9780807083260Historical fiction as a genre is powerful in its ability both to educate and to provide insight into the voices and experiences of those who came before us. Ruthanne Lum McCunn’s novel Thousand Pieces of Gold (Beacon Press) does just that, tracing the tribulations of Polly Bemis, a nineteenth-century Chinese woman who is sold into slavery and prostitution in America and who struggles against all odds to claim her independence. In McCunn’s adaptation of this true story, Polly’s father refers to his daughter as his treasure, his “thousand pieces of gold,” and his decision to sell her reveals the desperation brought on by intersecting historical forces in China at that time. What follows is an exploration of the value and dignity of human life as Polly perseveres and pioneers across the American frontier. (more…)

Advertisements

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…)

by Katherine Boo, author of the 2012 National Book Award-winning Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity (Random House, February 2012)

As jobs and capital whip around the planet, college students will graduate into a world where economic instability and social inequality are increasing and geographic boundaries matter less and less. Unfortunately, globalization and social inequality remain two of the most over-theorized, under-reported issues of our age. My book is an intimate investigative account of how this volatile new reality affects the young people of an Indian slum called Annawadi. Like young people elsewhere, the Annawadians are trying to figure out their place in a world where temp jobs are becoming the norm, adaptability is everything, and bewildering change is the one abiding constant. (more…)

Approximately two (2) years ago LaSalle Academy in Providence, Rhode Island, integrated a Student Discussion Blog as their summer reading requirement.  Our English Department identified that our students were more likely to be enthusiastic and develop “ownership” to their “Summer Reading” requirement if they selected a book of interest and one that they could easily relate to.  Our current faculty also has many different and diverse interests, therefore, we all were asked to select a book of personal interest to add to the student Summer Reading selections.  Here our students were offered the opportunity to identify a common interest with their teacher.

Since I am a horse owner, an avid horseback rider, and thoroughly enjoy reading books on this topic; I decided to investigate, explore, and read several books that would be appropriate for our students to read—and at the same time—inspire them.  The book that inspired me the most was The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation, written by Elizabeth Letts.  (more…)

Students at Evans High School in Evans, Georgia celebrate their first Henrietta Lacks Day

On October 4, 2011, the Evans High School Multicultural Club and Evans High School Biology teachers invited the entire staff and student body of Evans High School to celebrate the life of Henrietta Lacks.  Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital on this day in 1951.  Henrietta Lacks may have died on this day, but her cells, called HeLa cells, are still living in laboratories all over the world.  “Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture.  They were essential to developing the polio vaccine.  They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity.  Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization” (Zielinski, 2010).  This is an incredible story told by Rebecca Skloot in her award-winning book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  This book makes a wonderful springboard for discussions concerning civil rights and medical ethics as well as the science behind these miraculous cells.  Another interesting subject covered in the book involves the Lacks family.  The family receives no monetary compensation from laboratories and drug companies using HeLa cells and they cannot afford healthcare. (more…)

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

I am delighted to tell you about my book Nothing to Envy because I wrote it with students in mind. I was, at the time, on a fellowship at Princeton University where I also taught an undergraduate journalism course called “Covering Repressive Regimes.” My students were curious about North Korea, a country they knew almost nothing about.

When I started telling them the stories—about a country where televisions and radios were locked on government propaganda, where you couldn’t travel to the next town without a permit, where you were required to wear the portrait of the founder Kim Il Sung at all times on your clothing and that you celebrated the birthdays of the leadership rather than your own—the students were incredulous. It was not that they doubted my word; they were unable to grasp that a state as repressive as this one could persist into the 21st century. (more…)

Read the important book that’s topping many school lists. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

In the following video clip, author Rebecca Skloot sits down to discuss the inspiration, impact, and process that went into The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

The paperback edition of the book releases on March 8, 2011.