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.”

purpose of meaning: wasted energy.

He wants to know. Carlos wants to know. He wants to know where reality waits. The essence of humanity, wants and desires. Wants to know if any of this around him is real. And he has a million questions to ask, some of which, he hasn’t put into words yet.
Wonders what humanity is aching for? Is waiting for to return to original being and simple existence? He starts to think that the world’s a ball of pain, spinning out of control. Wants the pain to stop and the nightmares to go away.

Wants to feel complete,

And safe,

And secure and pretty and in control with a plan and direction like all the other men on their way to work.

Wants better pay and health insurance, a dental plan, a plan for better living, and a better body. Wants anything that does not remind him of now. Wants at all costs to avoid the collision for which humanity’s heading for.

But at the end of the day, he’s just an animal that shits, eats, and wants.

He wants to change his name, really change people, and change the world. Save the world, really save people, and save himself. He wants an original idea; a sacred thought to keep to himself, a secret away from humanity to hold precious and dear.

Wants someone to tell him well done or say good job. Wants someone to look over his money. Wants someone to listen to all his stories. Wants his own priest and psychiatrist. Wants to see the world. Wants to fuck everyone. Wants to fuck everyone in the world. Just wants something that’s real and his.

Doesn’t want more war. Doesn’t want anything that’s anyone else’s. Doesn’t want to take anything from anyone. Doesn’t want to be a capitalist, imperialist, or social climber.

Just wants a little knowledge and a little truth.

Wants to be engulfed by energy while meditating on an Asian mountaintop or dancing to rain gods on pyramids in Mexico. Wants it all, but he can’t have it all. Starts to think; he just wants something he can never have. Wants the Earth to whisper in his ear while life breathes into him.

Doesn’t want to be so average and so mediocre anymore, so generic like all the other plastic selves.

Wants to know. Wants to know.

Wants to know everything, why energy moves and meanings of everything.

Wants to know. Wants to know.

And needs to know, this he keeps repeating, shaking in bed, staring at plastic neon stars on his bedroom ceiling that he once thought were so cool, but now only aid his insomnia.

But he’s not trying to bring the stars down from the skies.

Starts thinking, everyone wants something. Something from everyone and everything for themselves. No one will take anything from me. And all thoughts seem so circular.

Wants to sleep now and rest.

But the universe has a secret; a meaning for breathing, and he

Wants to know.

What it is? Where he can find it? When will it appear? And whom does he need to talk to?

At the end of the day, he’s just an animal that shits, eats, and wants.

soma: wasted energy.

soma graf flute

You’ve dreamed of leaving. Escape. Stage left to feel the air around you leaving, and the space around your lungs tightening, to just disappear without fading out.

How have you imagined it? How have you dreamed it was going to be? Peaceful or violent? How many times have you pretended? To die? Before today? How many lives or names have been forgotten or passed by? Erased? Moving along just going,

Forward? Energy is leaving and all life is dreaming.

Remember dying when you were young? How the doctor sunk you into the ice to reduce a fever after only a few months on Earth?

Or being ripped out of your mother’s womb through an incision in her belly? Your mother’s scar stands as proof and a reminder of your violent birth. You’ve been practicing how you were going to die since then. Haven’t you? You’ve been busy imagining it,

Worried and excited.

Killed by savages. Imperialists invade your settlement. You’ve fantasized yourself having past glory. You are of the invaders and the invaded. You are with the Roanoke and with the Taínos.

You as a guerilla being hunted by third world paramilitaries, that receive funding from the first world. You, a political dissident. The whole world after you. Assassinated after you become a leader of the machine like Kennedy, like Lincoln, like Malcolm X and Che.

A global corporate conspiracy of murder against your ideas and ideals. All after you.

But these have just been childhood games at dying. Playing war games and pretending to be a vampire sent to kill the Nazis. Some have called you morbid and called you dark for how you listened to Goth music and wore all black in your youth. Some say you are still just way too sad, way, way too sad.

But you know. You have always known. You know you love life. You know you are after life and have always been the only one that really wants to live. That wants to really live.

You are from and of the lonely lost dark empty, but it’s really not that empty or that lonely. And along the way all of your lost friends have helped to light the way.

You are “the only real nigga alive,” that’s how you remember yourself. Challenging life by playing at dying.

But reality is fading, and so is your ability to focus and concentrate. Everything becomes unclear, and nothing seems tangible or concrete anymore. You are starting to feel weak. You can barely hold yourself together.

Where are you? Who are you? With every second, everything becomes more and more just distant memories.

There’s blood running down your neck, a bullet hole in your head?

All masks removed, and no more layers to peel away at. Soon you will become pure, return to original being, away from this physical body and towards a higher form of energy.

You are not sad. You’ve always known this, death. And life. And then more death. And the cycle continues on endlessly.

You’ve always known that everyone you’ve ever known would one day die. And so with you, why should it be any different?

You start to think about what your family will do with your body. You don’t want doctors asking questions and examining once you’re gone. You’ve never wanted to be famous. Someone else can have another 15 minutes. The rest of the world can watch itself on television and leave you alone. You don’t want any fuss.

You just want your body dumped in some corner and allowed to rot and decompose until it returns to the Earth. Or have your body dumped into some ocean to be devoured by some animal or to be lost beneath the oceans in some dark abyss until becoming coral. All physical trace that you ever existed should disappear so that all that remains are memories, and even those should eventually fade. All that is left is how one is remembered and becomes immortal. But this is not about that, or about changing the world. This is about You.

And your killer? You don’t hate your killer. Your killer’s eyes etched into your last breaths like staring back from the reflection of an ancient memory. You don’t hate your killer. You understand. You know why this is all happening. You have given in to going under.

Maybe you have dreamed of a more heroic death and maybe you thought that you would go down in some kind of battle. And there’s always that little bit of doubt that this is just a cop out, and that there’s so much more one could have done. Gone down in battle? Down in the struggle? But maybe you are, if you consider all life is struggle.

So that in that sense, maybe, you can feel free and safe now. Maybe now, you will know angels. Maybe one of the people’s gods will be their waiting. You aren’t scared or insecure at least not any more so than usual. You actually have a smile accompanied with a small sense of relief. This isn’t so bad. You start thinking of sleep, and how good it will feel. Soon you’ll be under such a deep slumber that no life could ever wake you.

This isn’t so bad. You thought for sure that you’d have passed out by now though. Your shirt feels drenched. This could be so much worse though. So much worse with tears and screams trying to hold on to what’s left of life.

But not you.

You’ve imagined intolerable pain, but this does not hurt any more so than life. The shock has taken over, released adrenaline and dopamine into your body to numb the pain and all thoughts. Instead of pain you feel a sort of peace in the tension being released and removed from your body. Sort of like electric shocks flying slowly up and down your spine, creating a tingling sensation upon your brain.

Your body is starting to feel tired for much needed sleep and rest. Eyes keep getting more and more heavy. Your chest feels heavy, and all you can focus is on your slowing breath and heartbeat.

You start to think, “Finally some fucking peace and quiet.”

Some things are red, others feel gray, and suddenly all of your life, your hopes and fears fade to black, and you fall under.

You think of Kurdt Cobain, “It is better to burn out than fade away.” You think of Jim Morrison, “Retire now to your tents and to your dreams, tomorrow we enter the town of my birth, I want to be ready.” You think you think and then…