This week’s infographics are all about the e-book. (Who knew there was so much to learn?)
Did you know our libraries have e-books? Check with Nora, Janine, and Mike to find out how to access them!
Today’s guest blogger is Frank D.
In the realm of science-fiction, there is only one true African American queen: Octavia Butler. Considering that the genre is dominated almost exclusively by men, Butler’s success and audience are a testament to her unique vision.
Allow me to preface this by saying that I am not a science fiction fan; I’ve never been a Trekkie nor have I read more than a snippet of texts from the genre. Unlike my classroom library, built to reach a diverse set of interests, my personal library boasts a miniscule collection. Aside from Well’s, Time Machine, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Haldeman’s The Forever War, little from this genre peaked my interest, although I am a fan of dystopian stories like 1984, A Brave New World, etc.
As an adjunct instructor in the First-Year Writing program at Temple University, careful thought was placed on the thematic structure of coursework. Some of the ways the college approached the typically banal composition course were innovative, even somewhat provocative. It was perhaps the influence of Sam Delaney, who besides being a noted science-fiction author and bearer of Gandalf’s beard, is a prominent professor at the college, which led us to use Octavia Butler’s Kindred the capstone text at the end of our course. It would lead to an astounding experience for both my students and myself.
Butler is considered the quintessential voice amongst African American women in the genre of science fiction. She is the only African American female to be inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and her awards and accolades are too numerous to recount. But the most striking characteristic about her as an author is the rebellious humility with which she approached her work. Butler commented numerous times about her status as a writer, openly defying labels while simultaneously fearing that the ‘science fiction’ label might cause others to avoid reading her stories. It is a paradox that, although her career was remarkable, may have relegated her to a fringe market. It is a paradox only one of her novels seems to transcend. Kindred.
Kindred is a tour de force, carefully folding elements of traditional science fiction into a profound piece of historical fiction. It is a story about history and perception. Butler said it was the only novel of hers that was not particularly sci-fi, more of a “grim fantasy” in which the characters lived in the horrors of the past. It is a cerebral type of science fiction, using the genre as a tool for social commentary; no futuristic settings, no strange races, only the twist of a mysterious first-hand interaction with one’s own past. Within those pages, Butler challenges the reader to witness the unavoidable past through the eyes of the present.
There were no #infographics of the week this week, so this week and next week’s will combine, and it’s all about Black History Month.
If you’ve been using infographics often in class as visual text or you’re teaching it as genre, it might be interesting to add a new question to the mix when analyzing infographics: What are the characteristics of an infographic?
It may even be beneficial to start assessing infographics, not just for their reliability (a great activity when modeling how to analyze a source for reliability and relevance to a topic), but also for their effectiveness. What makes an infographic effective? Why are some infographics more effective than others? In asking (and answering) questions like these, students are getting practice with analysis and evaluation of text.
Without further ado, here are this week’s infographics:
Disclaimer: This week’s writer’s crush is a Nigerian woman who splits her time between Nigeria and the United States. So she is not an African American writer, but a Nigerian writer. I chose her anyway, even though she doesn’t perfectly fit the “theme” for this month’s #wcw.
Getting to Know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I first came to “know” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie through her TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” which I shared with Senior teachers earlier this school year. In it, she humorously (and seriously) explains why we cannot learn about other cultures from observers and outsiders. In my opinion, TED can be incorporated into the classroom in all kinds of ways. This one works well with an essential question that gets at the root of perspective or point of view, such as “Why should we entertain more than one perspective?” or “Why should we study world literature?” (I know some Senior teachers used/use this TED talk, so just check with comrades before using it class.)
Here it is:
If you want to use TED this Black History Month, but worry about stepping on too many toes using Adichie’s, check out this TED playlist: 10 Great Talks to Celebrate Black History Month, which includes Adichie and 9 others (seriously, there are some great-looking talks included here, including one on bias, injustice, color blindness vs color bravery, etc.).
A Snapshot of Quotations – Brain Food, Writing Prompts, Etc.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
More Ways to Bring Adichie to the Classroom (before we have her books and excerpts!)
Check out these YouTube search results that feature talks and interviews with Adichie, including one with writer Zadie Smith!
I have Adichie’s Americanah on my nightstand awaiting opening, and I know some teachers are looking to teach her novel, Purple Hibiscus. No matter what, I think she’s an writer worth reading because she offers us another perspective from which to approach the world, the issues in it, and, of course, ourselves.
Even Beyonce thinks she’s rad. Adichie’s voice and words are included on her track, “Flawless”:
We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes
Check out the LA Time article and then check out “Flawless:” (Listen for Adichie around 1:30)
This could be great paired with Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” or any novel, current event, etc. that deals with gender roles and expectations. (Heck . . couldn’t this even spark a discussion using Canterbury Tales?)
