We are facing a literacy crisis—many of our fellow Americans cannot read and still others do not read.
Literacy Data and its Impact on the Nation
Illiteracy has become such a serious problem in our country that 130 million adults are now unable to read a simple story to their children
21% of adults in the US are illiterate in 2022
54% of adults have a literacy below 6th grade level
45 million are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level
44% of the American adults do not read a book in a year
Why Short Stories? There are a multitude of reasons for including short stories/memoirs in the curriculum and student reading.
Many readers have not built up reading stamina. When they do read novels, they choose novels below their reading levels, they abandon novels before finishing, or they read Spark Notes, summaries, or find other ways to avoid actually reading. Short stories are, by definition, short. Short stories range in lengths, varying from 1,500 to 10,000 or more words. Therefore, reader stamina can be slowly increased with complete texts, while giving readers a sense of accomplishment because they have finished an entire text.
Short stories are engaging. Because of their length, short stories are precise with their delivery and are designed to capture the attention of the reader quickly. Readers meet characters who have goals which they accomplish after overcoming conflicts by making decisions. In other words, each short story includes all plot elements, and since short stories are focused on one plot rather than complicated with subplots, they are easier to follow for emerging readers of any age or level. For this reason, short stories can provide a bridge to longer works.
Short stories also are valuable resources when classes or students are short on time or when students neglect to bring their independent reading books to class.
Short stories provide useful teaching tools. At the beginning of the year, before tackling a class novel, I used short stories to teach or review literary elements, author’s craft, and to teach and apply reading strategies. I would choose a short story based on the element, such as setting, that I wished to highlight in my focus lesson and would also use that short story to focus on a reading strategy. We would then put it all together when reading our whole-class novel.
Short stories can be employed as an introduction to, and practice for, Book Clubs. Teachers can employ Short-Story Clubs to teach and practice Book Club social skills, such as preparing for and holding effective discussions, and for practicing meeting strategies and guidelines before a class embarks on novel book clubs (see Talking Texts: A Teachers’ Guide for Book Clubs across the Curriculum for more on short story and other text clubs). Short-Story Clubs offer the same opportunities as Book Clubs; members of a club can read and discuss a short story over 1-2 meetings and make a short presentation for the class. Advanced readers could read different short stories on the same topic or theme within a Club, comparing and contrasting stories individually read, or each Short-Story Club member could read a different story by the same author and the members could analyze the author’s craft.
The Value of Anthologies Anthologies, such as the 40 pictured below, offer many advantages to emerging, reluctant, and proficient readers:
They introduce students to new authors, most of whom have written Middle Grade or Young Adult novels which students might become interested in reading.
The stories/essays in most of these anthologies are centered around a topic (sports) or theme (prejudice), offering differing perspectives and voices on that topic or theme.
Anthologies contain stories of various lengths, reading and interest levels, genres, and formats, allowing readers to find one or more stories that match them as readers.
Anthologies, especially the more current publications, offer culturally-diverse characters and authors as well as an assortment of formats, genres, and perspectives.
