border of fiction to nonfiction. No, it’s not because I’m scared of facing reality. No. Rather it is because I have always found myself falling asleep trying to read a piece of work that is so dry that it would have put the desert to shame. So I was very reluctant to start Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. However, I can now say that this book has allowed me, the nonfiction anti-fan, to jump into the world of nonfiction without grimacing my way in.
Nickel and Dimed is the documented story of Barbara Ehrenreich, a journalist, going undercover as a minimum wage worker. She plunges into the lives of lower class Americans which differs from her life as a well off journalist. Throughout her journey, she works as a waitress, a maid, and even a Walmart employee across America. Ehrenreich works countless hours while using this money to pay for her shelter and food. Her mission: to seek the truth on whether the minimum wage can actually support the lives of Americans and their families.
The reason why this book has changed my critical perspective on nonfiction is the way Ehrenreich adds her commentary through sarcastic yet hilarious language. While I was learning this information, I didn’t feel like I was nodding off to a textbook but rather being entranced into a story told by a person I can relate to.
However, I will warn you that this is not a book you can knock out in a few days. This book is best enjoyed when you can absorb the information and let the story unravels on its own. This book really changes the views and the presumptions of the lower class workers in society. This story not only expanded my knowledge, but also altered my view of the world.
If you are also a reader who wants to take a dive into the large pool of nonfiction, then Nickel and Dimed is a perfect book to start off with. It is a book that doesn’t overload you with information but enough for you to gain some new knowledge about the society we live in. Nickel and Dimed is the perfect book to start with for any new nonfiction readers.