I’m in the red flip-flops.

I’m in the red flip-flops.

Group Hug on the Last Day of Class!

It’s the brilliant beautiful Freshman Scholars at Yale! I miss them already.

Prayer of Praise for Academic Joy!


For the shock of recognition we feel when we are learning
that galvanizes us like an electrical current
and connects us with people from every time and place—
For reading and knowing we are not alone—
For projects that arise from delight—
For words that flow when we want them,
For perfect solutions that come to us as we’re falling asleep,
For the conversations where we push through,
Weave over and under,
And find ourselves in a new place none of us have ever been before,
For the seminars and workshops and rehearsals where we feel
That we are creating something,
Collectively forging something new and glowing in the air,
We praise you, magnify you, glorify you, lift you up,
O God of every true thing,
The Author, the Creator, who made us to revel in your creation
And to create knowledge and beauty in your image.

Happy Birthday Myrna Loy!


For better, for worse, for drunker, for soberer, in the Midwest and Manhattan, in waders and white satin, to love, cherish, and dance with, as long as we both shall live: Myrna Loy gave marriage a good name. I wrote about one of her best wifely turns in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

"This is the film’s bracing view of romance, one in which men and women walk into love already embracing the worse, the poorer, the sickness of wedding vows. In the movie’s most emotionally expressive speech, Milly sums up her relationship with Al as a series of difficult returns to the same familiar but often hard-to-find place: ‘How many times have I told you I hated you and believed it in my heart? How many times have you said you were sick and tired of me; that we were all washed up? How many times have we had to fall in love all over again?’”


Baldwin on Bette Davis

Reposting for James Baldwin’s birthday, and because we all need some Bette Davis.



"A little woman and not pretty, with a lewd, brutal swagger, saying to the whole world: ‘You can kiss my ass.’ Nothing tamed or broke her, nothing touched her, neither kindness, or scorn, nor hatred, nor love. She had never thought of prayer. It was unimaginable that she would ever bend her…

Baldwin, Robinson, Resurrection

Reposting for James Baldwin’s birthday, and because we all need some resurrecting.



"Sonny’s fingers filled the air with life, his life.  But that life contained so many others.  And Sonny went all the way back, he really began with the spare, flat statement of the opening phrase of the song.  

Read More


This Is An Atlas


I am really loving the FAQs on Ina Garten’s website.

Today, I moved out of Illinois. I write this from a hotel in Indianapolis. For the past week I have not slept. I have been so busy and stressed. I have lost so much weight simply because I have been exerting myself and I’ve been so busy. My…

Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League! Send Them to Whatever School This Is!

The Ivy Wars


"The world isn’t flat, Yale’s founders insis
ted. It has abysses that open suddenly at our feet and in our hearts, and students need a faith strong enough to plumb them, face the demons in them, and, if necessary, defy earthly powers in the name of a higher one.”

Jim Sleeper writes about the origins and legacies of the Ivy League. Three centuries later, this world is still full of sudden abysses and the need for faith.

So, should you send your kid to the Ivy League? Should you go if you get in? I went to community college, a regional liberal arts college, two British universities, and two Ivies, and I’ve taught students at four universities and two high schools. I have lots of thoughts on this topic, and some of them are here and here. More to come.

Love Languages

Last night a friend and I were comparing the songs that seem to be written in our own personal love languages. Hers were by Norah Jones and Tom Waits. This was mine.

James Garner and Diahann Carroll at the March on Washington

imageThey are icons of political gorgeousness. This is at a time when Southern theaters were segregated and would show bowdlerized versions of movies with “racial content.” In other words, a time when being an activist and an ally in Hollywood was risky and costly. I think about them and Harry Belafonte and Paul Newman and all the rest, and then I think about stars today, and our generation’s silence and deleted tweets…

Hi Ms. Hopper, I hope this is okay to ask! I've never attended a traditional English course before (English and History are always mixed into one period, but History takes up the bulk of class time), so my writing training is limited to a few lessons on grammar and a couple of essay practices. How can I improve my writing skills besides reading and writing everyday?

Hi! Thanks for asking. Reading and writing every day is actually the best possible way to improve your writing. I’m also trying my best to read and write every day this summer. In addition to improving your writing it just makes life better.

Here are some other things I tell my students:

* Reread the writers you love, and pay attention to what you love about their writing. Look at how they structure their sentences and paragraphs and the kinds of words and images they use. Notice what gives you chills or a glow. Try copying their style when you write sometimes— not because you have to be exactly like them, but because it’s good practice to try different ways of writing.

* Take notes on life. Carry a notebook with you everywhere or just text yourself notes on your phone when you see things you want to write about or think of a sentence you want to keep.

* Write for the people in your life. Share your writing with friends or publish it in a school paper or magazine.

* Write letters and emails that are labors of love.

* Some good books to get from the library are Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark (which has exercises for you to try at the end of every chapter), Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (ideally illustrated by Maira Kalman because her paintings are so beautiful!), and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (which is about the creative process in general).

I hope this helps!

Alien Encounter

“I mean, I’ve never had an alien walk up to me, but I’ve definitely had UFO encounters. I’ve had all sorts of psychic experiences, shamanic experiences, that really suggest there are interdimensional agents playing with the nature of space and time.” I profiled extraterrestrialist Daniel Pinchbeck for Document Journal last summer and forgot to post the piece when it went online. Enjoy! or shudder in schadenfreude, whichever you prefer.

Not so much a question but a praise. I love what you said about adults (I am also in my 30's) reading YA books in your write-up about TFIOS. Several books that touched me lately have been YA books. You said what I have been trying to articulate.

Thank you! I don’t understand why people are prejudiced against YA; if books speak to you, then you should read them!

It’s always nice to get positive feedback!

It’s always nice to get positive feedback!