Shelf Life; How Beautiful the Ordinary; Black Enough; Flying Lessons; Funny Girl; Guys Read: Funny Business; Guys Read; Thriller; Guys Read: Other Worlds; Prejudice; Going Where I'm Coming From; Ultimate sports; Connections; First Crossing; Visions of Fantasy; Ancestor Approved; Nevertheless, We Persisted; Join In; Twelve Shots; Visions; In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers; The Creativity Project; What Are You Afraid Of?; No Easy Answers; Owning It; Unbroken; You Too?; When I Was Your Age; Hope Nation; The Hero Next Door; Necessary Noise; Open Mic; A Universe of Wishes; Parkland Speaks; Boundless; Fresh Ink; Been There, Done That; Coming of Age; The Chronicles of Harris Burdick; Living Beyond Borders
Thirty-Three Anthology Reviews
Been There, Done That: Writing Stories from Real Life edited by Mike Winchell Been There, Done That: School Dazededited byMike Winchell
In these two unique memoir collections, popular authors show how and where they get stories. Each author shares a real-life experience and the original fictional short story that event inspired. Stories, relatable to readers everywhere, are divided into topics, such as dealing with peer pressure, putting others first, regret and guilt, change, morning school routines, class projects, and the dreaded school bus ride. Memoirists include well-known MG/YA authors Kate Messner, Julia Alvarez, Linda Sue Park, Lisa Yee, Alan Sitomer, Varian Johnson, Bruce Coville, and Meg Medina. ----------
Zoboi invited “sixteen other Black authors to write about teens examining, rebelling against, embracing, or simply existing within their own ideas of Blackness” (xiii) in a book that invites some adolescents to see their lives and experiences reflected and invites others to experience the lives of their contemporaries.
This anthology featured some of my favorite authors—Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Tracey Baptiste, Kekla Magoon, while meeting authors new to me, such as Leah Henderson, Dhonielle Clayton, Justina Ireland, and Ibi Zoboi. But even more interesting to me was that my favorite stories in the anthology were the type of plots I don’t usually gravitate to—stories with a bit of a twist. These stories broadened my reading horizons. ----------
Boundless edited by Ismee Williams and Rebecca Balcarcel
The U.S. population is undergoing rapid racial and ethnic change. The multiracial population in the United States—those who identify with two or more races—is also increasing with the rise in interracial couples. The children of these interracial unions are forming a new generation that is much more likely to identify with multiple racial groups. By 2060, about 6 percent of the total population—and 11 percent of children under age 18—are projected to be multiracial. (Population Reference Bureau)
Most of us have felt, from time to time, that we don’t fit in—with our peers, our communities, our families, even our own skins—for a variety of reasons. These are twenty stories of adolescents who don’t feel they fit in or they are not “whole” because they are multiracial or multicultural. Boundlessshares the multiracial and multicultural experience of contemporary adolescents.
Nina feels that she is not Asian enough to be a part of her extended family. “Sometimes I wonder of karaoke nights [with the family] would’ve felt different if I’d grown up where Dad did, around more people who looked like me. So many people in Hawaii are multiracial. It isn’t weird or different or ‘exotic’, like I’ve been called all my life.” (24)
Amalia Lipski is Hispanic-Jewish. “By trying to hold on to those two identities, I feel like I’m doing a disservice to both. Like, I’m trying to find the right balance, but I want to be more than fifty percent Judia and fifty percent Latina. I want to be two hundred percent everything. I want to be more than what everybody expects me to be. I want to be…perfect.” (42)
Tami is Japanese-Jewish. “I swore I wouldn’t…divide myself up. Not after I teacher called me half-and-half in elementary school…. Am I too much of something? Not enough of another? I know what I am not—whole.” (75)
Irene is Mexican-Irish, “EE-reh-neh to my mom’s side of the family (the Mexican side); Eye-reen to my dad’s side of the family (the Irish side)…. My goal in life is to keep my head down.” (85) “There is no way to divide myself and put the pieces into nice little boxes.” (96)
Eitan is Israeli-Mexican and feels invisible. “Was a person more defined by where they were born or where their parents were born? If some government or the other decided to take away either one of his nationalities, he would still be Eitan.” (124)
Madison Rabottini is Italian-Chinese. “There is nothing quite like doing a Zoom party with the Italian side of the family to realize how out of place my brother and I look in box after box of curly hair and hazel eyes. Then we flip to a Skype of my mom’s side, and suddenly Dad is the outsider.” (140)
Lydia is biracial, Indian-White. “There have been opposing forces within me for as long as I can remember. I am twins inhabiting the same body, two chemicals combined to form a unique reaction.” (277) “I am not Indian enough. Sometimes I don’t even feel American enough. I am not enough.” (280)
Simone is biracial; Sean is of Honduran decent, adopted by an Irish couple; Trevor is Black-Puerto Rican; Jerry is Filipino White; and, after his death, Hiba Ahmed visits her father’s homeland, Jordan. “I just want to know more about where he was from. About where I’m from.” “349
Here are stories for those who have not felt “enough” for any reason. As I wrote in my review for Black Enough, this is a book that invites some adolescents to see their lives and experiences reflected and invites others to experience the lives of their contemporaries. ----------
Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories edited by Jonathan Rosen and Henry Herz
Reading this collection and some of the newer MG novels which include Jewish characters and their traditions and holidays has been a unique experience for me. I was raised in a primarily non-Jewish community. There were seven children in my Sunday School class, fewer attended my elementary school, and only I attended my rather large high school. I felt “different” and certainly never saw myself as a character in a book. Even The Chosen by Chaim Potok, the “first book that introduced Jewish culture to a wide American audience” wasn’t published until I was in high school. The twenty years I taught middle school, my students only read about Jews who were impacted by the Holocaust.
