Please post discussion of YA titles you recommend and/or would like other readers to comment on.
One YA novel that I picked up from Dr. Stearns’ bookshelf is Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Here is a synopsis link for you to catch up on the story itself: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780618863358&itm=1
I recommend this book because of it’s portrayal of teen communication. When read as a classroom assignment, the relationships developed by fifteen year-old D.J. Schwenk will give students the opportunity to think critically about how adolescents outwardly express their feelings and thoughts. This book can be paired with a central question such as, “What is the difference between talking and communicating?” Or, another good question might be, “What makes a conversation meaningful?” In this novel, D.J.’s conversations between her best friend, mother, brothers, father, and love interest are all presented for critique. Students can use the dialogue between D.J. and her inner circle of family and friends to explore how we “say” what we feel, and how we communicate our identities to others. -Sofia
Good title for consideration. I agree Sofia. I would think this novel is available for a feminist critique. What do you think? KES
Absolutely! Now that I think on this, I would work in a feminist lense by asking questions like, “How do boys communicate their feelings in this novel?” And then, “How do girls express their feelings in this novel?” Hopefully the discussion would evolve into the differences in male and female expression, of course…
I still need to read that novel, but its definitely up there on my list now after reading what you wrote, Sofia!!!
I would recommend Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. It is an amazing book and I loved it!!!
I highly recommend Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin. I am doing my YA lit. critique on it using African American Criticism and considering using LBGTQ Criticism as well. I just finished the novel and really could not put it down. It is a very serious book for teens (issues of racism, homosexuality, child abuse) but I believe all of these issues are very real to our students and are all things we should be discussing despite the fragile nature of these topics.
The story is told through the voice of a 14 year old girl whose family has immigrated to America from Haiti. The novel allows students to think critically about racial sterotypes and negative treatment of immigrants in the U.S. Important questions to be asked in discussion about this novel are: Where do racial sterotypes originate? Or, why do American born citizens appear to resent Haitian families in Chesnut Valley (setting of story)? This might be an interesting discussion to have in a high school classroom. What do you all think?
Last night I was delving deeper into my reading of “Sold,” by Patricia McCormick. This YA text is definitely the text I will be using for our YA paper. In the form of vignettes, McCormick tells the story of a thirteen year-old girl from Napel that is sold into sexual slavery. Loss of innocence is powerfully conveyed in McCormick’s text. One would assume, based on the title, that the text is primarily about a young adolescent’s traumatic experience with being sold into sexual slavery, but it touches upon more relevant topics for YA students in America: relocation (moving), discovering an attraction to the opposite sex, physical maturity (getting her period), family relationships, and more. I highly recommend sitting down to read this book one day. It would only take a day’s reading.
I picked up the YA novel “Zach’s Lie” by Roland Smith based on the recommendation of a few students I am observing at Owego. Since most of the students openly detest reading and raved about this one when I picked it off their bookshelf, I figured I’d give it a shot since it obviously holds their interest (a few of the kids are now reading the sequel, “Jack’s Run” and Smith’s latest, “Peak”).
The story focuses on young Jack, his mother and his sister as they are placed under witness protection when their father is taken into custody to testify against a big-time drug dealer. They were a very rich family (on account of their father being a pilot that helped transport drugs across the border for the dealer) so they are shocked when they are forced to move to a new area into low-income housing. The rest of the story deals with Jack/Zach trying to fit in at his new school while keeping his past life a secret for the safety of his family.
It’s a very quick read (I read the entire thing while observing on “Reading Day,” it took me three class periods), it is very suspenseful and it touches on a lot of relevant issues. I would recommend it for anyone interested in doing a Marxist reading of a YA text.
I think your YA choice was fabulous, and Sold is next on my list. I’m glad I got to review your YA article rough draft in class last week. It gave me a great intro into the text and I’m hooked now! Sofia
Thank you, Sofia! I’m glad you liked it. You will not be able to put the book down. It’s intense and disturbing, yet an incredible story and empowering. ~Jess
I finished Laurie Halse Anderson’s Twisted over Thanksgiving break and I enjoyed it. It was somewhat anti-climactic, but I still think it would appeal to adolescent readers, especially male students. The protagonist is a 16 year old high school boy who is struggling with school (he hates it) and has family problems (Mom is extremely passive, Dad is cold and obsessed with work, younger sister enters high school and begins dating his best friend) Further, he can’t seem to stop dreaming about the most popular girl at school. This is a very interesting story about identity and what it means to grow, change and “be a man.” I am adding this to my text set for my unit and highly recommend it to others!
I also started reading A Thousand Splendid Suns over break as well and I am halfway through it. I can’t wait to finish it, but I don’t think I will be able to before this weekend. Bummer!
Difference Is Good: Using Multicultural Literature to Expand Student Thinking
High School Students’ Competing Social Worlds: Negotiating Identities and Allegiances in Response to Multicultural Literature
Richard Beach, Amanda Haertling Thein, Daryl Parks. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2008. 317 pp.
