This Month in Reality: Book lists and Syllabi

A lot of terrible things have happened…well, all of human history might accurately categorized as action and reaction when terrible things happen. One of those actions that people can take is educating oneself and trying to be a better person and/or not be as much a part of the problem. I have been heartened to see what might be a new trend in book lists: the syllabus. (Can a tool for teaching in the classroom be thought of as a “new” trend out of the classroom?) I am always happy to see thematic lists and I’m always looking for new things to read, so I have been collecting them. Some of the following are actual syllabuses for college courses and some of them are just curated lists on a topic. I’ve got them and I’ve been looking back through them now that I’m aware of how far behind I am on my reading challenge. While I was looking at them, I thought I might share them with you.

This first link is an in-depth list but together following the mass shooting in Charleston in June of 2015. This list is amazing in its detail. It provides historical context starting with a general overview before readings on slavery in both the North and the South before going onto the civil war, reconstruction, and Jim Crow. There are readings on race and religion. There are readings on white identity construction and white supremacy in the US and abroad.

The next syllabus I have to offer is the Black Lives Matter 2016 Fall Syllabus. This syllabus was put together by Professor Frank Leon Roberts at NYU for a class. This is a nice syllabus because it includes not only papers and texts to read but it also includes videos and films to watch. The syllabus also includes writing prompts for reflection papers, so while you are reading and watching, you can also do some digesting.

The Standing Rock Syllabus, put together by the NYC stands with Standing Rock collective includes readings on topics like settler colonialism, the histories of indigenous peoples in North America, environmental racism, and readings on Indian sovereignty and treaty law.

The Lemonade syllabus grew out of a desire that many people had to understand and better get all of the references in Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade. It was put together by Candice Benbow and is beautiful. It is stunningly laid out, once you’ve followed the link from the site. It is 36 pages and includes space to make notes and to write down the date when you finished reading. The syllabus is divided into topics that include (but are not limited to) fiction, non-fiction, black feminism, womanist theology, photography, music, critical theory and poetry. It is so cool. People had questions, they took to twitter and using a hashtag gave each other answers.  I cannot understate how in awe of this syllabus I am.

The Luke Cage Syllabus is a look at the literature in the netflix show Luke Cage but together by Tara Betts at Black Nerd Problems. These are books that are seen or referenced in the show. This syllabus is my convenient excuse for re-watching the show.

These last two I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to look over yet. One of them is a google doc and I’m not sure who it is edited by but it is a reading list for white people who want to educate themselves so that they can be more informed. It is divided up thematically and includes readings on systemic racism and racist ideology, the history of black lives matter and readings on steps you can take to combat racism. The last one is from Haymarket books and is called the Stop Trump Reading List. This list contains books that talk may help you understand how Trump was elected and it includes a link to a list of books especially for young people.

So, there you have it. Syllabi and reading lists to help you find your next book(s) and  to learn a little about issues in the world and also about references in pop culture you may be missing!

If you have any suggestions or have seen any reading lists/syllabi out there that I missed, please take to the comments and let me know!

 

World Aids Day

Today is World’s Aids Day and Giving Tuesday.  So in that spirit, I hope that you will join me in supporting this Kickstarter.  It’s by my friend Bill Bytsura.  He hopes to publish his book of portraits and stories of Aids activists he collected from all over the world between 1989 to 1998.  These are stories of those who fought from the beginning and deserve to get the recognition for their work to help fight this disease.  For more information on this project and Bill go to www.theaidsactivistproject.org

Thank you for supporting and spreading the word.  How ever you spend to day be generous.  This is the time of year of giving.  So give what you can, whether it’s to this or another project that is close to your heart.

Adults, Teen Books, Important Conversations, and Our Responsibilities

I’ve been reading a lot about John Green and the accusations of sexual abuse and since I’m already on record as saying I don’t like John Green (the persona, mind, not his writing) I’m thrilled to itty bitty pieces that the authors of twitter have already stepped up to defend John Green and I dont’ have to. But, the original tumblr poster made non-sexual abuse claims and they need to be addressed.

First, in case you missed it, tumblr user virjn posted on tumblr that they thought John Green was a creep. Then, a bunch of people reblogged it, someone added something about John Green being a pedophile. John Green was tagged in a reblog. And, then John Green responded by saying that he does not sexually abuse children. Which was a libelous claim and I’m willing to believe that he’s telling the truth. And, it’s totally not the thing I want to talk about. I want to talk about the original post, the post that was hijacked by people who are in love with the outrage cycle or are just trolls or are just terrible people. (The hijacking itself is probably its own post but I don’t want to talk about that, either.) I want to talk about how the original poster and their feelings that John Green is creepy. John Green’s online persona squicked this person out enough that they posted about on tumblr. And, it is probably a fair bet that other men, young and old are doing the same thing and don’t understand why women find them off-putting.

Everyone who saw the original post missed an opportunity to explore why John Green sometimes comes off as creepy. And, before you say, “If you don’t like it, just unfollow John Green.” And, you’re right. On the internet, that’s an easy option. If John Green is making you uncomfortable, don’t read what he posts. But, people are going to creep you out and you can’t always ‘unfollow’ them. So, exploring why people creep you out and what other things that can be done about it is invaluable.

Sometimes people make us feel uncomfortable and we should trust those feelings. We might even want to try to figure out why we have those feelings and what can be done about it. Art, literature, and the media we consume give us opportunities to explore situations and life experiences that we might have an interest in. They also give us an opportunity to explore feelings that we might have. An important part of creating and consuming art, literature and media is the need to critique it(and John Green’s internet persona is something that is different from him as a person and so I’m considering it worthy of critique). We need to thoughtfully engage not only in the creation of things but in considering the pros and cons of things after they’ve been created.

As Teresa Jusino of The Mary Sue noted, John Green could have read the comment and said, “right, okay. I didn’t intend for you to feel this way. Your feelings are valid. Let’s talk about this.” John Green, as an adult who writes books for teens, had a tremendous opportunity to start a meaningful conversation about unequal power dynamics, feeling uncomfortable, and how to deal with it. He missed it. The other authors who came to his defense and shamed people for making light of actual rapes and sexual assault missed an opportunity As Camryn Garrett HuffPo noted, we may have just told a young woman not to trust her feelings which might lead to terrible future consequences. (That HuffPo piece is a great read, by the way). This isn’t necessarily on the authors to do this work. They aren’t responsible for always being their to listen and direct their fans. We, as adult readers of teen books, need to make sure that we are not missing these opportunities to have meaningful conversations when they come our way. We might not create the art, but we consume it and our lives create the contexts that the art exists in. As adults who read teen books if we do anything, we should be doing what we can to make space for teens in our conversations so that they can thoughtfully explore art, literature and media and have good examples of how to respond when something is problematic or makes them uncomfortable.