In the Jewish religion a Bar Mitzvah (boys) and a Bat Mitzvah (girls) are the ceremonies during which 13-year-olds begins their journeys to adulthood and become full spiritual members of their religious communities. Each of the stories in Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories is literally and figuratively about coming of age, about accepting responsibility, finding strength and insight, and “striking a balance between caring for others and caring for oneself.” (128)
This collection included some of my favorite authors and introduced me to some new authors. The stories take place today, many decades ago (1970s) when the authors were 13, and on a fictious planet. A few stories were autobiographical, others fictional, and some, I suspect, were in between. Two stories include time travel as, in one, the Bar Mitzvah boy is tasked with helping the subject of his reading—Noah (Yep, that Noah).
This anthology is not a collection of tales about rituals, beliefs, and ceremonies as much as stories about having the courage to solve problems, know yourself, and show who you are:
Libby, a former victim of school anti-Semitism, finally trusts her new friends enough to share that she is Jewish. “I’ve found friends…. More than one. More than I hoped for.” (89)
Ruthie realizes, when holding her Bat Mitzvah during a pandemic in a parking lot, wearing a mask and a borrowed dress, “We Jews always find a way to form a community, gather together, and pray.” (100)
Schliamazel leaves his Bar Mitzvah, missing the opportunity to dance with his secret crush, to save an orphanage, and realizes, “It’s not really about one day. It’s about becoming responsible from this day forward.” (128)
Some of the stories are more universal, and some are uniquely Jewish experiences. There are stories that any adolescent can relate to—hoping to be chosen as a dance partner, not fitting into the family, and like Dani, who is bewildered about how she can deliver a speech on her Torah reading which is about the Ten Plagues and Moses’s reluctance to speak out, finally finds a personal connection. “I could do this. I could talk about stepping up, especially when you think you can’t, and leading your community.” (223)
Readers meet characters’ relatives and diverse friends, all types of families, and learn a little Hebrew and Yiddish vocabulary. And these are stories that will create empathy and understanding about peers who may appear “different” or whom readers have not met.
I promote using books as “mirrors and windows” and advocate for books with culturally-diverse characters to be included in community, school, classroom, and home libraries. I am delighted that my culture has finally been added to the offerings, especially with the current rise of anti-Semitism. ----------
Seventeen stories about connections among teens divided into ‘Encounters,” “Clashes,” “Surprises,” and “Insights,” introducing readers to such authors as Sue Ellen Bridgers, Robin Brancato, Gordon Korman, Ouida Sebestyen, M.E.Kerr, and Judie Angell. ---------
From 1994 to 2017, the population of immigrant children in the United States grew by 51 percent, to 19.6 million, or one-quarter of all U.S. children.
