YA as Diversity Course?

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How cool would it be to fulfill one of your general ed requirements at your community college by taking a course in young adult lit?

That’s what a fellow teacher and I are trying to make happen. SLCC requires every student to take a diversity course, and we’re thinking, “What better way to explore diversity than through literature–particularly YA lit?”

Of course, there’s tons of work still to be done with researching requirements, gauging feasibility, designing the course, submitting it for review, etc, but naturally the first thing I wanted to do was make a list of potential books for the course!

What do you think of these?

American Born ChineseMake LemonadeThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Beyond the diversities of race in these ones, I also like that American Born Chinese is a graphic novel, Make Lemonade is written in verse, and The Absolutely True Diary is journal-style–complete with doodles. So there’s that diversity of style, too. That makes me most certain about these first three choices.

It also helps that American Born Chinese won the Printz award and was a National Book Award finalist, The Absolutely True Diary won the National Book Award, and the sequel to Make Lemonade–True Believer–also won the Printz and was a National Book Award finalist.

True Believer deals with sensitivity toward homosexuality in a very honest way, which is probably part of the reason for the two awards. Since it’s also told in verse, it’s a quick enough read that it might be possible to do Make Lemonade and True Believer together.

Mississippi Trial, 1955

Mississippi Trial, 1955 gives a historical perspective on African American rights issues, and I think historicity is one of the requirements of the course.

The Chosen OneA Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

The Chosen One is a frightening look at the extremes religion can be taken to, and that makes me a little wary. But of course, I wouldn’t want students to think any of these are representative of a whole race or religion, so maybe this book would provide an opportunity to discuss fictional portrayals of people.

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life is also about religion, among other things, and stars a main character who was adopted and raised as an atheist but meets her birth mother, who is Jewish, and has to decide what meaning that heritage will have in her life.

Those are just the ones that I’ve read. Some others that I want to look into include The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas and The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson.

The Possibilities of SainthoodThe Day of the Pelican

What YA books have you read that have enhanced your perspective on the diversity in America? Which would you recommend?

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