As a homeschooling mother, I always want to try to find that delicate balance among the "stuff I know they should read" and "stuff I think they shouldn't read (at least for now)" and knowledge of "what everyone else it reading" (both for fun and for school), so that in the end my children will be well-rounded, well-prepared, well-educated students.
Consequently, every summer I go to Barnes & Noble to peruse the "Required Summer Reading Lists" of all the local public and private schools - both collegiate and Christian. This alone is quite an eye-opener for anyone interested in seeing the varying standards and expectations that exist... first, between the regular and honors programs in the local public schools; second, among the different public schools in the area; third, in public versus private schooling; and fourth, among the distinctly collegiate, distinctly Christian, and Classical-model private schools. It is enough to make your head spin and your brain hurt.
Anyway, one of the books that has appeared on several of the middle and high school level honors lists for a couple of years now, even across the wide array of schooling options, is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Being touted (and studied) as a "modern classic," it is the story of a young white girl who has lost her mother, run away from her father, and taken up residence in the home of three unmarried black sisters in 1964 South Carolina, where one just didn't do such things. Sure, there's the distinctly feminist bent that is unavoidable in much contemporary fiction, but overall, the book is beautifully written and the story magnificently orchestrated. I loved it.
A relatively profound moment (and there are many):
"There is one thing I don't get," I said.
"How come if your favorite color is blue, you painted your house so pink?"
She laughed. "That was May's doing. She was with me the day I went to the paint store to pick out the color. I had a nice tan color in mind, but May latched on to this sample called Caribbean Pink. She said it made her feel like dancing a Spanish flamenco. I thought, 'Well, this is the tackiest color I've ever seen, and we'll have half the town talking about us, but if it can lift May's heart like that, I guess she ought to live inside it.'"
"All this time I just figured you liked pink," I said.
She laughed again. "You know, some things don't matter that much, Lily. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person's heart - now, that matters. The whole problem with people is --- "
"They don't know what matters and what doesn't," I said, filling in her sentence and feeling proud of myself for doing so.
"I was gonna say, The problem is they know what matters, but they don't choose it. You know how hard that is, Lily? I love May, but it was still so hard to choose Caribbean Pink. The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters."
And isn't that the truth?!