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302: Is this your Canva Summer?!
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066: Diversifying our Booklists: More Stories, More Voices, More Understanding

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In today’s episode of The Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast, you’re going to hear from my friend Alexandra, librarian and reader extraordinaire. She runs an incredible reading program at her school, and I could spend many shows talking with her about her book club, summer reading program, enticing displays, use of audiobooks, and yearly HUGE themed bookish event, but today we’re focusing in on the titles she’d most highly recommend for building more diversity into your curriculum.

In this episode, you’ll discover new titles to help bring more voices and more stories into your booklist in the spheres of American Literature, World Literature, British Literature, and Independent Reading.  By the end of the show, you’ll have a menu of ideas to help you diversify beyond the canonical voices you’ve probably inherited on your booklist. 
Throughout these show notes, I’m going to include short snippets from Goodreads to briefly describe the books Alexandra brings up. Because we went over so many titles, we couldn’t dive deeply into book descriptions for each one. But there are plenty of those online, so I’m going to provide them for you here in the show notes. You may also notice there are a few additional books here in the show notes beyond the ones we discussed. It was hard for Alexandra to touch on all her favorites in our interview, so she added a few more for me to share with you here. 
One more thing, before we jump in. This podcast episode has inspired me to start a new project to connect our classrooms, The Modern Voices Project. The idea is to have students all over the world creating recommendation posters for books they feel represent their voices and stories. Then they submit those posters to be featured on The Modern Voices Project Website, which I will administer. Teachers anywhere can then print the posters for their classroom walls and share the website with their students to help them get reading ideas. Perhaps, in time, teachers can even use the evidence of students’ repeated recommendations on the site as reasons for including new books and more diverse voices in our curriculum booklists. 
Get the instructions for designing and submitting a poster right here. 

