Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Readings On My Ideal College Syllabus

Since today's Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie, I thought I'd write about something I think about a lot-readings and books that will interest today's college students. These are mostly a collection of readings I've actually used and found successful, as well as those I'd like to try.

1. "The Sun, the Moon, the Stars" from This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

I've taught this story in every class I could, with almost universally successful results (there's always the odd student offended by the cursing). If I could, I'd teach the whole book.

2. "Shitty First Drafts" by Ann Lamott

I tried this out in my classes this semester, and it went over really well. It was one of the readings that many students mentioned in their final reflection, even though we read it at the beginning of the semester.

3. Tripmaster Monkey by Maxine Hong Kingston

I read this in college and loved it. It speaks to the Asian-American experience as well as the immigrant and American experience at large. Unfortunately, we would probably not have time to get through it all, but maybe just the chapter where Wittman goes to the party, or maybe just the first chapter, or maybe just the last chapter...

4. "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin

We read this in one of my classes, and I think the students found the philosophical dilemma very interesting. In future, I'd like to show the Doctor Who episode "The Beast Below" along with it and perhaps do some compare/contrast.

5. "Sexy" from Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

I've tried "A Temporary Matter" from the same collection a couple of times, and while I really like the story, not as many students seemed to relate to it. Perhaps I'd have better luck with "Sexy," adultery is certainly a sexier topic than child loss.

6. Excerpts from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

I would just look at some of the funniest, or most thought-provoking, vignettes from Huckleberry Finn. I feel like it's one of those books students might expect to be boring, but would really love with some scaffolding.

7. Excerpts from The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

Similar to above, the book itself might look intimidating, but if we looked at particularly humorous or thought-provoking passages together, I could see it going over well. Also, many students probably won't have as fraught a history with McBride as with Twain (and maybe we could do some comparisons!). Maybe we'd also read a bit from The Color of Water.

8. "Sultana's Dream" by Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein

This would be a really short, easy way to get into feminist, sci fi utopias. It's short enough that we could spend a lot of time discussing the ideas, and the context they're in. Could also possibly be a point of contrast and comparison for "Omelas."

9. Excerpts from Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

We would just read passages about the utopia Mattapoisett, as a point of discussion. Apparently, I just want to teach a class on utopias...

10. "Blot Out" by Colleen Kinder from The Best American Travel Writing 2013

This was probably my favorite story in an excellent collection. It's easy to read and understand, and would let us talk about what it means to wear the burqa, and Western and non-Western perspectives. I feel like that's still a hot topic/something that a lot of students would be opinionated about.

11. "Reeling for the Empire" from Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

I'd consider teaching this. I think it's a great story, but I think it could go either way with students. We'd have to do a lot of discussion about metaphors, the historical context, and go over a lot of vocabulary. But it might still be worth it.

Please make more suggestions in the comments, I'm always looking for new ideas! Also, is there anyone else out there doing even remotely what Junot Diaz is doing? I haven't found anyone else who so closely captures the voice of the modern American young adult.


Kaja said...

I haven't read The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas yet, but I love Le Guin's fantasy writing. I should probably give this a try!

Space Station Mir said...

You definitely should, it's relatively short, but leaves a lot to think about!