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Ed. Magazine

On My Bookshelf: Aaliyah El-Amin



WHAT DREW YOU TO IT? Octavia Butler is everything. I have read many of her books, but somehow missed the Patternist set. Butler was a genius at storytelling, centering blackness, and offering both a deep critique of society and systems of oppression and painting a vision for the possibility of a new world. She was my first introduction to good science fiction and to Afro-futurism. I also have always admired not only her skill and wisdom as a writer, but also her profound strength as a black woman. I read an article about her once where they published a list she made for herself of everything she wanted to achieve. Everything on that list, written in her handwriting on a lined piece of paper, she made happen. If I were a novelist, I would want to write with her spirit. If I were living my best life, I would live with her strength.

FAVORITE BOOK FROM CHILDHOOD? Gosh. That is an almost impossible question. I was a voracious reader. A treat in my house was a trip to the bookstore. Some favorites are anything Nancy Drew (I was into mysteries), most things Judy Blume, The Baby-Sitters Club (I was into coming of age stories, too), A Wrinkle in Time, Anne of Green Gables, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Archie and Veronica comics. (Do they still make those?!)

FAVORITE BOOK YOU READ TO YOUR STUDENTS WHEN YOU TAUGHT: I loved reading to my kids as an elementary school teacher. We read aloud every day. I truly believe in it as a way to engage young people in the power of books and storytelling. I think the best way to answer the question, though, is not what I liked to read to them, but what they liked to hear. Some of my kids’ favorites were Bud, Not Buddy; The Skin I’m In; The BFG; and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ASSIGNED TO YOUR HGSE STUDENTS THAT ALL EDUCATORS SHOULD READ? Carla Shalaby’s Troublemakers. Shalaby, Ed.M.’09, Ed.D.’14, does an amazing job reminding us that this work — education — is human work. It is fundamentally about humans (teachers and adults) trying to connect with and learn alongside other humans (young people). If we think really hard on that, then we might have some other important conversations in education, like the ones she raises about love, relationships, care, and walking alongside people in the struggle.

FAVORITE SPOT TO CURL UP WITH A BOOK? By myself: in my bed, wrapped in my blanket. With my niece: anywhere when she says it is a good time to read.

NEXT UP: Wild Seed is the first book in a series, so I am in that one for the long, amazing ride! After that, Bettina Love’s We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom.

Ed. Magazine

The magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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