You can listen below, or on iTunesBlubrry, or Stitcher. Or, read on for the written highlights. 
So today we’re looking into the question of diverse texts in the English classroom. We in the field of English have got to find ways to bring more voices and stories into our classrooms, and I’m really excited to tap into your knowledge and share some inspiration with our listeners. Let’ start by talking about why it’s important for our students to see themselves and each other reflected in our literature. Or in other words, why can’t we just stick with the same old canon that’s been taught for the last 100 years? 
“Students respond more deeply to literature when they can see themselves on the page,” says Alexandra. The canon tends to leave out the voices of women, people of color, and people who identify as LGBTQ. Also seeing many types of stories helps students empathize with others, and it helps us to approach conversations that can be difficult but that really matter. 
There are so many ways we could do this, but as we dive into specific texts, let’s focus in on areas of English that are often taught – American Literature, British literature, World literature, and Independent reading. Let’s start with American literature. The canon here tends to feature a lot of white male voices. What are some authors and titles you would recommend teachers look into to diversify the American Literature curriculum? 
Title: Passing
Author: Nella Larsen
Thoughts from Alexandra: This is a shorter read, a novella, so it’s easier to fit into your curriculum. This book is about passing as a white person when one is black. 
From Goodreads: “Irene Redfield, the novel’s protagonist, is a woman with an enviable life. She and her husband, Brian, a prominent physician, share a comfortable Harlem town house with their sons. Her work arranging charity balls that gather Harlem’s elite creates a sense of purpose and respectability for Irene. But her hold on this world begins to slip the day she encounters Clare Kendry, a childhood friend with whom she had lost touch. Clare—light-skinned, beautiful, and charming—tells Irene how, after her father’s death, she left behind the black neighborhood of her adolescence and began passing for white, hiding her true identity from everyone, including her racist husband. As Clare begins inserting herself into Irene’s life, Irene is thrown into a panic, terrified of the consequences of Clare’s dangerous behavior. And when Clare witnesses the vibrancy and energy of the community she left behind, her burning desire to come back threatens to shatter her careful deception.” 
Title: Gilead (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
Author: Marilynne Robinson 
Thoughts from Alexandra: You might know Robinson from her now-famous interview with Barack Obama (he interviewed her!) for the New York Review of Books. This novel has a lyrical quality reminiscent of Faulkner. 
From Goodreads: “Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows “even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order” (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.” 
Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
From Goodreads: “Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.” 
Title: Underground Railroad
Author: Colson Whitehead
Thoughts from Alexandra: In this novel, Whitehead reimagines the underground railroad as an actual railroad. 
From Goodreads: “Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share. ” 
Title: Beloved
Author: Toni Morrison
From Goodreads: “Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. ” 
Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
From Goodreads: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet… So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.” 
Title: The Wordy Shipmates (or one of her other wonderful collections!) 
Author: Sarah Vowell – often heard on This American Life
Thoughts from Alexandra: You can’t go wrong with Vowell. She has so many outstanding collections to pull from for an essay unit. 
From Goodreads: “Sarah Vowell’s special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where “righteousness” is rhymed with “wilderness,” to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America’s most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it. ” 
Title: Call Them by their True Names: American Crises (Essays)
Author: Rebecca Solnit
Thoughts from Alexandra: These essays focus on what it means to be a woman in America right now. 
From Goodreads: “In this powerful and wide-ranging collection of essays, Solnit turns her attention to the war at home. This is a war, she says, “with so many casualties that we should call it by its true name, this war with so many dead by police, by violent ex-husbands and partners and lovers, by people pursuing power and profit at the point of a gun or just shooting first and figuring out who they hit later.” To get to the root of these American crises, she contends that “to acknowledge this state of war is to admit the need for peace,” countering the despair of our age with a dose of solidarity, creativity, and hope.” 
Title: Salvage the Bones (National Book Award Winner)
Author: Jesmyn Ward
From Goodreads: “As the twelve days that comprise the novel’s framework yield to the final day and Hurricane Katrina, the unforgettable family at the novel’s heart—motherless children sacrificing for each other as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce—pulls itself up to struggle for another day. A wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, “Salvage the Bone” is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.” 
Title: A Raisin in the Sun
Author: Lorraine Hansberry
From Goodreads: “Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning drama about the hopes and aspirations of a struggling, working-class family living on the South Side of Chicago connected profoundly with the psyche of black America–and changed American theater forever.  The play’s title comes from a line in Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem,” which warns that a dream deferred might “dry up/like a raisin in the sun.”
Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker
From Goodreads: “Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.” 
Now moving to British literature. What are some British voices and texts that you think could be better represented? 
Title: Wide Sargasso Sea
Author: Jean Rhys
Thoughts from Alexandra: This novel is a retelling of Jane Eyre from the point of view of the madwoman in the attic. It would pair very well with a reading of Jane Eyre
From Goodreads: “Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.” 
Title: Frog Music
Author: Emma Donoghue (an Irish author widely known for her novel, Room)
Thoughts from Alexandra: This novel is also about passing, this time about a women passing for a man.
From Goodreads: “Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead…The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice–if he doesn’t track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.” 
Title: The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits: Stories
Author: Emma Donoghue (again!) 
Thoughts from Alexandra: Donoghue used old newspaper clippings as prompts for short stories, writing the short stories before returning to read the articles. This sets up a great option for a creative writing unit to pair with your reading of the stories. 
From Goodreads: “Emma Donoghue, celebrated author of Slammerskin, vividly animates hidden scraps of the past in this remarkable collection. An engraving of a woman giving birth to rabbits, a plague ballad, theological pamphlets, and an articulated skeleton are ingeniously fleshed out into rollicking tales. Whether she’s spinning the tale of a soldier tricked into marrying a dowdy spinster, or a Victorian surgeon’s attempts to “improve” women, Donoghue fills us with the sights and smells of the period as she summons the ghosts of ordinary people, bringing them to unforgettable life in fiction.” 
Title: White Teeth
Author: Zadie Smith
Thoughts from Alexandra: Tough to go wrong with Zadie Smith. Consider any of her titles. 
From Goodreads: “At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith. Set against London’s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.” 
Title: The Little Stranger
Author: Sarah Waters
Thoughts from Alexandra: This novel with modern themes pairs well with Gothic literature like Frankenstein and Dracula
From Goodreads: “One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.” 
World literature is such a HUGE topic. I remember being really frustrated in college by how little world lit was present in the courses for the English major. There was no literature in translation, and very little from English speakers outside of Britain and the United States. What can we do to change this? What texts could we consider for courses like A.P. World Lit and World Lit surveys? 
Title: The Handmaid’s Tale 
Author: Margaret Atwood (Canadian)
