Hopefully I can get these books here to read with my classes in addition to the weekly work they do with their course anthologies. I’m trying to consider reading level, interest level, and novels that will connect them with general US reading culture for their age. Reading level is tough. The…
Seems to be a really heavy focus on American and English literature. Did I miss something requiring that emphasis— because when I was in high school, I was always after the likes of Dostoevsky, Camus, Brecht, Goethe, and Tolstoy. German, Russian, French stuff, y’know? I’m still not a big fan of a lot of American and British literature (I mean I am, but it isn’t where I fall in love). A list like this would have largely given me reason for despair. Good list, but perhaps some other countries in Europe could be given a spot?
REALITY CHECK TIME
And you’re obviously not considering that I’m teaching young, Cambodian adults who are learning English as a foreign language and are so impoverished that many of them live without consistent electricity and clean water. They’re attending this school to pick up some skills to make it to a foreign university to find a way to transform their families’ lives. We aren’t really concerned with making sure they read the right kind of dead white men. So, you know what. Fuck the German, French, and Russian lit for a few minutes while I help prepare them to take the ACT and score high enough (over 24) to find scholarship money to get to a university in the US. Maybe they can make it to school and then find themselves in a position to decide for themselves what they’ll do with the rest of their lives and how to improve their villages. My goal here is simple, but important. They can discover what kind of literature they enjoy when they graduate. This isn’t comfy reading for privileged children happy school time over here. Know what I mean?
I have specific objectives to meet and for very practical reasons. The books on the list are high interest for adolescent readers at the reading level my students are at—high interest, in the US, which is where the curriculum my school uses comes from. If you’ve read what I’ve written today about my students, they are most stressed about the incredibly difficult reading assignments at my school. I created a list that will be difficult but not more difficult than the narratives are enjoyable. I’m not going to assign Dostoevsky. I’m not here to direct Cambodian students to the wonders of my literary imagination and indocrinate them into the literary tradition my culture treasures. I’m here to help them achieve a level of mastery of the skills they will need to attend university. If you know about Cambodian history, just that is a kind of transgression here.
But if you think you’ve got a hang of it, maybe you can take a plane to Siem Reap, rent a bicycle, ride into the rural villages, and share some Tolstoy with my students’ families. :p