The ten fictional stories in this collection describe teen immigrants navigating not only the typical challenges of adolescence but also a new country and will provide a mirror and map for immigrant readers and help other readers gain insights into the lives of some of their peers. The diverse group of authors include Minfong Ho, Jean Davies Okimoto, Dian Curtis Regan, and Pam Munoz Ryan. ----------
These ten stories about family, neighborhood, young love, racism, loss, poverty, sports, compassion, and dreams, written in a variety of genres and representing characters with diverse in ethnicity, race, religions, ability, and sexuality, represent multiple perspectives. The stories were written by popular MG authors Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kelly Baptist. ----------
Twelve new stories—10 prose, 1 graphic story, and a 1-act play (published posthumously by some of the most popular, culturally-diverse, contemporary YA authors, such as Walter Dean Myers, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon, Daniel Jose Older, and Sharon Flake.
These stories present Muslim, Native, LBGTQ, Black, Iranian, Latinx, Filipina, and Japanese characters whose race or gender presents a challenge. Editor Giles states in his Introduction that his hope is, with this book, readers find heroes that looks, thinks, or feels like them and, “if not, …find glimpses into other worlds that are both respectful and enlightening.” ----------
Going Where I’m Coming From: Memoirs of American Youth edited by Anne Mazer
These fourteen memoirs about immigration and bridging cultures, are set in Watts, Hawaii, New York, Boston, Cleveland, San Antonio, NJ, the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, the San Joaquin Valley, and rural Alabama.
These stories of identity and self-discovery were written by such diverse authors as Luis Rodriguez, Ved Mehta, Thylias Moss, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lensey Namioka, and Gary Soto. ----------
Contemporary adolescents are dealing with a variety of issues and feelings of powerlessness in a complex world that sometimes feels hopeless.
Twenty-four YA authors speak to teens through poetry, essays, and letters of hope in this nonfiction collection. They inspire readers by sharing difficult childhoods and obstacles and experiences they overcame. Readers will appreciate the personal stories of authors of their favorite novels, such as David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Libba Bray, Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, and I.W.Gregorio. ----------
Twelve stories that present modern views of love, sexuality, and gender identification and LGBTQ experience by such authors as David Levithan, Margo Lanagan, Francesca Lia Block, William Sleator. Jacqueline Woodson, Gregory Maguire, Ron Koertge, Emma Donoghue, and Julie Ann Peters. ----------
Seventeen original short stories about connections and confrontations, friendships, identity, prejudice, expectations by such authors as Rita Williams Garcia, Linda Crew, Minfong Ho, Gloria Gonzalez, Julius Lester, and Danny Romero. ----------
Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America edited by Margarita Longoria
As Mexican-Americans, we have always needed to defend who we are, where we were born, and prove to others that we are in fact Americans. (Editor’s Introduction "Dear Reader")
The U.S. Hispanic population reached 62.5 million in 2021, up from 50.5 million in 2010. People of Mexican origin accounted for nearly 60% (or about 37.2 million people) of the nation's overall Hispanic population as of 2021. (Pew Research Center) Many teen readers will see themselves and their lives reflected in these stories, and many more will learn more about their Mexican American peers and their daily challenges in America.
Twenty YA stories, essays, and memoirs in a variety of formats written by a variety of writers, some familiar to me, many new introductions, show “what it means to be Mexican American living in America today.”
“I lie down and my mind races.…which gets me thinking about all the things that get white washed in America, which leads me to the border wall and people saying we need to keep the Mexicans out, which gives me all kinds of bad feelings because even though I’m not Mexican-Mexican, I am Mexican-American. Someone in my past came over.” (from Lopez, Diana. “Morning People.” 91-2) ----------
All families are different and can be defined by connections between people not necessarily biologically related. Some children live in ever-changing family structures. Editor Michael Cart invited ten YA authors, such as Nikki Grimes, Sonya Sones, Walter Dean Myers, and Lois Lowry, to write stories about what “family” means in today’s world. ----------
A collection of personal stories from actors, activists, athletes, politicians, musicians, writers, and teens who share stories of facing challenges and adversity, and even hatred, because of their race, gender, or sexual identity—but, nevertheless, persisted through these obstacles to achieve success in their fields and lives.
