During this journey of reading and blogging about multicultural literature, we have analyzed and discussed the many racial injustices in world history. The eradication of Native Americans, the oppression of African Americans and now, finally, the Holocaust. The theme throughout this week’s literature as we read from the survivors themselves is very much solemn for their loss with burning hatred due to their mistreatments and slayings. The Jews didn’t just lose their families and their own lives, they also lost their dignity, their rights and in some cases only remained with the will to survive. Taduesz Borowski captured all of the themes and significant imagery best, I felt. He did not leave anything ugly out, which provided the raw look at what really happened.
High School Students may have presumptions of the Holocaust being boring, depressing, etc. They have heard the background since at least Middle School and will likely not have much relatability upon introduction. With Borowski’s literature as the proper introduction, I feel they will become much more engaged. This story provides more knowledge in how concentration camps were choreographed, but also the suffering prisoners would endure, as well as what their helplessness led to. The shock from this story will likely be something to grapple and conceive deep discussion to the causes.
It may be recommended to start with some video interviews. This will give students faces to the tragedy, as well as provide empathy before diving into the literature. To start, there is a twin experiment survivor interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdgPAetNY5U in English. Additionally, there is another survivor who witnessed her mother being shot, with the highlighted “I saw the blood on the snow”, which provided me with the sense of ringing in my ears if I were to witness that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fFxWKFHpdM
Picture Magical Realism right now. I never took much interest in magical realism, except in a few tv shows, such as Game of Thrones, True Blood and the Vampire Diaries. These shows depict reality past (literally centuries ago and in a fictional world but very Earth-like) and present with a magical spin. For example, Game of Thrones is very realistic but has the occasional dragon or “Night Walker”. Vampire Diaries and True Blood both have realistic depictions of the world but with vampires that try to live as humans. True Blood is especially important to point out with so much symbolism for the persecutions of minorities and gays today. Note: None of these shows are suitable to show as examples to students in high school, though you may can get away with the mention of them, be sure to clear it with administration beforehand. Symbolism is the real theme of Latin American Literature from this week’s selections. The symbolism here also accompanies lessons of the stories which are the choices we make and the inevitability of consequence and responsibility.
In regards to teaching this literature to students, it may be beneficial to brush up on the differences between fables, folklore, fairy tales, etc. and then give a thorough definition of magical realism. See if the students have any popular cultural knowledge that incorporates the magical realism and work off of those, point out the subtleties in the differences between magical realism and fantasy. Worksheets for cheap can be downloaded from here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/MAGICAL-REALISM-MINI-LESSON-An-Introduction-in-Genre-4059500
Racial inequalities and injustices exist globally, unfortunately. While it has improved, it is important for all races to understand the bitterness that resides and where it stems from. In Black America, we can see the burdens thrusted upon the people in which this country was built off their backs. Baldwin discusses the racial tensions and problems that not only black citizens suffered as a whole, but also suffered consequentially with their own interpersonal relationships with each other in his “Notes of a Native Son”. Another understanding imperative for national–and global prosperity, really—is the tightly knitted values we can see in African literature that has likely passed to descendants in America. My class this week focused much on the importance of names that seemed to be placed upon the people in Africa. There are many reasons this is important, but also one that was not brought up much in class, I believe may be just the sense of placement and belonging that an identity can offer.
To introduce the literature to high school students, it may be more intriguing to students with a simple question “What does your name mean and where did it come from?”. For example, going across the classroom and asking students to go home and asking their parents where their name came from and googling a translation of their name. As further interest delves into the literature, this is when hard hitting topics such as racial oppression and the history within can be brought to surface. Have students theorize on how racial tensions and oppression can hinder African Americans’ sense of belonging.
In the wonderful world of streaming, multiple documentaries have released in recent years that have also won awards, one that comes to mind is 13th. If allowed by administration and parents, I strongly recommend the Netflix documentary directed by Ava DuVernay to not just students, but anyone just to increase awareness of the institutionalized racism that is continuing today since before the 13th amendment and because of the 13th amendment as well, as counterintuitive as that sounds. For a layout of a lesson plan with this documentary, another person has a similar line of thinking as demonstrated here: https://annmichaelsen.com/2019/01/12/teaching-the-13th-documentary/
Native American Literature is oftentimes almost the full embodiment of imagery that an English teacher could ask for. When we think of Native American literature, we automatically picture the earth and all of its offerings. Why is this? It is because the spirituality, gratitude and interconnection the Native Americans apply to their naturalistic surroundings are impossible to overlook in any of the selections I have come across this week in my readings of Native American Literature. “The Night Chant” is one of these examples, as is “Yellow Woman” by Leslie Marmon Silko. However, there is a darker turn we can observe as readers of Native American Literature, such as the “colonization” by European settlers, such as “The Conquest of Mexico” in which we can see the exposure and fear the indigenous people suffered.