In a world where the majority has become a conglomeration of minorities, multicultural literature provides an opportunity to bridge the gap of difference. In High School Students’ Competing Social Worlds: Negotiating Identities and Allegiances in Response to Multicultural Literature, authors and educators Richard Beach, Amanda Haertling Thein and Daryl Parks reinforce research-based multicultural pedagogy that many teachers throughout the nation have already embraced. With a teacher-friendly combination of facts and helpful vignettes, the authors have combined decades of research and theories with contemporary experience.
Beginning with a discussion of identity construction, Beach et al dedicate the first chapter to an exploration of the variety of theories and research available on the subject. Gee’s concept of “identity tool kits” is introduced as the guiding force to how “participants constructed their identities in different social worlds” (9). Discourses, or “ideologically based ways of knowing and thinking”, are used to identify social worlds and track the movement of students within those worlds (9). These social worlds may be defined by class, race or gender, for example. Beach et al argues that, given the changes in our culture and economy, students must learn to negotiate multiple social worlds. Literature, by emphasizing the differences between these social worlds, will prompt them to “imagine alternative ways of constructing identities” (33).
In the second chapter, the authors introduce the social worlds of the school involved in their study. A focus upon athletics and tradition creates a system of dominant discourses that can be related to a multitude of high schools across the nation. Finally, Beach et al propose that students who experience little tension between social worlds will find it unnecessary to critique themselves or their worlds. On the other hand, competing discourses encourage the critical thinking that is necessary to negotiate differences.
Chapter Three presents a theory of reading literature in terms of the cultural models operating in the world of the readers. Expanding upon this theory, Chapter Four explains the dialogic tensions created by competing social worlds and how reading multicultural literature emphasizes these dialogic tensions. Beach et al propose that examining the dialogic tensions in multicultural literature will prompt students to challenge the institutional forces that dictate their social worlds (84).
Perhaps of most interest to teachers, Chapter 5 is a variable handbook for teaching multicultural literature. Depicting both strategies and examples, Beach et al define each element of Parks’ pedagogy. Parks “provided them [his students] with specific practices and tools for exploring alternatives to their status quo identities. This suggests that rather than masking their identity construction to create a façade of neutral objectivity, teachers need to make explicit their processes of identity construction associated with interpreting literature” (139).
The next three chapters (Chapters 6-8) present the stories of six students. Corey and Michelle, in Chapter 6, show the minimal change achieved by students whose worlds a consistent with the dominant culture (168). Devin and Kayla, in Chapter 7, are willing to engage in the critical thinking prompted by their teacher, “resulting in their amending or revising their status quo discourses” (193). Kathy and Mai, in Chapter 8, are both female student of color. As a result of either gender or racial discourses, both students found it difficult to actively participate in discussions, minimizing the impact of their cultural views on classroom analysis (210).
In another section that may serve as a handbook to high school teachers, Chapter 9 recounts the class journey through three multicultural novels: Kindred, Love Medicine, and Bastard Out Of Carolina. Each novel is discussed in detail based upon the dialogic tensions and the students’ reactions. Recreated classroom conversations give a practical example of how a teacher might present the issues of the texts.
Did it work? How do we do it? These are two of the questions tackled in Chapter 10, the conclusion. Based on a list of influencing factors, Beach et al propose that teaching multicultural literature led students to examine their own identities. Whether or not the student changed their views regarding identity as a result of studying multicultural literature depended upon the student and, in the case of female students of color, their social pre-conditions. Beach et al have created a work that is by no means solely a research summary; each chapter contains useful strategies for classroom application of multicultural literature. Chapter 10 includes a description of some of the primary elements of Parks’ success, as well as an explanation of how teachers can choose multicultural texts for their classrooms. Appendix B moves beyond method to list all the multicultural literature suggestions for the College in the Schools Literature Course (315).
One of the most common concerns for teaching multicultural literature, especially at the secondary level, is the lack of proven pedagogy. We want to teach it; we know it’s valuable, but can anyone prove it? Take Beach et al to administrators and school boards: it works and this is how. Use the strategies described to develop your own curriculum. Refer back to vignettes when confronted with difficult classroom situations. This book moves the teaching of multicultural literature from theory into practice, a practice that should be adopted in every high school nationwide.
I was up until 2:30 am last night, crying hysterically, while finishing A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was one of the best books I have read in a really long time. I recommend it to everyone!! And if you haven’t read Kite Runner, also by the same author, do read that as well. Since I am a broke college student, I haven’t invested a lot of money into buying books at Barnes and Noble, (although I was a dedicated garage sale book hunter this summer) but this is a must read and must own text.
I just finished Laurie Halse Anderson’s YA text Prom last night. It was a quick and easy read, and I think it has a lot of appeal for female adolescent readers. It deals with high school, prom, love and family, universally important issues for adolescent girls! I especially think this is an important YA text because all of the characters are of a lower socio-economic status than many of the other characters I have encoutered thus far in YA texts. The main character works part time at a pizza place and has to wear a cheesy rat costume. She also lives with her parents and several siblings in such a small house, that she doesn’t have her own room. I couldn’t stop thinking that the 7th and 8th grade girls from my host classroom, in rural Whitney Point, would really be able to resonate with the characters in this book.
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