Sunday, April 17, 2011

Novel Suggestions, Please

Next fall, I'll be teaching a developmental writing class for the first time in about 7-8 years. It's one step below transfer level, and we're supposed to encourage a lot of reading. Most instructors teach one or two novels, and I plan to do two. But I'm having a hard time deciding which novels to teach, and book orders were due Friday.

I want texts with good, clean prose that will also be high interest. I think I'm pretty well decided on doing Victor Martinez's "Parrot in the Oven." I'm considering "Half-Broke Horses" for the second novel, but I've also thought of doing "Water for Elephants." WFE would probably hold their interest, but I'm not convinced it's good enough or that it has enough heft to see us through.

I thought about doing Jekyll and Hyde or another fun classic, but I really think these students would rely too heavily on SparkNotes, which undermines the whole purpose of getting them to read a lot.

So, at this point, I'm taking suggestions.

17 comments:

heu mihi said...

I don't know if this is AT ALL what you would go for, but for some reason "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" sprang into my head. But it might be totally wrong for the class, I don't know; feel free to ignore.

Bardiac said...

If you're open to a non-fiction, Kao Kalia Yang's The Latehomecomer works wonderfully in the classroom.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I always recommend The Hunger Games. For any class. If your students are below transfer, they probably aren't big readers. I think teaching a YA novel would be great for students like that. in fact, you could teach the fist two books of the series if you want. My students adore these books.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

First two books. Damn iPhone making me look bad.

annieem said...

I haven't taught developmental in a while, but when I did, I used a graphic novel like "Maus". There are just so many ideas for novels, that I begin to give you a list. It depends on the type of writing you want them to do.

My current institution prefers to use non fiction, and students often write on topic related to the subject, or modeling the genre in some way.

Good luck: I'd love to hear what you choose.

Good Enough Woman said...

heu, I downloaded it last night to check it out. It has definite potential!

Bardiac, I just look it. have you also read "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down"? I really liked that one.

I thought about that, but I thought I might get grief from the faculty who lead our basic skills program. So I think I mint hold off and reconsider Hunger Games if I teach the class for a while.

annieem, Most of our faculty lean towards fiction, but I can also do non-fiction. I'm thinking I want a novel that might include potential writing topics for argument. But it doesn't have to be TOO issue heavy. I'm leaning towards a novel so that students can explore novelistic language as well as engage with writing topics. But I don't want something too stylistic (or dialect heavy) b/c I want good prose models. I think Parrot in the Oven will be good in all of these ways. I have never taught Maus, but I have friends who have. I was also hoping to find something kind of new so that students won't find too much if they google the book. Tall order, right?

C. Troubadour said...

I finished Monique Truong's Bitter in the Mouth a few months ago -- it has CRAZY twists that made it a compelling read. No idea if this makes sense for your curriculum, but it is a novel with terrific, accessible language. And a protagonist who tastes words when she hears and says them.

Anonymous said...

I've had good luck with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; students really enjoy the narrative voice, though it's longer than many of the other suggestions...

Bardiac said...

I've read the Fadiman, and it's good. But Yang's book is written from within the community, and my students really responded to that. Also, I've heard Yang speak to students, and she blows them away. So if your school develops a magic budget...

Suz said...

The first time I taught developmental, I was assigned Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time and they couldn't relate. I even tried showing Rainman simultaneously, which helped some, but I've had the best luck with Mice & Men. The language is simple, the length is not intimidating, and it speaks to everything (racism, feminism, classism, etc.) and you can dig as deeply or superficially as you want!

Good Enough Woman said...

Suz, Oh, man! I had just *finally* decided to do "Curious Incident" and now I'm thrown! I'm really trying to avoid something that would lead them to SparkNotes. Isn't that sad? I avoid the classics because there are too many opportunities for plagiarism and lazy practice?

Back to the drawing board?

courtney said...

Just my 2 cents, but I always teach non-fiction. Developmental reading and writing classes cannot understand the point of fiction (why read made-up stories?), and since the goal is to get them to enjoy reading, non-fiction usually captures their attention more quickly (it's a real story, they often proclaim!). I also do reading groups, which are student led, though they get to choose which novels (they do read 2) from a list of 6 I provide.

Good Enough Woman said...

Courts, I thought about doing the choices (I used to do that), but since I haven't taught the class in a while, I thought I might want to keep us all on the same page (in more ways than one). Maybe I should go back to an earlier idea of assigning "Glass Castle."

Ink said...

Have been thinnking about this since you posted it, and I am wondering if you've considered a graphic novel?

Strongly recommended.

Ink said...

Left a comment/disappeared.

Have you thought about doing a graphic novel? I think those can be especially interesting to discuss with students.

TKW said...

Hmmmm. What a dilemma.

I like Ink's idea of a graphic novel...Persepolis? Watchmen?

I did love Water for Elephants, but the length may seem daunting for some.

Glass Castle is an excellent choice. Angela's Ashes?

I loved Curious Incident and I loathe Of Mice and Men...don't know why I hate it so much.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?

Can't wait to hear what you decide!

Anonymous said...

I've taught developmental reading and English courses many, many times. I've always had good luck with James McBride's The Color of Water. It's an easy, high interest read. Whatever you choose, good luck!