When I started the independent study, I wrote, “my main goal for this independent study is to do the groundwork that will allow me to write a curriculum for suburban high school students about perceptions of majority otherness.” Unfortunately, this independent study did not help me accomplish that goal in the manner I thought it would. I hoped that I would read a number of texts that could be useful in building a curriculum. With the exception of a number of pieces in the David Roediger volume, I don’t believe I would use any of these books in such a curriculum (though I would definitely teach Parable of the Sower to high schoolers in any grade, and would teach The Known World and Bluest Eye to seniors).
One of the limitations on the study was my (arbitrary) decision to limit myself to novels. I have a feeling short stories and poetry would be more fruitful (and more conducive to most high school classrooms). In terms of longer pieces of literature, the best pieces are ones I did not consider as part of this independent study because I had already read them: Native Son, Beloved, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Daddy Was a Numbers Runner, Down These Mean Streets, and almost anything by Baldwin in the 1960’s.
I think one of the most interesting parts of such a curriculum would be a comparison of similarly themed books by black and white authors, ideally taking place in the same city. I imagine that students could gain much from comparing Down These Mean Streets with Catcher in the Rye, or Brown Girl, Brownstones with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Over the course of the semester, I also decided to firmly commit myself to urban education (at least for the next portion of my career), so unfortunately this project will be put on hold for a while. Luckily, I will have the opportunity to help build a very different curriculum for a young school (more on that in the coming weeks and months).
In terms of the books as a body of literature, I do not have any grand conclusions to make. One could certainly compare and contrast the representation of whites in different novels. However, I do not have any grand theories to explain aspects of these books. In discussing my goals, I wrote that I was interested in the representation of whites as an act of resistance. While there is certainly an argument to be made there, such an argument would have to situate works within the broader literary production of the time. I believe the basis for a rigorous argument on that front would entail comparing the representations of race in works by whites with similar representations in works by blacks.
Previous Independent Study Posts:
Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White Edited by David Roediger
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
The Next Set of Books
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Savage Holiday by Richard Wright
Seraph on the Suwanee by Zora Neale Hurston
Country Place by Ann Petry
White Life Novels Wrap Up
Reflections on Being a Student Blogger