These are stories of resilience that will resonate with some readers, enlighten others, and inspire all. Some of the contributors that teen readers will meet are teen activist Gavin Grimm, actor Maulik Pancholy, fashion model Jillian, and chef Maneet Chauhan, While most entries are essays or personal narratives, some are creatively written in such formats as a graphic story, a script, a conversation, and an interview. ----------
Daily, adolescents face moral dilemmas and have tough choices to make and, when doing so, will face consequences—positive or negative. Some decisions affect their current lives and some will affect their futures.
Sixteen YA authors, such as Will Weaver, M.E. Kerr, Gloria Miklowitz, Graham Salisbury, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Jack Gantos, and Walter Dean Myers, have contributed stories about teens dealing with such crises as peer pressure, unplanned pregnancy, drug us, gang violence—problems to which there are no easy answers. ----------
Growing up "different" in the local culture is what the authors share in Open Mic—the stories, or “riffs on life,” of being culturally different. This is a book that should be in every MS/HS classroom, preferably a copy for every student to read, a collection that will generate important conversations about race and culture and fitting in, perhaps readers choosing a selection to read and discuss in small groups.
Written in a variety of formats—graphic stories, free verse, and prose—and in first and third person perspectives, memoir and fiction (or maybe fictionalized versions of memoir) by ten different authors, many who will be recognized by adolescent readers, there are stories that will appeal to all readers and are necessary for many adolescents.
Many of the selections are hilarious; editor Mitali Perkins explains that humor is “the best way to ease…conversations about race” (Introduction), and all are enlightening. Truly, this is a collection of stories that serve as mirrors, maps, and windows. ----------
Ten original short stories about physical and psychological disabilities, such as ADD, Tourette’s Syndrome, alcoholism, blindness, obesity, asthma, brain damage, and cancer, written by such authors as Chris Crutcher, David Lubar, Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, Gail Giles, and Robert Lipsyte. ----------
On the first anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I read the writings of the survivors of that unspeakable event. In this “yearbook,” students and teachers share their stories of grief, terror, anger, and hope, and honor those who died through narratives, letters, speeches, free verse and rhyming poetry, and art. As the editor, MSD English and journalism teacher Sarah Lerner, writes, “Watching my students find their voices after someone tried to silence them was impressive…. It was awe-inspiring. It was brave…. They turned their grief into words, into pictures, into something that helped them begin the healing process.”
“[The news] keeps coming in, It doesn’t pause Or give you a break. It keeps hitting you With debilitating blows, one after the other, As those missing responses remain empty, And your messages remain unread.” –C. Chalita
“We entered a war zone.…I came out of that building a different person than the one who left for school that day.” –J. DeArce
“Somehow, through the darkness, we found another shade of love, too something that outweighed the hate and swept the grays away. A love so strong it transcended colors, something so empowering and true it couldn’t be traced to one hue.” – H. Korr
“I just don’t want to let go of all the people I love, I want to continuously tell them “I love you” until My voice is raw and my throat is sore” – S. Bonnin
“I invite you [Dear Mr. President] to learn, to hear the story from inside, Cause if not now, when will be the right time to discuss?” –A. Sheehy
A look into the minds and hearts of those who experienced an event no one, especially adolescents, should ever expect to encounter as they share with readers in similar and disparate circumstances across the globe. ----------
A collection of short stories about adolescents facing prejudice and ignorance of many types—prejudice about body image, disability, sexuality, gender, race, religion, and class issues. The stories expose the impact of prejudice on adolescents but also how it is possible for prejudice to transform into understanding, giving us hope for the future.
