9780307464972By Andrew Warner, Rolla High School (Rolla, MO)

For struggling readers, the simple act of finishing a book can be a challenge. In addition to obstacles that reading ability may present, some students are so discouraged by past classroom experiences that the sight of a high school textbook instantly turns them off. Additionally, the emphasis that Common Core places on complex and nonfiction reading leaves many students, and even some teachers, feeling that nothing they read in class can be interesting or relevant.

To help these students, my department created a class focused on graphic novels. We wanted to provide students with accessible—and relatable—nonfiction that would align with CCSS standards. After reading Max Brooks’s The Harlem Hellfighters last year, I decided to include it in our class. I was intrigued to learn about a part of history that was previously unfamiliar to me, and I admired the author’s honest depiction of war and its portrayal in the media. It seemed like the perfect complement to a more traditional graphic novel like Art Spiegelman’s Maus. (more…)

9780307464972By Lakeya Omogun, New Design Middle School (Harlem, New York)

 Whose perspective is told? Whose perspective is missing? Whose voice is heard? Whose voice is missing? What might this person say if they had a voice? These were some of the questions my students explored while performing critical readings of various historical texts.

After learning about World War I, my students were also challenged to consider the missing perspectives and voices in the stories of this historical event. What better way to learn about them than from an author? On Friday, December 12th, 2014, Max Brooks visited my seventh-grade classroom in Harlem, New York, at New Design Middle School to tell my students about one missing perspective in the stories of World War I, The Harlem Hellfighters. (more…)

PersepolisThe Chicago Public School district issued a district-wide ban on Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, a coming-of-age memoir about a young girl growing up under a fundamentalist regime in Iran, sparking protests from students, teachers and faculty. The graphic novel has been read and taught in classrooms throughout the country for years.

After the news went public, Chicago Public School CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett made a statement that the book was only being removed from seventh grade classrooms, “due to the powerful images of torture.”

The choice to remove the book has been condemned by The National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation. Students, parents and teachers have openly protested the ban in Chicago.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

by Sarah Glidden, author of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (Vertigo, 2011)

When I used to think about growing as a person, I visualized my life as a sort of graph: a steadily climbing, sometimes dipping line that would crawl forward over time until a certain age when the graph would plateau into a stable flatness. The way I looked at it, one’s teens and early 20s are all about discovering who you are and what you think about the world. At some point, all my opinions, beliefs, and values would become fixed into a solid identity that I would carry with me into the future like an amber shield.

This fantasy carried over into the way I approached other topics, such as history and politics. I had been interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for some time but felt fatigued by it; I was itching to just figure it out and then move on. I was familiar with the “two sides” of the conflict in American discourse. Conservatives blamed the Palestinians, calling them “terrorists” and “monsters,” while liberals maintained that the Israelis were occupiers and thus the real monsters. While I had always identified more with the latter camp, there was something unsettling to me about defining a conflict as a struggle of “good vs. evil.” I wanted to truly understand the mess in the Middle East. I had read plenty on the subject, had gone to lectures, and had watched many documentaries. The only step left was to visit the country to see it with my own eyes. The finish line was in Jerusalem somewhere, and all I had to do was to get there.  (more…)

American Widow by Alissa Torres

How did I cope when my world turned upside down?  I used to find solutions to all my problems at the bookstore.  Ever since I started reading, books always saved me. They took me out of my circumstances, gave me answers with advice or by example for whatever ailed me.  But after my husband Eddie died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, nothing was the same.

Waddling down the self-help aisle, newly widowed and 7-1/2 months pregnant, I was unable to find anything to ease my pain and offer me guidance.  Specifically, I wanted to know what was this grief that now filled me?  And what was this life I was now leading, so debilitated by this grief?

But even if I had found what I needed during that awful fall of 2001, I wouldn’t have been able to read it.  In those days, I couldn’t focus: my mind was too scattered and busy trying to comprehend my tragic personal circumstances within such an enormous public trauma.  It took me a month before I could read more than a couple sentences, and many more before I could get through an entire book. (more…)

American Widow by Alissa Torres; Illustrated by Sungyoon Choi

by Alissa Torres, author of American Widow

American Widow is the book I wrote because I couldn’t talk about my husband, Eddie Torres, dying at the World Trade Center.  I was mute as the whole world talked about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

In the earliest post-9/11 days, I filled spiral bound notebooks with repetitive outpourings and memories.  By January 2002, I wrote my first personal essay, one of many published on salon.com.  I crafted them late into the night while my infant son slept, documenting my surreal existence so close to the center of something so big and so sad.  By the summer of 2002, I started writing the script for American Widow, my graphic novel memoir.  It had to be a graphic novel because my story was one of pictures, the collision of two sets — those of the towers burning and those of my husband smiling. (more…)