Sunday, August 30, 2015

As I wrote about here and then here, I'm teaching an Intro to Lit course this semester using all writers who are people of color.  I've spent several days reading tons and tons of poetry and short stories, trying to find texts that will challenge us and give us lots of interesting stuff to talk about, and I think I'm pretty close now.

Here's what it's looking like on the most basic level, by week.  I'm pretty happy with it, though I may do a bit of rearranging yet.

I'm also working on thinking of good short writing assignments that will be painful to plagiarize.

Week 1
W -  First day of classes
F  - Chock, “The Bait”

Week 2
W - Cullen, “Yet Do I Marvel”
F - Dunbar-Nelson, “Violets”

Week 3
M - Wright, #559; Alexander, “Life”
W - Dunbar, “The Haunted Oak”
F - Gotera, “Dance of the Letters”

Week 4
M - Lee, “The Gift”
W -  Harjo, “The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window”
F - Far, “Mrs. Spring Fragrance” 

Week 5
M - Far, “The Story of One White Woman who Married a Chinese”
W - Walker, “Everyday Use”
F - Silko, “Yellow Woman”

Week 6
M - Bambera, “The Lesson”
W -  Lahiri, “Hell-Heaven”
F - Review for Midterm

Week 7
M - Catch up/Flex day
W - Midterm
F - Alexie, “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”

Week 8
M - 10/19 - Film: Smoke Signals  (You should read all of Reservation Blues this week)
W - 10/21 - Film: Smoke Signals
F - 10/23 - Film: Smoke Signals

Week 9
M - Encarnacion, “Bulosan Listens to a Recording of Robert Johnson”; Alexie, Reservation Blues
W - Alexie, Reservation Blues
F - Alexie, Reservation Blues

Week 10
M - Alexie, Reservation Blues
W - Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun  (Read all of Act 1)
F - Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (Read all of Act 2)

Week 11
M - Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (Read all of Act 3)
W - Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
F - Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Week 12
M - Hwang, M. Butterfly  (Read all of Act 1)
W - Hwang, M. Butterfly (Read all of Act 2) F - Hwang, M. Butterfly (Read all of Act 3)

Week 13
M - Hwang, M. Butterfly
W - Hwang, M. Butterfly

Week 14
M - Satrapi, Persepolis; read to page 70
W - Satrapi, Persepolis; finish the text
F - Satrapi, Persepolis

Week 15 -
M - Satrapi, Persepolis
W - Review for Final
F - Catch up/Flex day


  1. Makes me want to check all of this out! Thanks for posting. I do love "Raisin in the Sun" and "M. Butterfly." I might bring these back into my reading list ...

  2. I love Sui Sin Far! "The Lesson" isn't my favorite Bambara story, but it's a good one. The whole syllabus looks fabulous. And let's swap Persepolis ideas when we get to that point.

    Here's a question: Are you going to point out to students that it's entirely writers of color, or simply present it as your Intro to Lit syllabus?

  3. Thanks for the encouraging words. I've written a short intro that talks about not being able to teach all the wonderful lit out there, so I've selected stuff that should be interesting and challenging, but nothing about it being entirely writers of color at this point. We'll see if the students notice.

  4. Interesting list. I wonder, though, whether Marjane Satrapi, who's now a French citizen of Iranian descent, considers herself a person of color. I don't remember it coming up explicitly in "Persepolis," but I read the series when it was being serialized in "Libération" and I don't think I read the entire work. The theme of being Iranian in the west, and western in Iran, comes up, but that's distinct.

    1. Oh, that's so thought-provoking! Thank you!

  5. I, too, wondered whether you were going to tell them, or see if they noticed. I like your approach (and the texts), and will be interested to hear how it works out.

    Brian raises an interesting point. When I was growing up, my father worked a lot with what we at the time called Middle Easterners (both Arab and Persian in more modern parlance -- and Persians tend to be quite adamant that those are two distinct groups -- as well as some Southeast Asians). At least in the red/yellow/black/white thinking of the day, I'm pretty sure all of them qualified as "white" (even though Anwar Sadat, for instance, was as dark-skinned as many African Americans). I think both Arabs and Persians have come to be seen as more distinctly "other" by Americans thanks to various geopolitical events, and Southeast Asians are likely to be seen as a subset of a larger "Asian" category. We're probably also more aware of the existence of color privilege/hierarchies within many societies, and thus more aware that some people from various areas might see themselves as "of color" or "nonwhite" (overlapping terms with somewhat different valences), and some might not. It will be interesting to see how the terminology shifts in the coming decades; "of color" raises the problems mentioned above, but all the current alternatives (other than specific ethnic descriptors, which may well be where we land) tend to begin with the prefix "non-", which gets us quickly back into the default/the other territory, and all the problems one finds there. If the students do decide that the authors on the syllabus have something in common, in might be interesting to have a discussion about how you/they can best describe that thing, with or without using "non."