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  • Writer's pictureShira

Books From My High School Syllabus

Happy Monday! My (virtual) college classes start this week so I thought I'd do a short school related post and share some books I read in high school that deserve a spot in the Crooked Canon. One note, I did read important books in 10th grade, but my class focused on non-fiction so none are included here.


9th Grade

The Joy Luck Club -- Amy Tan (1989)

(tw: drug overdose)

Following a family of immigrants, this book provides commentary on a society that, unfortunately, hasn't changed much in 30 years. Although there are many recent novels and memoirs that perhaps do a better job of addressing the experience of immigrants in our current time, this book is still a valuable exploration of identity and raises questions about the effects of generational change on cultural connection.


11th Grade

Their Eyes Were Watching God -- Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

(tw: domestic abuse)

To be fair, this book is included in Harold Bloom's canon and is generally considered an important work in literary history, but it still deserves a spot on this list. Although this novel was not initially well received by other authors of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston is now recognized as an influential writer who helped inspire leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Not only is this book an essential examination of racial inequality in America, it is a beautifully written story about growth and female liberation.


12th Grade

Song of Solomon -- Toni Morrison (1977)

(tw: suicide)

This book is also a part of Bloom's canon and Morrison is arguably one of the most well-respected black authors in literary academia, a status which she rightfully deserves. However, this list would not be complete without my favorite book from all of my high school English classes. It's hard to explain what makes this book so special, but it has always stuck with me. Morrison's writing is almost lyrical and she manages to weave a story that feels like it was personally written for you.

The Awakening -- Kate Chopin (1899)

Yet another book that Bloom includes. (Hey, he gets it right sometimes!) My AP Lit class was pretty evenly split on opinions of this book, but I personally enjoyed it. It's not that the story is anything particularly interesting, but the focus on a woman's experience with sex, love, and motherhood was revolutionary in the late 19th century and continues to be relevant today. Even in our modern day, the difficulty of motherhood (including the common occurrence of postpartum depression) and the way having children affects a woman's physical and emotional freedom are considered taboo topics. This book tackles it all head-on.

W;t (Wit) -- Margaret Edson (first performed in 1995)

This play won a Pulitzer so you know it has to be good! The one-act is well-written and heart-breaking. I personally find plays difficult to get into, due to the knowledge that it's a visual medium and reading can never do it justice. Despite my tendency to avoid plays, this one was definitely worth stepping outside of my comfort zone.


BONUS BOOK:

The House on Mango Street -- Sandra Cisneros (1991)

(tw: child abuse, rape)

I absolutely love this book, but it's a bonus because I actually read it in middle school. This novel is one of the best coming-of-age stories I've ever read and the use of vignettes is a unique form of storytelling that truly capture the voice of its young narrator.



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