Summer Reading for Rising Juniors 2020-21
COMMUNITY BOOK. You must read the following community book. The community book is one which is read by every member of the class. Parents are also invited to read the community book. During the first week of school, your English teachers will review, conduct, or oversee projects, presentations, and group seminars -- all in an effort to generate a sharing of ideas as a community.
The Underground Railroad. A vital book that forces us to reckon with the brutalities of slavery. This is a work of postmodern “historical fiction,” as Whitehead reimagines the Underground Railroad as an actual system of trains and tracks running beneath 19th-century America. We follow the interconnected lives of several runaway slaves who trudge a phantasmagoric, yet oddly real version of America during the time of slavery. This adventurous and highly readable novel will surely spark lively conversations among students.
ENGLISH DEPARTMENT CHOICE: You must also read one book from the following list.
Things Fall Apart. Set in Africa, the story of conflict between father and son, between traditional ways and changing times, between the native culture and the imperialist influence of the British.
All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes. The author, her son, and several friends travel through Ghana discovering the real country and the author’s dreamed-of ancestral “homeland” – touching anecdotes and great description.
Go Tell It On The Mountain. One day in the life of a fourteen-year-old – as well as the past, dreams, and desires of his family – reveals the development and search for identity of an African-American boy.
The Idiot. A Turkish-American student discovers life at Harvard, email, the beauty of language, and (a kind of) love. This compelling novel, told in the unique and likable voice of its first-person narrator, will give you insight into college life in the 1990s (and today) while dazzling you with its prose. Published in 2017.
Kindred. Can the story of American slavery be told as a gripping sci-fi novel? In Kindred, a black woman from the 1970s is time-travelled to the slave past of her ancestors, where she meets—and becomes enslaved by—her great grandmother’s white owner. If she alters history, she will cease to exist; if she doesn’t alter history, a horrible racist will punish and torture hundreds of people just because they are black. Although it is somewhat lengthy, this page-turner reads quickly while raising all kinds of interesting questions: how does the past influence the present? how does hatred get passed down to the next generation? what is a hero? can Americans ever be free of history? should Americans ever be free of history?
Between the World and Me. This work of nonfiction, by celebrated Atlantic Monthly columnist Coates, is written as a long letter to his son and explores race in contemporary America. Lyrical, brutal, and more than relevant.
The Awakening. This is a daring novel which shows the transformation of Edna Pontellier from a young wife and mother to a woman who declares her freedom and spiritual rebirth.
Ragtime. Doctorow's work is a captivating and uniquely American story. Set at the turn of the 20th century in New York, this novel features historical figures like J.P. Morgan and Harry Houdini rubbing shoulders with Doctorow's fictional characters. A truly mesmerizing look at American history through the lens of fiction.
Autobiography. Frederick Douglass is one of the most important Americans who ever lived, and in this work, you'll see him battle cruel slavemasters, find ingenious ways to learn to read and write, and emerge as one of the most elegant writers and speakers in the history of our country.
W.E.B. Du Bois
The Souls of Black Folk. This collection of essays by one of America's great thinkers explores race, identity, will, religion, and many other important topics. A key work to understanding our country's history and the legacy of slavery.
Alas, Babylon. Published at the height of the Cold War, this is the chilling story of the members of a north Florida community suffering – and surviving – a nuclear war.
Grendel. The monster Grendel from the classic English epic Beowulf retells, from his point of view, the story of his life prior to his battle with the Great Prince, as well as the battle itself.
A Farewell to Arms. A tragic love affair set during World War I realistically discusses the disillusionment felt by some individuals in the modern world.
Corregidora. Ursa is a beautiful and powerful blues singer who works a roadhouse dive-bar in the early part of the 20th century. She is haunted by her legacy: her grandmother and mother were both molested by their plantation owner/master. As she recounts her family’s tragic narrative, she finds she may be repeating the past with her current boyfriend. Because her family line was started through violence, perhaps Ursa’s only way through life is to match violence with violence and pain with pain. A book that is dark, gripping, wrenching, and powerful; it examines the need for the blues, the need for testimony, and the importance of storytelling.
The Answers. A young woman with a mysterious illness needs money to fund her treatments, so she takes a job as an “emotional girlfriend” – part of an experiment with a millionaire to test the limits of love, attraction, and dedication. Keen insight on our emotional lives and the often inexplicable bonds of relationships. Super hip and very cool. Published 2017.
J. Drew Lanham
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature. Written in an easy-to-read and poetic style, the careful descriptions of the natural world (Lanham writes eloquently about many species of birds, plants, and more), and the frank discussions of race relations in rural South make this memoir a very compelling book. Published 2017.
Jerome Lawrence and
Inherit the Wind. An intense drama about one of the most controversial trials of the century. Two of the greatest American lawyers of the time battle about a teacher’s right to teach, freedom of speech, and the great questions of evolution.
10:04. A writer ponders the hazy line between reality and fiction. We see our narrator use his life in his fiction, write an epic poem, and wonder about the meaning of an art "in the present tense." A beautifully written and intellectually stimulating novel that provokes a great many interesting questions. The title comes from the scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly and Doc time travel. For my money, the best novel published in 2014.
Mama Day. This novel explores the intricacies of an isolated yet modern African-American family on the fictional Willow Island off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. Multiple perspectives and a plain prose style have helped make this a classic. Gullah culture, voodoo, the oral tradition, and well-drawn characters. Deceptively simple.
The Shipping News. Can one find happiness, security, and identity in remote Nova Scotia? The unlikely hero of this novel overcomes physical and emotional obstacles to try to do this.
The Bell Jar. This is an autobiographical novel about an ambitious and brilliant young woman’s search for values and her eventual breakdown.
The Chosen. A baseball game brings together two boys from different backgrounds. As they become friends, they learn how different Jewish beliefs and traditions influence their lives and their futures.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom's Cabin. According to Abraham Lincoln, this novel started the Civil War. Meet a wide range of memorable characters who all reckon with slavery, freedom, and responsibility. And be ready to turn the pages quickly! Lots of action and adventure and even comedy.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A boy, a raft, and a fugitive slave, all told in the hilarious (and sometimes profane!) voice of Huck, our boy narrator and boon companion of Tom Sawyer. Many consider this the "great American novel," and the final few chapters remain hotly debated. Check out this adventure tale if you liked Tom Sawyer or if you want to see where, as Hemingway says, the modern American novel begins.
The Innocents Abroad. Humorous letters Twain wrote to a San Francisco newspaper while traveling in Europe with a group of naive fellow Americans compiled into a funny travel narrative.
Jubilee. This Civil War novel chronicles the life of Walker"s great-grandmother, and through her, a white plantation owner and his beloved black mistress. Through her narration of events, the author captures the spirit of freedom over bondage.
The Nickel Boys. Set in and around Tallahassee during the Civil Rights Era and based on the horrific events at a fictionalized version of the Dozier School, this novel explores systemic racism and the undying human will to persevere. At times, the reality Whitehead depicts is brutal, but the story will hold your attention, and this is a quick (though haunting) read.