In Their Shoes…
“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” Carl Jung
10 May 2018
Dear NDA Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors of next year:
Our school theme for the 2018-19 school year will be IN THEIR SHOES. Throughout all of your classes next year, you will explore the idea of seeing the world from a perspective other than your own. Rather than requiring you to read a book as part of a community read, as we have done in the past, the English department has put together a list of nine novels that address different issues from different perspectives. You are required to choose one of those books and come to class on the first day of school ready to discuss your book and take a quiz on it. You will not be completing a project for this book over the summer. Instead, your English teacher for next year will decide on how you will process your reading experience.
You are responsible for getting your own book; all titles are readily available at local libraries and book stores.
The English department has worked diligently to compose a list of books of literary merit which explore a variety of issues from different perspectives. Some of these books contain some “hot topic” issues, like mental illness, conflicts in faith, bullying, race, etc. Some have explicit language, references to sex, suicide and other uncomfortable topics. The English department believes that it is the discussion of these very human issues that gives literature the potential to broaden our perspective and enrich our lives. As you read about these topics—topics we often try to brush aside for the sake of comfort—you may need to discuss some of the ideas with parents or other adults. Please think about the issue in the context of the story, and consider what the author’s message might be, and compare that message with your own values. Bring your questions and insights to class for further exploration.
Here is a synopsis of each book. Enjoy walking around in someone else’s shoes this summer!
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (race/culture)
“Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all- white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot” (amazon.com).
- Big Mouth & Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates (bullying)
“Matt has a big mouth and Ursula is considered an ugly girl who’s strong, tall, and athletic. They’re not friends and don’t really have anything in common, but the two of them come together during a time of difficulty for Matt. Something he says gets taken out of context and threatens to ruin his life” (amazon.com).
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (ability) “Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favorite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally” (goodreads.com).
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (poverty/mental health)
“The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents. The memoir spent a total of 261 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list” (Wikipedia).
- It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (mental health)
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story tells the story of Craig Gilner, a New York high school student who serves as the novel’s narrator. In the early stages of the story, Craig discusses his small circle of friends, his mostly typical childhood, and his problems with stress and depression” (gradesaver.com). The narrator spends the bulk of the book in a psychiatric hospital after struggling with suicidal thoughts.
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (immigration/age)
“Ove, an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors” (IMDB.com).
- My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (religion/culture)
“The book’s protagonist is Asher Lev, a Hasidic Jewish boy in New York City. Asher is a loner with artistic inclinations. His art, however, causes conflicts with his family and other members of his community. The book follows Asher’s maturity as both an artist and a Jew” (Wikipedia).
- Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper (ability)
“Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school – but no one knows it. Most people – her teachers and doctors included – don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows… but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind – that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice… but not everyone around her is ready to hear it” (bookbrowse.com).
- The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (immigration/culture)
“A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region[in China] and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters (From the publisher.)
***Please contact Mrs. Laura Gallaher, department chair, with any questions you may have. (firstname.lastname@example.org)