Teaching Issues of Identity Through Multicultural Young Adult Literature

Emily M. Withers
Despite changing demographics of high school classrooms, teaching practices and literature remain similar to decades-old practices focusing more on literary devices and symbolism than on topics relevant to the students. Many teachers don't have the time to find new novels. And when they do find the texts, they are often at a loss for how to properly teach the novels. This thesis is a three-part paper advocating for teaching identity to high school students using a blend of classic literature
more » ... contemporary multicultural young adult literature. The first section focuses on personal experiences and research illustrating the need for more multicultural literature in English curriculum. Teenagers need to explore their own identities, but novels that focus on situations not relevant to their situation or culture leads to feelings of marginalization and a disinterest in literature in general. Certain obstacles keep a more progressive teaching approach from happening, but teachers can overcome the obstacles by focusing on student needs. The second section of the thesis outlines an example unit teaching identity using an older novel, The Great Gatsby, with the newer multicultural young adult novel, American Street. It makes connections between a search for one's identity as it relates to race and the American dream. The unit gives ideas for questions and activities to enrich discussion of the novels. Section three of the thesis lists other exemplary contemporary young adult multicultural texts teachers will find useful as they seek additional opportunities to diversify their curriculum. Each novel includes a summary as well as a brief analysis of how the novel connects to identity and culture.
doi:10.26076/81f7-c90f fatcat:6pdbwnefazenldy2fgt2nx3uj4