For this essay, I want you to think about the narrative voices that you’ve read/heard speaking to a particular topic or theme. Specifically, consider the ways that Literature opens up a space for people whose voices might not be heard otherwise. For example, you may want to analyze the way various writers and speakers talk about their access to power, to a quality education, or to meaningful and profitable work; or their vulnerability as a result of poverty/race/religion/etc; or their experience of violence/abuse/oppression/etc.
Choose up to three works of Literature (poems or short stories) that share a theme. Write a thesis-driven essay analyzing the role and value of Literature in expressing and/or understanding the experiences of marginalized communities.
Use your introduction to prepare your reader for the topic or theme you are going to focus on. You do not necessarily need to introduce all of the texts you plan to include, but if you are looking at just one, you may want to do that.
Your thesis should make an argument about the value of Literature in the expression and/or understanding of the theme. Remember, you are trying to find a narrow focus that is supported by each of the texts that you have chosen. Here’s a video about finding the theme and looking for evidence (Links to an external site.).
The body of your essay should use specific evidence from the poems/short stories to support your claim. Consider organizing around subtopics, rather than each text.
Be sure to fully interpret and analyze the examples you pull from the readings; in particular, explore the language, style, form, and/or context (historical, social, political, etc) of the words, phrases, and passages that you draw into your essay and explain the significance to your reader. You may want to review the Guide to Close Reading (Links to an external site.) for tips on how to really dig into the poem or short story.
You can use the Oxford English Dictionary as a resource and any of the speeches or videos included in this unit, but no other outside research. See list below for non-fiction (speeches and videos) source options.
You may want to use the conclusion to talk about how you/we benefit from the Literature in this unit OR how this theme/topic fits into your/our experience of the world today.
At least one and as many as three fiction selections from the class reading packet for this unit (see below for complete list)
MLA formatting, including a Works Cited page
An original title
Full List of Sources
Martin Luther King, Jr “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
Malcolm X “The Ballot or the Bullet”
Elizabeth Alexander “Praise Song for the Day”
Sherman Alexie “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel”
Richard Blanco “One Today”
Gwendolyn Brooks “We Real Cool”
Lorna Dee Cervantes “Poemas para los Californios Muertos”
Viola Correa “La Nueva Chicana”
Rita Dove “Claudette Colvin Goes to Work”
Martin Espada “Litany at the Tomb of Frederick Douglass”
Nikki Giovanni “Revolutionary Dreams”
Amanda Gorman “The Hill We Climb”
Juan Felipe Herrera “Almost Livin’ Almost Dyin'”
Langston Hughes “I, Too, Sing America”
Maria Melendez Kelson “ICE Agents Storm My Front Porch”
Kendrick Lamar “DNA”
Ed Bok Lee “If in America”
Philip Levin “By Bus to Fresno”
Claude McKay “If We Must Die”
Yukio Ota “Faith”
Dudley Randall “Ballad of Birmingham”
Carolyn Roger “The Last M.F.”
Carl Sandburg “I am the People — the Mob”
Clint Smith “The Drone”
Danez Smith “Dear White America”
Paul Tran “Mr Potato Head”
Natasha Trethewey “White Lies”
James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”
Sterling Brown “And/Or”
Charles W Chestnutt “The Sheriff’s Children”
Jaime Cortez “Ofelia’s Last Ride”
WEB DuBois “The Comet”
Zora Neale Hurston “How the Church Came to Be Split up”
Jhumpa Lahiri “A Temporary Matter”
Viet Thahn Nguyen’s “The War Years”
Any of the supplemental videos we watched:
Many Rivers to Cross, Ep 4