Today’s #WCW guest blogger is Stephanie DeCosta. Here’s her post for her February writer-crush, Mari Evans.
I was introduced to Mari Evans in college; I read “Where Have You Gone” for the first time when I was a single, 19 year-old living at home. Instantly, I had two thoughts:
My, how life experience does change one’s point of view.
Since that first reading so much “life” has happened: being completely blind-sided by someone I thought was my soul-mate, falling breathlessly in love with someone who finally treasured me, creating new life for whom I would battle bloody death to protect, hurting so badly over a loss I felt I’d have to keep my hands pressed to my chest for eternity for fear my heart would fall out.
And now I read that poem again. With new eyes…
Where Have You Gone
Where have you gone
with your confident
your crooked smile
why did you leave
when you took your
are you aware that
went the sun
and what few stars
where have you gone
with your confident
crooked smile the
in one pocket and
in another . . .
This time, I have two thoughts:
This is the power and beauty of poetry/literature: although the words never change, we constantly do, therefore it will always yield new reactions. This is why we need to read it.
– Mari Evans
This week’s infographics are all about President’s day. For CCSS-aligned ideas on how to use infographics in the classroom, check out last week’s post.
Ferguson, #blacklivesmatter, & James Baldwin
“Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.”
It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I selected James Baldwin for my February #wcw, but I didn’t JUST choose him because I have a crush on him, I chose him because some of his work is very poignant and pertinent in light of the recent events with Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, etc. He has had a lot to say about how black men are perceived and the potential danger of a limited perception. The best place to look for pieces that relate to this is in Notes of a Native Son or The Fire Next Time. You could engage this discussion with some of Baldwin’s quotes, too. Here’s “5 James Baldwin Quotes that Foreshadowed Ferguson” from advocate.com.
“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”
One of my favorite things to teach is his short story, “Sonny’s Blues.” I think you could easily connect this to texts about the young men listed above, but it’s also a great resource for teaching motif or music-as-narrative. In the past, I’ve used it to introduce big ideas in Fences, but it’s a short story that is so rich and meaningful, that I’m confident we could connect to it to just about anything. So if you’re teaching something about fathers and sons, brothers, family, music, freedom etc., “Sonny’s Blues” could be a nice text for you to include. If you’d like a copy (it’s a long short story), I have a PDF version saved that I can easily share with you.
James on Lorraine
“When so bright a light goes out so early, when so gifted an artist goes so soon, we are left with a sorrow andwonder which speculation cannot assuage. One’s filled for a long time with a sense of injustice as futile as it ispowerful. And the vanished person fills the mind, in this or that attitude, doing this or that.”
Teaching Raisin in the Sun this year? James Baldwin wrote an essay about Lorraine Hansberry called “Sweet Lorraine,” and it’s a moving and insightful companion piece.
Jimmy’s Blues: Poetry by Baldwin
Recently, some of James Baldwin’s poetry was poetry in Jimmy’s Blues, there are a few excerpts here, if you’d like to teach or incorporate something shorter. Here’s a sample:
No, I don’t feel death coming.
I feel death going:
having thrown up his hands,
for the moment.
I feel like I know him
better than I did.
Those arms held me,
for a while,
and, when we meet again,
there will be that secret knowledge
Words of Note
AND . . . if you want a quicker, easier way to get James Baldwin in your classroom, here are a few of my favorite quotes:
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
“You write in order to change the world … if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”
“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
And check out the rest on goodreads!
I’ve got a crush . . .
Why do I love James Baldwin? I love what he stood for. I believe that he wasn’t afraid to speak up and speak his mind in the face of injustice. He was a leading voice during the Civil Rights movement and did not silence his voice until he died in 1987. But I think that I mostly love that James Baldwin believed that love (really knowing, seeing, and listening to one another) could fix a lot of what was/is broken in America, and he balanced that with a healthy dose of cynicism (at times) and realism.
Do you want to share your writer-love with others? Would YOU like to be entered to win a prize at the end of the month? Then you should sign up to be a guest blogger for #wcw!
Starting this month, Wednesdays will be #wcw, or “Writer Crush Wednesday,” and each Wednesday we’ll feature a new writer.
February will be African American writers for Black History Month;
March will be women writers for Women’s History Month;
April will be poets for Poetry Month;
and May will be a free-for-all.
Instead of me deciding who gets selected to be featured, I would LOVE for guest bloggers to sign up for a week to contribute their writer-crushes. There’s no strict structure for the blog, so the only requirements would be that you:
Posts can be as long as short as you’d like them to be, and you’ll submit it to me via e-mail, so I can post it to the blog. Just submit your post to me by the end of the day Tuesday (before your Wednesday posting date!)
My hope is that #WCW can increase our knowledge-base of great authors, pique our interest, and give us some more fodder for our classrooms and teaching.
You never know when someone will introduce you to you next crush! Share your love!