English I

Instructor: Charles Logan
Class Description: In the film version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy expresses mixed feelings about her home. The high, dry plains of Kansas spur Dorothy to song. She longs for an escape to a magical place over the rainbow. In other words: get me out of this boring little town! Her wish is granted, and Dorothy is whisked to Oz where she’ll meet the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. Together they will do battle with a witch and flying monkeys. But does Dorothy stay in technicolor Oz? She does not. Clicking her ruby slippers, she chants and chants, “There’s no place like home.” Dorothy wakes up; she’s back in Kansas. The surroundings may be the same, but our heroine is certainly changed from her adventure.
Home, journey, return home: every day we make this trip, and sometimes, like Dorothy, we’re changed. Most days, however, we stay the same. Most days, our lives are familiar. Like Esperanza in The House on Mango Street, we become intimately familiar with our neighborhood, drawing maps in our heads and writing mythologies. Home, school, return home. Perhaps a little boring? Not for Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian and Marjane in Persepolis.

Sometimes we break from the familiar. The captain in “The Secret Sharer” is floating in the Gulf of Siam. And the young lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? They enter a forest ruled by fairies, and by the time they leave, their lives have been transformed.

So, now, are you ready? Ready to explore our own personal Kansases, to travel over the rainbow and back again? Yes? Excellent.

Recent Class Highlights: The Audio Gift Project, featuring vignettes and recordings by Griffin School freshmen

My uncle is a storyteller. A large, kind man, Uncle Ronnie is a bit like Kris Kringle — if Kris had been born and raised in Flint, Michigan. Our family lore includes such tales as “Pancake Man,” “The Rooster That Could Ride a Sheep,” and “Trout or Pizza?” We pass Aunt Gail’s crispy potato casserole and listen to my uncle tell us again about the night he terrified my older cousins by wearing a C­3P0 mask, tapping on their bedroom window, and waiting for them to notice the masked stranger staring at them while they slept. I never tire of the stories. They are funny, sure, but they perform the serious magic of community, of sharing (and resharing) the predictable past in order to develop the bonds required to meet the unknown future.

The vignettes collected in this volume serve a similar purpose. They take their inspiration from Sarah Levine and Jones Franzel’s article “Teaching Writing with Radio” and Sandra Cisneros’ book T​he House on Mango Street.​The book’s narrator, a determined teenager named Esperanza, explores her Chicago neighborhood, drawing inspiration from people and places alike. For their vignettes, I asked Griffin’s young writers to describe a memory of a significant moment involving someone important in their lives. Next, they recorded themselves reading their pieces. The result is a diverse and moving tribute to the people and experiences that have shaped these wonderful writers. For the full project, click here.