“A 10th Grade Reading List for Times Like These” by Laura Murray

Laura Murray


do you have memories like mine, of stickered paperbacks and pencil-smudged desks—
The Lord of
the flies’ lazy laps overhead, the dry erase fumes and overcooked body spray? Outside, the
The House on Mango
street noise, like mortgages or old age, is far away from essays and lunch trays and football
The Hunger
games and dress codes. Now listen up: Allegory. Foreshadowing. Irony. Theme. In a quality
The Handmaid’s
tale, everything has a symbol. (Are you taking notes?) A fireman, a cake, a pilgrim, a paperweight,
To Kill
a mockingbird, any bird. Glasses, skulls, heads on sticks, #42. Today nothing adds up. What would
The Hate
u give for the answer—easy to spot, like red hunting hats or scarlet letters or blue eyes? Vocab quiz:
five ways to describe a dock light: emerald, jade, viridian, lime, chartreuse. Why would you need these
Into the wild stories? Pages dripped with blood, trauma, conspiracy, breakdowns, talking animals. But
The Things
they carried truths, along with imperfections, histories, warnings. So when you’re getting torn
Things Fall
apart (hang the witch/burn the pages/send them back/lock them up/distrust the
medicine/white noise & white houses/red hats & red plagues), remember the night still
I Know Why the Caged Bird
sings with voices. Changing the ending. Do you have memories like mine, of an eager, limitless
Brave New
world, of it stretching before you? I’m taking a breath.         I’m ready to

from Poets Respond
October 13, 2020


Laura Murray: “I had fun writing this poem. Increasingly it has felt to me like we’re living in some sort of fictionalized reality, aligning with material you might read in high school English. Although I wrote this after the vice presidential debate (and Kamala Harris’s meme-able ‘I’m speaking’ moment), the final title was an unintentional but happy tie-in. I also thought it was fitting that most if not all of these titles are banned or challenged books.” (web)

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