The characters are diverse—Latinx, Black, Asian-American, Jewish, LBGTQ, immigrant, and teens with disabilities. The authors of these fifteen stories include such well-known names as Jacqueline Woodson, Flannery O’Connor, Sandra Cisneros, Chris Crutcher, and Mitali Perkins. Even though this anthology is over twenty years old, the stories are still relevant. ----------
In his Introduction, author Gary Paulsen states, “Books saved my life. First reading and then writing them.…books are the reason I survived my miserable childhood.”
Paulsen tasked ten authors to write stories for this collection, stories that feature books, real or fictious and the young people who are changed by their encounters with books.
The stories, which “range from fantasy to farce, from realism to science fiction,” were created by authors such as Margaret Peterson Haddix, Ellen Wittlinger, M.T. Anderson, A, LaFaye, and Joan Bauer. ----------
Every story starts with an inspiration—a picture, an object, a news article, a scene, a memory, the list can be endless. One of the most creative collections I have read, this Project celebrates not only stories, but story seeds. Editor and teacher Colby Sharp tasked 44 well-known and beloved authors with creating story prompts for each other, and the resulting short prose stories, graphic stories, poems, and illustrations can, in turn, be employed as mentor writings and prompts.
Contributors include Grace Lin, Tracey Baptiste, R.J. Palacio, Kate DiCamillo, Lemony Snicket, Naolmi Shihab Nye, Sherman Alexie, Linda Sue Park, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Kate Messner. This book will be a treasure for teachers of reading and writing and will entice even the most reluctant readers. ----------
These thirteen MG short stories explore everyday acts of bravery among our families, neighbors, and friends; deeds that make our world a better, kinder place to live. A true multicultural collection, authors include familiar and new (to some readers) names from diverse cultures, such as R.J. Palacio, Linda Sue Park, Hena Khan, Cynthia Leitich, Ellen Oh, Lamar Giles, and Joseph Bruchac, whose stories offer diverse characters and a variety of perspectives. ----------
Twelve stories featuring the world of guns and how they different adolescents in divergent paces and situations, written by such authors as Walter Dean Myers, Richard Peck, Chris Lynch, Frederick Bush, and Rita Williams-Garcia. ----------
Ultimate Sports edited by Donald R. Gallo
Sixteen original stories about basketball and football, track and cross-country, water sports, racquetball and tennis, boxing and wrestling, featuring both male and female athletes. These stories are not only about the sports, they are about the advantages, such as teamwork, self-esteem, overcoming adversity, and perseverance, as well as the disappointments, competitions, and physical and psychological injuries that can result. Authors include Harry Mazer, Norma Fox Mazer, Carl Deuker, Will Weaver, Todd Strasser, and sports reporter Robert Lipsyte. ----------
The protagonists in each of these fictional stories are challenged by a diverse range of disabilities, such vision and ambulation impairment, anxiety, chronic pain, Bi-Polar Disorder, schizophrenia, cerebral palsy, and autism, and are offered different levels of support.
This is a true windows-mirrors collection that will invite readers into the worlds of those who navigate life differently, even in different time periods and also feature culturally-diverse characters. As an #OwnVoices collection, all the authors identify as disabled along a physical, mental, or neuro-diverse axis, authors, many new to me, such as Francisco X, Stork, Heidi Heilig, Dhonielle Clayton, Corinne Duyvis, and Kody Keplinger. ----------
Visions: Nineteen Short Stories edited by Donald R. Gallo
Nineteen original short stories about the joys and sorrows of teens, including romance, family divorce, death and loss, written by such authors as Fran Arrick, Joan Aiken, Cin Forshay-Lunsford, Jane Yolen, and Lensey Namioka. ----------
According to editor Asimov, “Fantasy is a story that isn’t true, and can’t be.” This collection will introduce adolescent readers to fantasy or to acquaint fantasy-readers to a variety of popular fantasy authors. The twelve stories feature witches, princes, dragons, victims, and evil forces and were written by such writers as Ray Bradbury, Madeleine L’Engle, Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville, and Isaac Asimov. ----------
A phobia is not just a fear but an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something, a debilitating anxiety.
