Anyone fascinated by presidential history, libraries, and teachers, whether Republican or Democrat, is bound to be interested in the recent opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Museum and Library last week in Dallas, Texas. It is times like this when I like to remember that former First Lady Laura Bush was once a teacher and a librarian.
Laura Bush gives readers a wealth of detail about her experiences in her Texas classrooms, the libraries where she worked, and the annual National Book Festival she inaugurated in her 2011 autobiography, Spoken from the Heart. The book covers the other details of her life you would expect to find in an autobiography: her childhood and education, how she met and married George Bush, her difficulty conceiving and the eventual birth of her twins, her husband’s gubernatorial and presidential elections, and her role as First Lady.
If you want to get to know Laura Bush better, be sure to read this book. You can find Spoken from the Heart on amazon.com.
Whenever I read the gripping accounts of oppressed women in other countries such as the one presented by Azar Nafisi in Reading Lolita in Tehran,
I become acutely aware of how lucky I am to have been born into liberty here in the United States. It never ceases to amaze me that the simple pass-time of reading a book and talking about it with others is considered a subversive activity in some countries. So many women worldwide still struggle to attain the freedoms that many of the young girls in our classrooms take for granted.
In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Iranian author and professor Azar Nafisi describes her experiences as an educator at the University of Tehran during the fundamentalist revolution of 1978. When she refused to submit to an order by the male-dominated administration to wear a veil, which she considered a symbol of oppression, she was expelled from the faculty. Nafisi continued to instruct, however, by leading an underground book club attended by like-minded Iranian women. The group met in Nafisi’s home every Thursday morning to study such forbidden Western classics as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
Nafisi’s memoir is a transfixing example of resilience in the face of adversity. You can easily find Reading Lolita in Tehran
Without a doubt, one of the saddest days of my teaching career was the day our nation lost the first educator to go into space, New Hampshire history teacher Christa McAuliffe. Fairly new to the profession, I was so proud that a fellow teacher had been selected as the first civilian in space, and a little star-struck by the professionalism, intelligence, and infectious enthusiasm of the chosen candidate, selected from among 11,000 applicants.
While on her mission, Christa planned to write a journal of her experiences as an astronaut from the perspective that even an ordinary citizen can take center stage in the making of history. Additionally, she was scheduled to perform lessons and experiments aboard the space shuttle which would be viewed by students in classrooms all over America.
Tragically, Christa was one of seven astronauts killed when the space shuttle Challenger
exploded on January 28, 1986, just 73 seconds after lift-off. The journal she never got to finish was replaced by A Journal for Christa: Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space,
written by Grace George Corrigan, Christa’s grief-stricken mother. The book is a tender tribute to an extraordinary teacher. A Journal for Christa
can be ordered form amazon. I have also included a chapter about Christa McAuliffe in the book I am currently writing, tentatively entitled Chalkboard Heroes.