Last weekend a group of language arts educators gathered to work towards WLAC’s goals for the coming year, and to share projects and events we already have in the making (more on those soon). As part of our introductions we used the New York Times “By the Book” interview questions to share a little about ourselves. Below is a list of some of the books our members shared and recommended to the group.
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, “follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan” according to Goodreads.com.
One member gave high praise for Binti, by Nnendi Okorafor, a rare addition to the science fiction genre by a Nigerian American woman author. The teaser on Okorafor’s website for the first book in this series says, “Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs” (nnedi.com).
A middle school teacher is reading Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories, thanks to recommendations by her sixth and seventh grade students. From the book’s website: “When the twins’ grandmother gives them a treasured fairy-tale book, they have no idea they’re about to enter a land beyond all imagining: the Land of Stories, where fairy tales are real” (thelandofstories.com).
On the other end of the continuum one of our higher education members shared her fondness for the New York Times bestselling How to Read Literature Like a Professor, by Thomas C. Foster, “a lively and entertaining introduction to literature and literary basics, including symbols, themes and contexts, that shows you how to make your everyday reading experience more rewarding and enjoyable” (harpercollins.com).
Another recommended Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “A powerful, tender story of race and identity” (chimamanda.com), but also recommended virtually anything written by her favorite author, Toni Morrison.
One high school teacher is making her way through that series that seemingly everyone is talking about -- A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. The titular character “has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him ‘the bitter neighbor from hell.’ But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?” (simonandschuster.com). If that description doesn’t make it sound too appealing consider that the book is a blockbuster in Sweden and beyond.
For another recommended nonfiction read, one of our members told us about A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School, by Carlotta Walls Lanier and Lisa Frazier Page. This book tells the story of Walls Lanier, one of the “Little Rock Nine” and described by the publisher as “an engrossing memoir that is a testament not only to the power of a single person to make a difference but also to the sacrifices made by families and communities that found themselves a part of history” (penguinrandomhouse.com).
Professional texts mentioned included Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World by Troy Hicks and Kristen Hawley Turner and published by NCTE. Only have to time to read the short version? Check out this article written by the authors for the English Journal.
Others like Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style Into Writers Workshop by Jeff Anderson and Teaching Reading with YA Literature: Complex Texts, Complex Lives by Jennifer Buehler.