Eleven authors, including Joan Bauer, Alex Flinn, Neil Shusterman, Nancy Springer, Angela Johnson, and David Lubar, present ten stories about agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and intense fears of clowns, sharp knives, crossing streets, string, and public speaking and how their characters deal with these phobias. ----------
When I Was Your Age, Volumes I & II: Original Stories about Growing Up edited by Amy Ehrlich
Two collections of short funny, poignant, exciting memoirs by twenty well-known MG/YA authors, including Avi, Francesca Lia Block, Joseph Bruchac, Susan Cooper, Paul Fleischman, Karen Hesse, James Howe, E. L. Konigsburg, Reeve LIndbergh, Norma Fox Mazer, Nicholasa Mohr, Kyoko Mori, Walter Dean Myers, Howard Norman, Mary Pope Osborne, Katherine Paterson, Michael J. Rosen, Rita Williams-Garcia, Laurence Yep, and Jane Yolen.
The authors also explain why they chose a particular memory as the basis for their memoir. Stories focus on events, people, places, or objects, and, in that way, lend themselves to serving as mentor texts for different types of memoir writing. ----------
“Journalism itself is, as we know, history’s first draft.” (xiii) With Their Eyes was written from not only a unique perspective—those who watched the attack on the World Trade Center and the fall of the towers from their vantage point at Stuyvesant High School, a mere four blocks from Ground Zero, but in a unique format. Inspired by the work of Anna Deavere Smith whose work combines interviews of subjects with performance to interpret their words, English teacher Annie Thomas led one student director, two student producers, and ten student cast members in the creation—the writing and performance—of this play.
The students interviewed members of the Stuyvesant High study body, faculty, administration, and staff and turned their stories of the historic day and the days that followed into poem-monologues. They transcribed and edited these interviews, keeping close to the interviewees’ words and speech patterns because “each individual has a particular story to tell and the story is more than words: the story is its rhythms and its breaths.” (xiv) They next rehearsed the monologues, each actor playing a variety of roles. Although cast members were chosen from all four grades and to represent the school’s diversity, actors did not necessarily match the culture of their interviewees. They next planned the order of the stories to speak to each other, “paint a picture of anger and panic, of hope and strength, of humor and resilience” (7), rehearsed, and presented two performances in February 2002.
With Their Eyes presents the stories of those affected by the events of 9/11 in diverse ways. It shares the stories of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, special education students, an English teacher, a Social Studies teacher, the School Safety Agent, the Building Coordinator, a dining hall worker, a custodian, an assistant principal, and more, some male, some female, some named, others remain anonymous. Written as a play, readers are given a description of each character. Read and performed as a play, readers will experience the effect of Nine Eleven on others, actual people who lived that day and persisted in those days that followed, sharing their big moments and little thoughts. With Their Eyes was written with the thoughts and pens of a school community. ----------
Teens should realize that no young person—female or male—should be subject to sexual assault, or made to feel unsafe, less than, or degraded. Twenty-five YA authors share personal stories of physical and verbal abuse, harassment, and assault—from strangers, acquaintances, and family members. Included in this volume are stories of trial, loss, shame, and resilience and, most important, acknowledging self-worth.
These essays illustrate to adolescent readers that there is no “right” way to deal with trauma; each survivor has to find their own way of processing and surviving trauma. This book will not only provide a mirror, sometimes unexpectedly, for some readers and a window for others, helping to build empathy, but will offer a map for many readers.
This is a book that needs to be read and discussed by young women and men and the adults in their lives. Some familiar authors of diverse cultures who share their experiences are Eileen Hopkins, Cheryl Rainfield, Patty Blout, Ronni Davis, Nicholas DiDomizio, Andrea L. Rogers, and Lulabel Seitz. ----------