Posted on 16 October 2010 Saturday

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?”
~Pablo Casals

I think I’m going to make CrossingBorders a (fairly) regular feature here on Crazy Quilts. When you think about promoting literacy for teens of color, there are many, many ways we can consider crossing borders!

Like with classical literature.

Call me Edi.

It’s the best of times, it’s  the worst of times!

I’ve been reconsidering the classics lately. I know there was a time when colleagues would tell me they were teaching “the classics’ as a way of saying they were sticking with well accept, well written books by White authors. I see teachers now who are willing to teach a classics from a wide variety of authors while refusing to teach any young adult lit. They don’t read it and consequently don’t know young adult lit.

All I read these days is MG and YA lit. I’m getting tired of it! While the topics and themes can be quite varied, there are elements of YA books that can be found across the genre. A large portion of these books are written in first person, making the teen central the story and a more pronounced main character. Adults have very small roles which are often poorly developed. Teens rule in these books, it’s their world. Books for teens of color too often have the teen as a victim.

In all these books, young adults don’t often get a picture of problems that are part of the adult world. They don’t examine how adults react, respond or live and they don’t confront issues beyond teen issues. Classics are tried and true ways to nudge students into the adult work and to get them to see outside themselves. So tried and true that their stories are often re-formatted into other, newer stories. Some of them need to be taught for the sake of cultural literacy. I don’t think we need to feed a steady diet of classics no more than one consisting only of YA novels. In our global society, students need to examine a wide variety of literature the prompts them to think critically, recognize needs beyond their own and to act with compassion. Students need books that comfortably engage them as much as they need books that shake them out of their comfort zone and urge them out of their adolescence. I don’t think we’re fully educating students by providing a steady stream of books with characters like them in the classroom.

Library doesn’t equal classroom! Libraries promote a love a reading and for this to happen, students need to enjoy what they’re reading.

Though not classics (yet) I do think there are contemporary adult books that should be brought into teen libraries.  I think they’ll help our teens of color cross into adulthood. I know this is nowhere near a complete list, so I’m hoping to get more titles.


The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

The Namesake

The Other Wes Moore

Black Mamba Boy

We had sneakers, they had guns

Left to tell

books by Walter Mosely, Toni Morison, Amy Tan, Toure, Richard Rodriguez, Junot Diaz

Posted in: Me Being Me