Rage

This book is one of the most controversial I’ve ever read. So much that it’s out of print and really difficult to find. There is a sneaky way to obtain a copy, which is what I did, but a first edition goes for thousands on eBay. Ages ago, the publishing world didn’t want to publish more than one book a year by a certain author. Stephen King was, and to this day still is, one of the most prolific authors out there, publishing about once every six months. When he first started, though, he was successful, but not enough for the publishers to take a chance on letting him release books twice a year. So, he figured out a way to cheat the system.  He published books under a pseudonym, Richard Bachman. He only wrote a handful before publishers realized what he was doing, saw he was successful no matter what name he published under, and decided to just let him write as much as he wanted. One of the books he published under this pseudonym was Rage, which King has since pulled from being published based on some very disturbing facts.

Rage is a first-person account of a teenager who commits a school shooting.  King decided to let this book go out of print after it was found in the possession of some kids who did actual school shootings, well before Columbine, before the take off of the Internet, where content is unfiltered and as bad, if not worse than you could imagine.  I’ve read a few disturbing stories about school shootings, namely We Need to Talk About Kevin, but I haven’t read one that was a first-person account, which made this book extremely difficult, and I can see why King has let it go out of print. You can still obtain it in a book called The Bachman Books, which is difficult to find, but not impossible. I got one at Half-Price Books.

I don’t really feel the need to discuss the plot of this book. A kid with a gun shoots some people. It’s horrifying, disturbing, and difficult to read. I don’t support censorship, but I do support an author having ownership over his/her own work. King did the right thing by pulling this book, and I’m proud of him for sticking with the decision after 20+ years.

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Parkland

Let me start this off by saying that if you think the Parkland kids need to stay in their lane, are crisis actors, or don’t support any kind of gun reform, stop reading. This post isn’t for you.

I was in my first year of teaching when Columbine happened. I came home from a day with my sixth graders to terrible news. I was riveted, watching children running, crying, climbing out of windows, and I had no idea how much my world would change. We had drills, needed key cards to get into locked doors, students had a stricter dress code with no black, no concert shirts, no trenchcoats allowed. Even though we had drills, I have taught in some very unsafe buildings, though.  Doors were unlocked, no police presence, and it terrified me. And the thought of arming teachers is sickening, as one teacher says in this book, (paraphrasing) “how can you ask me to kill one of my own students?” and it’s true. Teachers are nurturers, provide guidance and support, and in an instant, we would be expected to shoot one of ours. It’s unthinkable.

I followed the Parkland story closely, but I had no idea what all these kids accomplished. And I call them kids with the utmost respect. They are. It’s simple. Most of them were 16 or 17 when they were forced into adulthood, well before they were ready. Many didn’t handle it well, although some did, finding their voices overnight, some within hours, even. A dozen of the survivors came together in a perfect storm of media and made a life-changing decision. They were going to tackle gun reform.

These kids handled themselves brilliantly. They took on lawmakers and politicians. They rallied millions in March For Our Lives. They recruited other teens across the country to join their cause. And they did it with very little adult help. Simply, they are a true inspiration. I was absolutely in awe of these amazing young people.

Written by Dave Cullen, the same author who wrote one of the most important, yet harrowing books I’ve ever read, Columbine, this book has a very different tone. Columbine is hard to read. It is as gut-wrenching and painful as it is gripping and horrifying. The story is about HOW. How could the Columbine shooting have happened? How did the shooters come together with this plan? How did the survivors manage their lives? How have we changed because of this event? Because it was published ten years after the shooting, Cullen had plenty of time to research and draw conclusions. Parkland is simply about these kids and all they have accomplished. Clearly, Cullen supports gun reform (just check out his twitter feed) and this book makes no bones about what the kids are trying to accomplish. But Cullen also simply reports. He watches the kids, follows them on tours, interviews them, and, on occasion, gets into their inner sanctum office. This book isn’t a profile of any particular kid, even though the movement definitely has it’s more well-known faces, but an excellent portrayal of how they worked together to change the country, and I’m a firm believer that these kids have.

I only teared up once. My gut was never wrenched. My heartstrings were never pulled. Instead, I was motivated, proud, inspired, and in awe of these amazing kids.