When English teacher Sister Eva Hooker had the chance to create a new course during her senior year at Saint Mary’s, she told department chair Ann Marie Short that she wanted to focus on the right books.
“I always wanted to take a course like this but never really got the chance because I was taking the poetry writing course and then of course we all do W [writing proficiency] Classes,“ Hooker said. “And so when it became my last year, Ann Marie [Short] who is our president said, “What would be the course of your dreams?” And I said, ‘Good books, not good books because I don’t want to get caught up in this debate, but good books.’ And so she said, “Well, go ahead and see what happens. ““
While Hooker had to make some tough decisions about what constitutes a good book, she ultimately included novels “Gilead, ” “The green route ”, “The goldfinch “, “To the end of the country ”and “Let the big world go round ”, the memories “What you heard is true ”and the collection of poetry “Trophic cascade ”in its course.
Speaking mostly of “Trophic Cascade, ”Hooker stressed the importance of the collection in giving students a story about motherhood.
“This book is so wonderful because… she is an ecological poet, but this book is about becoming a mother, ”she said. “When we had our alum reunion a few years ago, one of the things the women said was that no one ever really spoke or studied, or focused on becoming a mother, and so ever since. I tried to put in a book that considers that… But it’s also a book that takes into consideration what it is to bring a colored child into the world, so it raises questions of race and privilege and all of that good stuff.
Hooker said he made changes to the course in the middle of the semester and added the novel “Let the Big World Run”.
“I changed my mind halfway because I thought, oh my gosh all these books are so dark we’ve read them so far and I thought, you know, here we are with COVID, ”she said. “Many students in the class are getting sick, not with COVID, but with the flu and they kept falling and falling. They were really struggling so I thought it was a fabulous book, but it has a lighter side to it. “
Hooker pointed out that because books are contemporary, students can see the range of texts written over the course of their lives.
“All of these books are very books now, ”she said. “The oldest is from 1996, but all the others are written from 2010 to now. And so that gives them an idea of the literary geography of the present day – of their time which I think is wonderful to have. “
Junior English Literature Major Megan Palmer was a student in Hooker’s class and expressed her gratitude for the way Hooker taught her to see literature.
“The class is amazing, ”she said. “We read good books, obviously given the title. We just read a lot and then we come to discuss it, so this is a discussion-based course. The best way I can describe it is that it helps me see these books like they are movies, like on a screen. But she also chooses amazing books.
Palmer also developed Hooker’s unique perspective as an instructor.
“The way we talk about it, she sees things that I wouldn’t initially have seen and then… she separates the things that the author did, ”Palmer said. “But she also makes us explain why it was a good book and you can’t just say that because I liked it. You have to distinguish what makes a good book, why was it good, or why we don’t like this book because some of us didn’t like some of the books we read.
One semester book that has stuck with Palmer is “Let the Great World Spin”.
“The book we just finished, “Let the Great World Spin,” by Colum McCann – it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life, ”said Palmer. “It’s so amazing. I don’t know how to describe it and not to reveal it, but this is one of those stories where there are so many parts that work that in the end they all fit together.
Palmer said Sister Eva has been a positive force on her personally and academically.
“I wish Sister Eva didn’t retire because you absolutely should take a class with her, ”she said. “She’s so funny. She is so cute. She’s just one of the best teachers because she won’t let you get away with “Well, I thought about that”. She makes you underline it in the text, she makes you explain why and then you’re like I have to think about why I liked it.