Thoughts from Alexandra: There is a lot of attention on this novel right now as it celebrates it’s 20th anniversary. It’s a great time to teach it. 
From Goodreads: “Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…” 
Title: Station Eleven 
Author: Emily St. John Mandel (Canadian)
Thoughts from Alexandra: This post-apocalyptic novel features a roving Shakespeare troupe (surprise!). 
From Goodreads: “One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.” 
Title: Black Apple 
Author: Joan Crate (Canadian)
Thoughts from Alexandra: This novel is set within the residential schools created for native people in Canada’s early days. 
From Goodreads: “Set during the Second World War and the 1950s, Black Apple is an unforgettable, vividly rendered novel about two very different women whose worlds collide: an irrepressible young Blackfoot girl whose spirit cannot be destroyed, and an aging yet powerful nun who increasingly doubts the value of her life. It captures brilliantly the strange mix of cruelty and compassion in the residential schools, where young children are forbidden to speak their own languages and given Christian names. As Rose Marie matures, she finds increasingly that she knows only the life of the nuns, with its piety, hard work and self-denial. Why is it, then, that she is haunted by secret visions—of past crimes in the school that terrify her, of her dead mother, of the Indigenous life on the plains that has long vanished? Even the kind-hearted Sister Cilla is unable to calm her fears. And then, there is a miracle, or so Mother Grace says. Now Rose is thrust back into the outside world with only her wits to save her.” 
Title: The Pearl that Broke its Shell 
Author: Nadian Hashimi (Afghan-American)
Thoughts from Alexandra: This novel weaves together three stories of three generations of people in the Middle East. It’s a weighty book, good for A.P. booklists. 
From Goodreads: “Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi’s literary debut novel, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one’s own fate that combines the cultural flavor and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See… In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.” 
Author: Nnedi Okorafor (Nigerian-American)
From Goodreads: “Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American author of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults and a professor at the University at Buffalo, New York. Her works include Who Fears Death, the Binti novella trilogy, the Book of Phoenix, the Akata books and Lagoon. She is the winner of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards and her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker won the prestigious Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. ” 
Title: Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist)
Author: Min Jin Lee (South Korean-American)
From Goodreads: “In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant–and that her lover is married–she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations… Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters–strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis–survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.” 
Title: Americanah
Author: Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (grew up in Nigeria, now splits her time with the U.S.)
Thoughts from Alexandra: This novel pairs well with Adichie’s powerful Ted Talk “The Danger of a Single Story.” One of its themes is immigration, and it would pair well in a literature circle or book club with the following title, Behold the Dreamers
From Goodreads: “Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.” 
Title: Behold the Dreamers
Author: Imbolo Mbue (originally from Cameroon, now residing in the U.S.)
Thoughts from Alexandra: Again focusing on the theme of immigration, would pair well with Americanah for literature circles or book club. 
From Goodreads: “Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future… However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades…When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.” 
Title: American War
Author: Omar El Akkad (Born in Egypt, raised in Qatar, now resides in Canada)
Thoughts from Alexandra: This novel imagines what another civil war in the U.S. would look like, bringing a perspective from outside the country’s borders. 
From Goodreads: “An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself… Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.
Title: A Brief History of Seven Killings (Winner of the Mann Booker Prize)
Author: Marlon James (Born in Jamaica, now lives in the U.S.) 
Thoughts from Alexandra: This novel is infused with the cultural institutions of Jamaica. 
From Goodreads: “On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he left the country the next day, not to return for two years…. Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters—assassins, journalists, drug dealers, and even ghosts—A Brief History of Seven Killings is the fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time and its bloody aftermath, from the streets and slums of Kingston in the 70s, to the crack wars in 80s New York, to a radically altered Jamaica in the 90s. Brilliantly inventive and stunningly ambitious, this novel is a revealing modern epic that will secure Marlon James’ place among the great literary talents of his generation.”
Next there’s the wide open field of independent reading. I LOVE independent reading so much, and one reason is the opportunity to introduce modern and diverse voices freely. Who are some of your favorite authors that you’d recommend teachers consider including in their classroom reading libraries? 
Title: The Wayward Children Series
Author: Seanan McGuire
Thoughts from Alexandra: These are really accessible novellas, all under two hundred pages, great for readers who might be below level. They focus on the theme of Neverland. What would it look like for different people, and what happens to you when you get back? There are three books in the series, with a fourth coming soon. 
From Goodreads: “Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.”
Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Thoughts from Alexandra: This book imagines the Civil War ending because zombies rise up. It gives opportunities to consider and address racial issues but feels less fraught than these conversations usually are because of the zombie element. 
From Goodreads: “Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.” 
Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novick
Thoughts from Alexandra: Novick turns fairy tales on their heads, reimagining ancient stories. For example, the old story of a dragon who takes a girl every seven years, what if the dragon was a person? 
From Goodreads: “‘Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.’”
Title: Jackaby
Author: William Ritter
From Goodreads: “Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.”  
Title: The Hate U Give & On the Come Up
Author: Angie Thomas
Thoughts from Alexandra: Angie Thomas just keeps getting better! Can’t wait to see what she does next. 
From Goodreads (The Hate U Give): “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.”  
Title: The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, Pointe, Little and Lion, Finding Yvonne
Author: Brandy Colbert
Thoughts from Alexandra: Colbert writes a lovely series of books that focus on various sports, including dance. 
Title: I am not your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Author: Erika Sanchez
Thoughts from Alexandra: This book again deals with immigration, but not in quite as fraught a way as Amerianah and Behold the Dreamer. 
From Goodreads: “Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family…But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.” 
Title: Speak, Shout (and more)
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Thoughts from Alexandra: Anderson is a consistent favorite. Speak and the graphic novel version of it are so powerful, and Anderson’s new memoir Shout is one to watch for. 
From Goodreads (Speak): “In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.” 
Looking for more? Alexandra recommends these great hashtags to follow on Twitter and Instagram so you can see new texts as they come out and stay in the conversation about diversifying our students’ reading choices in schools. Check out: #disrupttexts #cleartheair  #weneeddiversebooks, and #ownvoices. 

Do you find your inspiration in VISUALS? I love ‘em too. Let’s hang out on Instagram! Click here to get a steady stream of colorful ideas all week long.




hey there!

I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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  • Does Alexandra have a blog of her own? As a school librarian, I would love to see more of her ideas!

    • I've been suggesting that to her, but she's pretty busy with her job. I hope someday…


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