My name is Lisa VanDamme and I am the founder of VanDamme Academy, a small private school in Southern California with big ambitions to provide students with an exceptional education and a joyful learning experience.
The single, animating element of my career – the one that provides me with an endlessly replenishing daily dose of endorphins – is teaching literature. I am not a literary scholar. I cannot classify works by “school” or “movement,” I cannot describe how they reflect the historical period in which they were written, I don’t know how to inventory their various literary devices. And I don’t care to.
If I have a unique talent as a teacher of literature, it boils down to this: I am passionate about great books. Hugo wrenches my heart and makes me weep tears of anguish and of wonderment. Rostand stirs me to noble ambition in work and love and life. Tolstoy challenges me to think – and to feel – on planes higher than I had ever known. Ibsen, Dostoevsky, Balzac, Jane Austen, Maupassant, Rattigan, Sinclair Lewis – all have helped me to see, in the words of English professor Mark Edmundson, “that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense—more alive with meaning than I had thought.” I derive profound personal joy from literature, and I have a knack for helping others do the same.
That is why I started Read With Me. I know so many people – thoughtful, intelligent, motivated people – who avoid reading the classics. And for understandable reasons: they’re busy, they don’t know what to read, they’ve never been taught how to enjoy it, they have unpleasant memories of tedious discussions in high school English…
If you are intimidated, uninitiated, jaded, disillusioned or just plain busy – read with me. Let me show you what reading can be.