My dear queen/embodiment of pretty much everything I aspire to be in life,
This letter probably won’t even cover half of what I wish I could put into words. Honestly, it may be about as sequential as Ralph Ellison’s “On Bird, Bird-Watching, and Jazz” (not even close to being as well written, though… unfortunately).
I came into the year as a pretentious fifteen-year-old who thought she was the most thoughtful, understanding, and worldly person simply because she had just returned from a three-week trip to India two days before school started. Now I exist as a still-rather-pretentious-but-at-least-slightly-better sixteen year old who will forever be thankful that she decided to take AP English instead of going the simpler route.
I remember that in that first couple weeks of school last semester, I was really, really, really regretting taking APEng. Long reading assignments? Nah. Excessive details about grammar? Nooo. Timed writes? Definitely not. I only enjoyed being in the actual class because you’re a ray of sunshine that’s wonderful to be around.
I hated the thought that after those first few weeks, I was starting to realize that I am not as special as I thought I was. I am the average student, I have to work just as hard to keep up my grades, and I exist to learn from my failures.
I exist to learn from my failures.
The other day, a friend of mine mentioned that she’s learned more from you and this class than she has in her entire life. I’m pretty sure I agree with that, because I didn’t think I’d realize so much about myself and the workings of my peers in such a short time span. It’s been close to a semester and a half and I will never go back on this newfound knowledge of mine.
In your class, I’ve read three books that I most likely would not have read otherwise: The Scarlet Letter, Beloved, and The Great Gatsby. Incredible, incredible books with so much more than what they present at face value.
From what I’d heard, I imagined that I’d be bored out of my mind with The Scarlet Letter, but that book was what prompted me to first realize that there are so many others that think in similar ways to me. That book brought up so many unanswerable questions, and I found that I wasn’t the only one that was at a loss for words.
I did not like the first three chapters of Beloved. I was lost, confused, and literally had no clue what to make of the book. I felt threatened by words on a page. The lack of chapter numbers made me uncomfortable. I was completely out of my element because that book made me search for the meaning, search for something greater than a single story. But as we turned in our final essays and moved on, I realized that Beloved is a story for everyone and no one… and I didn’t want to leave it.
And then we reached Gatsby, my dear Gatsby that manages to hit so close to home without being about me in the slightest. While Beloved left me ripped apart and paralyzed, Gatsby opened my chest and knocked the wind out of my lungs. This book has so much on the surface but so much more underneath and I think that really says something.
I will forever associate these books with you and this class, and there is no way I can ever truly thank you for what I’ve learned this year. Even though the dreaded mock AP test is in a week and the Gatsby essay is currently draining my life force, I have absolutely no regrets.
I hope you have the very best of birthdays every single year.
A Beloved-inspired playlist, since I end up making one of these for every book we read in English class.