Young Adult Lit/Crit

May 6, 2008

Seminar Feedback for Allison, Erica, and Joyce.

Filed under: Uncategorized — jexter1 @ 10:58 pm


My first seminar, and a powerful one at that. Allison introduced her seminar, Viewing Sept. 11, 2001 and the Aftermath Using YA Literature, with an emotional and touching reflection on our whereabouts and experiences during 9/11. This segued us into a conversation on a multitude of texts discussing 9/11, the aftermath, racism, prejudice, and The War on Terrorism. Allison brought an incredible variety of genres: graphic novels, poetry, prose, fiction, non-fiction, etc.

I particularly liked Allison’s extension activity on Zoya’s Story: An Afghan Women’s Struggle for Freedom, because it included modern technology and raised awareness of the many issues that resulted from 9/11. Allison’s activity requires an iSearch to explore Afghanistan and its history. Students discuss their views on sexism, and critically look at the main character’s thoughts on American presence in Afghanistan. I found Allison’s activities applicable for all grades, and highly necessary for today’s and tomorrow’s generations.

Lastly, the article on “Unveiling Students’ Perceptions about Women in Islam” offered a strong argument for the need to increase Islamic female roles in YA literature. I learned from the article, and Allison, that women are often misrepresented and oppressed in literature as well as society. Stereotypes may be reconsidered if younger generations are made aware of them and the truths of Islamic women. Also, the article introduces us with a list of characteristics that describe the objectification of Islamic women. As Allison wrote on the margin, these descriptions are excellent discussion starters. Being a fairly new topic YA literature can explore many angles of 9/11, the aftermath, and The War on Terrorism.


Erica’s seminar piece on Pregnant and Parenting Teens in YA Literature was informative and intriguing. She demonstrated a great deal of preparation by introducing the seminar with statistics and a discussion on the topic of teen pregnancy. In order to bring relevance into the room, Erica disclosed the connections she has to others who have dealt with teen pregnancy. I found Erica’s candidness with us and respect for those who have had to grow up quicker than other teenagers both astounding and admirable.

The most important and memorable part of Erica’s seminar was her discussion of today’s statistics on teen pregnancy and parenting, and her book selection. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the books! “Annie’s’ Baby,” is the first book on Erica’s Extension Activities list and the book I borrowed afterwards for Book Club. Erica implements journal/reflective writing into this exercise, which is a powerful way to receive honest responses from the students.

I particularly enjoyed reading the article titled “Facts and Fictions: Teen Pregnancy in Young Adult Literature.” The article presents the topic of abortion in YA literature, and how it comes hand-in-hand with teen pregnancy issues. The article explains that abortion is too much a personal, familial, and religious topic that it has been avoided in literature. Erica, as well as I, pointed out that with teen pregnancy comes the question of how one will deal with the situation. Abortion, adoption, and motherhood are the options that come to mind in the case of teen pregnancy, and need to be part of the text if YA literature does in fact mirror reality.


Autism, a disability that hits close to home after six years of working with children and teens struggling with it, was a challenging topic for someone to tackle; yet, Joyce demonstrated extensive knowledge, research, and care for the topic. We all shared our experiences with Autism, as well as Joyce’s connection to it. The fact that Joyce received others’ input with open arms, even if it was a fact or statistic that she was unaware of, allowed us to see a glimpse of the supportive, warm, non-superficial teacher Joyce will be.

We began with a New York Times article titled “Autism as Metaphor.” I particularly liked this article because it identifies Autism as a condition that once disabled, but now can create intellectual, talented, profound human beings. Characters with Autism in YA literature from years back were characterized as “animalistic” and occasionally violent. Now, it has turned into an exploration of the human psyche, unconventional thought processes, and brilliant people (known as Savants to many), which has expanded the options for storylines and characters. Can Autism be a metaphor and not always a medical term? Yes. For young adults to want to learn about Autism, it needs to be translated into the language and interests of teenagers.

Joyce’s extension exercise titled “Thinking in Image and Language” is my personally favorite. She parallels this exercise with the novel “Rules,” a story about a young boy with Autism who in non-verbal. This exercise practices non-verbal communication, which forces the students to explore the point of view and life of a non-verbal Autistic child for a class period. Students must translate their thoughts and words on a particular topic into pictures on an index card. Finding pictures that equate to words will be a challenge, but comprehending a message written in the form of pictures teaches a whole new language. I would love to use this in future classes, because I envision the students having fun while simultaneously learning and empathizing with non-verbal people with Autism.

Great job, ladies! ~Jessica


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