Dear English teacher,

There are so many wonderful books that are considered classics. Having to narrow it down to one semester’s worth of choices is something I have discussed with others on more than one occasion. Your choices are somber and thought provoking. Even with the focus on emotional struggle that you have chosen, I have to question your inclusion of Chopin’s “The Awakening.” Yes, it certainly qualifies as a classic piece of literature. It is also one of the most depressing books I have ever read. I read it as an adult and it made me want to dress in black and comb my hair over my eyes. I cannot imagine emotional roller coaster teenagers emerging from this book’s study enlightened.

I recognize that feminist literature choices tend to be pessimistic and misandrous. I understand that you are trying to avoid literature that includes sexual themes. Still, isn’t there anything that they could read which doesn’t romanticize suicide? Are there no books for teens that are inspiring or hopeful? Would it be terrible if they read a book that made them laugh?


Reading List for this class: The Awakening, In Cold Blood, Native Son, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Things They Carried, Life of Pi, The Sound and the Fury, The Grapes of Wrath and The Catcher in the Rye.

6 thoughts on “Dear English teacher,

  1. Paula, I disliked the Catcher in the Rye as well. I really didn’t get it..and couldn’t finish it. It was about a not terribly bright teen who liked to curse a lot.

    Their Eyes Were Watching God was horrible IMHO also.

    I do love Steinbeck though…seems like they could try to find more balance.

  2. glad I am not the only one I am so tired of everyone who loooved that book it also makes me wonder if they only read the cliff they still make cliff notes?

  3. I agree regarding Catcher & TEWWG. I love Steinbeck. I’m reading Life of Pi right now and am devestated by the tragedy around page 137:(

    I understand about wanted/needing to avoid sexual issues, but, while also a bummer, The Color Purple is way superior to TWEEG.

    Are any classics not a bummer?!

    Walden Pond;
    A Tale of Two Cities (yep, there’s suffering & execution, but it’s a beautiful story about friendship/loyalty – and, that trumps the bad stuff);
    Cannery Row – it’s hilarious;
    East of Eden – it’s such a soap opera – I loved Lee!;
    Anything Vonnegutt – serious subjects but he makes you laugh uncomfortably and with admiration;

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