Textual Lineage (03/30/21)

Scholastic’s Global Literacy Campaign describes textual lineage as “a reading and writing autobiography which shows that who you are is in part developed through the stories and information you’ve experienced.”

Alfred Tatum (2013) More Resources shared at Scholastic Inc. & Learning for Justice

When I think of texts that have shaped who I am it definitely gets overwhelming because I feel everything when I read. So this idea of textual lineage, a new-to-me concept was discussed recently by one of my colleagues, I sat down and really reflected about which books have influenced me as a reader and as a person.

The books listed below are not in any particular order, but all have been hugged close to my chest once the last page was closed and in all honesty the majority have made me cry. Overall, without these books, I would not be who I am today. I just love them.

If you want to share which books have shaped who you are, please feel free to leave their titles in the comments! I love connecting over books. If you want to connect through Goodreads, I can be found at: https://www.goodreads.com/elapizzostyle.


1. The Outsiders – SE Hinton – It’s easy to roll your eyes at this one and I will acknowledge your reaction (if that is what you are doing). However, this book has history with me. I was studying to be an English teacher and I HATED to read. This was the first book I engaged with with studentsduring student teaching. I just remember being caught off guard by the deaths, and sobbing at the end with Johnny’s note. I couldn’t believe a “school book” could do that. I literally taught that book (due to curricular demands) every single year when I was teaching middle school…student teaching, Olean Middle School and then Merton Williams. While it is dated, I still have to pay my respects to a book that showed me that I could actually feel something while I was reading.

2. The Client – John Grisham – this is the FIRST book that I ever read (that was a legit, real person book).  Again, I seriously HATED to read when I was younger. I was at my great-gram’s house the summer between 7th and 8th grades, dealing with the 100000 degree heat in Sun City, Arizona with nothing to do but read this 5 cent Thrift Store find. I remember feeling so accomplished at the end of it all. It had proved to me that I could read and sustain engagement with books longer than 30 pages…which after reading The Stand two years ago makes me smile at how far I have come.

3. Seedfolks – Paul Fleischman – When I think about this book, I am instantly on the 3rd floor of the SUNY Fredonia library, back against a concrete pillar – 2004. My grandmother had just died and I was trying to complete an assignment quickly and only picked it up because it was so short. And goodness me, I cried a lot in the library…with my back against the concrete. Even now I can’t do this book the justice it deserves. I love a story where characters are connected to each other without being explicitly connected and this one’s lesson around humanity is one we can all learn from.

4. Imitation of Life – Allison Joseph – This book showed me that poetry is not be scary.  Prior to reading this, EVERY time I had picked up a poem I felt like the dumbest person on the planet.  I am not sure what this book did for me, but when I read it everything that I was missing with poetry fell into place AND THEN I met Allison Joseph at a reading. This was also life changing because it’s like a concert but for reading. You know how you love certain songs after seeing them live? Well, hearing her read, “On Being Told I Don’t Speak Like a Black Person” changed me. I made an anchor chart of the poem’s closing lines when I first started teaching because I just wanted to share her magic with my students.

Let us simply speak

to one another,

listen and prize the inflections,

differences, never assuming

how any person will sound

until her mouth opens,

until his mouth opens,

greetings familiar

in any language.

Allison Joseph, Imitation of Life

5. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery – I first read this book in French (yes, the foreign language) when I was a senior in high school (Thank you, Ms. Kennedy).  I loved the imagination and passion that the main character possessed and felt such a close connection to the whole story. I think the fact that amazed myself by reading it in a different language still kind of shocks me.

6. Silly Songs and Sad – Ellen Raskin – Ok, so if I had to pick a true and absolute favorite from this list, Silly Songs and Sad would be it. This clever collection of silly poems with vintage illustrations (done by Raskin herself) is out of print, but I have five or six copies because I just can’t imagine my life without it. When I was in elementary school, my mom rescued this book from the discard pile at the school’s library.  She read it to my sister and me one Friday night when there was a wicked thunderstorm outside (our yard was actually flooding and trees went down).  She read the poems to us by flashlight and they were so ridiculous, but yet so language-filled.  Without fail, it is Ralphie’s go-to nighttime read at least once a week – his request even! Like I said, this book is out of print, but if you can find a copy BUY IT! It will change your life.

There once was a grumpy mouse

who lived in a dumpy house

all made of dandelion

puffs, puffs, puffs

you are welcome to his cheese

but please don’t sneeze

or goodbye to the grumpy mouse

goodbye to the dumpy house

goodbye to the dandelion puffs

puffs puffs

goodbye to the dandelion puffs

My favorite poem from Silly Songs and Sad

Other books that have moved me in recent years:

I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson
The Stand – Stephen King
Everything Sad is Untrue – Daniel Nayeri
The Deepest Well – Nadine Burke Harris
Hey, Kiddo – Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

The best book ever written IMO

7 thoughts on “Textual Lineage (03/30/21)

  1. This is a great and varied list of books. I have several on your list including The Outsiders, The Client, and The Stand. In fact, I read The Stand twice, when it was first published and then again later on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How amazing – I was talking with a friend today about impactful literacy PD and we were talking about how important it is for teachers to share their reading life – their textual history. Thank you for sharing yours and reminding me how powerful books from our childhood are!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Textual lineage” is a fascinating term. I loved reading about your book influences. Years ago I read a little book by Anna Quindlan called “How Reading Changed My Life.” It’s a fabulous book about lots of different books. I wrote my MA thesis on Life of Pi and Mattel’s empathetic imagination. That book changed how I see different religions. I could list lots of books, but the one that sustained me as my father was dying when I was a teen is called “The Persecutor” by Sergei Kordukov. It’s nonfiction. He was a KGB operative until he became a Christian.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I so love hearing the books that have been important in people’s lives. What you wrote about The Outsiders is so powerful. And I’m excited to be introduced to Allison Joseph’s poetry. I don’t know her–I’m going to have to look her up now!

    Liked by 1 person

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