Summer Reading List

This Is Not a Test “Graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in computer science, Jose Vilson left campus with no job and a few hundred dollars to his name, propelling him (eventually) to his calling: teaching middle school children math in a public school in Washington Heights / Inwood, Manhattan.”

Vilson, Jose. This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014. Print.

I Funny: A Middle School Story “Jamie Grimm is a middle schooler on a mission: he wants to become the world’s greatest standup comedian—even if he doesn’t have a lot to laugh about these days.”

Patterson, James, and Chris Grabenstein. I Funny: A Middle School Story. NewYork: Little, Brown and Company, 2012. Print.

Last Evenings On Earth “Roberto Bolano’s story collection Last Evenings on Earth was acclaimed by Francine Prose inThe New York Times Book Review as “something extraordinarily beautiful and (at least to me) entirely new….””

Bolaño, Roberto. Last Evenings on Earth. Trans. Chris Andrews. New York: A New Directions Book, 2007. Print.

Boxers “The Boxer Rebellion is a war that took place on Chinese soil over 100 years ago.”

Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers. New York: First Second, 2013. Print.

Howl and Other Poems “The epigraph for Howl is from Walt Whitman: “Unscrew the locks from the doors!/Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!””

Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1959. Print.

Open Veins of Latin America “Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America.”

Galeano, Eduardo. The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1997. Audiobook.

Peace, Locomotion “In this sequel to Locomotion, Lonnie, now age 12, has become adjusted to his foster family.”

Woodson, Jacqueline. Peace, Locomotion. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009. Print.

Saints “Western powers were able to establish concessions – pieces of land that functioned as colonies – all across China.”

Yang, Gene Luen. Saints. New York: First Second, 2013. Print.

Blow Up and Other Stories “A young girl spends her summer vacation in a country house where a tiger roams . . . A man reading a mystery finds out too late that he is the murderer’s victim . . . “

Cortazar, Julio. Blow Up and Other Stories. Trans. Paul Blackburn. New York: Pantheon Books, 1967. Print.

The One and Only Ivan “Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.”

Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 2012. eBook.

Ungifted “The word “gifted” has never been applied to Donovan Curtis. It’s usually more like “don’t try this at home.” So when the troublemaker pulls a major prank at his middle school, he thinks he’s finally gone too far. But thanks to a mix-up, instead of getting in trouble, Donovan is sent to the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, a special program for gifted and talented students.”

Korman, Gordon. Ungifted. Toronto: Scholastic Inc., 2012. Audiobook.

The Imagist Poets “Collection contains 81 poems from 13 poets, inluding: Richard Aldington, H.D., John Gould Fletcher, F.S. Flint, D.H. Lawrence, Amy Lowell, Skipwith Cannell, William Carlos Williams, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Hueffer, Allen Upward, and John Cournos!”

Joyce, James et al. The Imagist Poets: A Collection of Imagist Poetry. A & L eBooks, 2011. eBook.

The Shock Doctrine “In THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, Naomi Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically. Exposing the thinking, the money trail and the puppet strings behind the world-changing crises and wars of the last four decades, The Shock Doctrine is the gripping story of how America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world– through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries.”

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Picador, 2007. Audiobook.


an education: wasted energy.

You wait at home and then one day you get a college degree that comes in the mail. You get it in the mail because what they give you at the graduation ceremony is a blank sheet of paper. You get a blank sheet, but that’s if you had even gone. You never even got the blank sheet of paper. You get your college degree in an envelope at your parent’s house. And this should be it. You’ve finally made it, finally, right?

After years of waiting, working, waiting, waiting…

You remember grade school, your teacher telling you to finish college, that you’re so smart and not to waste your gifts. Your teacher tells you that you can go to college and be whatever you want when you grow up, and all the kids hate you because, why you? Why are you going to get to go to college and be whatever you want, but not them? Why not them?

You hide under your desk like a turtle into its shell. Wish you could leave and run away, and dig and dig inside your head to pull out pieces of brain to share with the rest.

You raise your hand to answer number five, and the teacher calls on you. You raise your hand to answer number six, number seven, then eight, and then nine. And the teacher asks you to give someone else a chance. The teacher asks, “Who knows number ten?” You keep quiet, and the teacher says, “No one knows number ten?” And all the kids say, “Carlos does!” And the teacher asks, “Carlos what’s number ten?”

You answer, and everyone sneers and rolls their eyes at you. You feel ashamed, and all you want to say is that it’s not your fault.

Now, you think that, maybe, it was conditioning, maybe you’ve been programmed. “Teacher, teacher, I’m your slave, a pet.” You always played along in school.

After years of waiting, you get your college degree in the mail. Soon, everyone will expect you to get a job, not the summer type, but the career kind.

Go online, send out resumes, apply for internships, check out grad schools, America Reads, Teach for America. You’re not ready for the real world.

You wish the real world were a worksheet you had all the answers for before everyone else.

And you wonder what the fuck you’re going to do with yourself today.

Remember high school, and your geometry teacher is standing over you while you take a test to ensure that you don’t copy from the Asian student sitting next to you.

You finish ten minutes before anyone else, and when the teacher passes back the test you get a 95. The student next to you an 86, but the teacher still stands over you anytime there’s a test for the rest of the year.

You learn to despise geometry and math.

And then you’re sitting in college in some Poli-Sci class, and the professor asks, “Carlos can you give us a Latino point of view?” All your classmates wait to listen to you because they think they’re hearing the voice of the streets, and your speech becomes so urban, and you start saying things like, “know what I’m sayin’,” and “for real yo”. You’re such a thug to them, and at home, in your apartment, you read Nietzsche for fun. One day your professor asks if you could curtail your language, and you just laugh inside. Sure you say, but wonder why ‘cause everyone else curses in the class.

But still you give your “Latino” point of view. In your head you think, I don’t know what the fuck every Latino thinks, and I don’t want to be a representative for a whole people.

But now it’s all done. After years of waiting. Years of waiting. Years of waiting. After years of waiting.

Nothing happens.

Nothing happens.

Soon the whole world will begin to pressure you to become like them, insignificant.

You take out your degree from the envelope and


that’s it.

Nothing happens, and you don’t want the rest of your life to be like that. You tell yourself that you cannot let yourself fall into a trap: school, work, and then you die.

What the fuck are you going to do today? What the fuck are you going to do tomorrow, and what will you be doing for the rest of your life?

You have a degree in graphic communications, but you don’t want to sell anything.

“There’s no point,” you start to think. Living in Chicago, nothing matters. And you want to leave because

after years of waiting

nothing happens.

And you start singing, “I’m a reasonable man get off my back, get off my back, get off my back.”