As I mentioned earlier, the imagery is surreal and also realistic, one of the many great pleasures of reading Native American literature. Using “Yellow Woman” as an example or a guide, teachers should create an exercise in which students can observe their classroom, home or backyards that create strong imagery.
Using these selections mentioned above, it may be time to brush up on American settling history once again. Seeing as Christopher Columbus is no longer celebrated as it may have been for many teachers that used to be students today, it could also be beneficial to discuss why that is. Additionally, Thanksgiving is widespread in being taught differently now as well. Taking cues from this teacher in her efforts to teach history, but also remain politically correct and correct old history lessons may help: https://educationpost.org/heres-how-you-should-be-talking-about-christopher-columbus-in-your-classroom/
In our previous week, Chinese literature was tender and heart-wrenching at times with a certain beauty. During intense reviewing of more modern Chinese literature from in “The Norton Anthology of World Literature” text however, the tone overtly and abruptly transitioned into rebellious, anxious, and dissatisfied. “Diary of a Madman” by Lu Xun, “Sealed Off” by Zhang Ailing, and “Man of La Mancha” by Chu T’Ien-Hsin share an ultimate identity crisis and a diversion from Confucianism. The main characters in each story had worries of others’ opinions, what they wished they could be while battling, and what they wish they could do.
Teachers of adolescents can garner this contemporary eastern literature genre as a tool to use on a deeper level with students. Students can almost undoubtedly relate to the anxieties and seemingly rambling inner thoughts with constant introspective investigation. Often these introspects are just simple “Who are we? Who are we to other people?” questions. Bearing this in mind, a teacher can make the initiative of assigning personal investigation. To further the implementation into the subconscious of inner-thinking, assigning the examination of what the speaker appears to think of themselves, the characters and extras opinions of the speaker, and what the audience or students think of them can be beneficial for students. Socio-emotional health can be addressed here by teachers by addressing when others’ opinions matter or when they do not. For example, for a Christian following Jesus’s teachings, there are multiple situations where others’ opinions may not matter.
Additionally, another matter of life and death in “Diary of a Madman” and “Man of La Mancha” is recurrent throughout the selections. What is the legacy that we leave behind? A member of my own family passed a few months ago. His name was Brandon, he was 16 years old with so much of his life to live and give. All of my memories of him are good, with him being sweet and always chasing fun, even in his death. If we died at this moment, would we be okay with what we achieved and what effect we had on others? Read more on this site to see why it is so important to read and discuss “morbid” matters https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/08/young-people-are-dying-to-talk-about-death.
Early Chinese Literature and Thought selections can be reviewed in The Norton Anthology of World Literature, in which themes of morality and world balance are focused. The majority of the themes in this type of literature have meek speakers and main characters and yet a somewhat added bluntness. We can see this in “Huge Rat”. A “lowly” yet respectable farmer understandably gripes of the greed his superior is the one that literally reaps the sows of his crops. Comparable to a “huge rat” in the farmer’s opinion, a rodent that takes and runs away with no responsibilities to the earners, the farmer is clearly upset at the imbalance of relationships. Metaphorical or not, the societal hierarchies show no ambiguities in any story. Personally more striking to me is the story of Yingying. The story is a heart breaking and wrenching one in which a strong sense of sympathy for Mrs. Cui, the “lustful” love interest that ruins possibility for a respectable relationship in Chinese culture with premarital relations, will develop. As a widow whose family was rescued, Mrs. Cui may have been lonely or had misguided gratitude for the hero. In either case, the propositions pursued by the rescuer are eventually accepted leading to her heartache and she is blamed, though she is only one of the two members needed for premarital relations.
Secondary education students can be expected to read the text with difficulty due to lack of instantly connecting with these selections. A first glance will likely appear dry and lacking relatability without preludes from teachers and minor inspection. To overcome this, I could recommend revisiting some childhood movies such as “Mulan” and comparing or contrasting the obvious or obscure Wen and culture that could be found in the movie and what the various selections. Consider this hyperlink in your teachings for discussion of religion and Confucianism: https://themagicofreligionindisney.weebly.com/mulan.html. In this Columbia University article, some additional information extras about Asian literature can be found: http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/china_1900_literature.htm. Educational professionals should highlight clippings of this article with a DIY presentation of sorts to inform their students the background of the different genres and styles of Asian literature and why they were so often written about.