Young Adult Lit/Crit

May 8, 2008

Feedback for Jess

Filed under: seminar feedback — allison @ 9:25 am

Last night I attended Jess’ seminar on sex and sexual content in young adult literature. Jess did a great job of putting this together and keeping us interested for the whole session.

The most compelling aspect of Jess’ seminar was her focus on the difference between sex in the health class and sex in the ELA class. In the ELA class, topics of sex should be more critical: issues of rape, date rape, what’s ok and what’s not, and the emotions involved in sex. The final topic was discussed at length. Jess pointed out that most health classes do not include this aspect. In one of the articles she gave us, a girl wrote that if she had learned about these emotions from reading Judy Blume’s Forever before having sex, she might have held off. It seems like sex can be messy for high school students. Jess’ seminar showed us how we could show students the truth about sex, and maybe help them out before they get themselves in too deep.

Jess had several books of interest, but I left wanting to read two in particular. The first is Forever by Judy Blume. It is considered revolutionary and has been banned in many arenas. Hence, an essential read. The second is Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis. I’d like to read this book because it’s based on a true story. I think it’s a shocking practice that has really caught on in the past few years. It sounds like a good book to recommend to students who may be engaging in dangerous sexual practices in high school.

The extension assignments that Jess created for her seminar were also a strong point. These assignments were completely removed from the typical essays and book reports that are so common and worn out in English classrooms. She suggested persuasive writing, a debate, and a musical assignment. I felt that the last two were particularly strong. A debate is a great way for students to develop their speaking and listening skills in the ELA classroom- two easily overlooked NYS standards.

The final aspect of Jess’ seminar that I would like to address is her engagement with critical literacy. While we did not discuss critical lenses directly, her entire topic embraced the principals of critical literacy. Through this seminar topic, she is encouraging English teachers to take up a difficult and uncomfortable topic, but one that is very relevant to teens. She is asking us to speak honestly with them, and encourage them to look at the issue critically by investigating controversial practices. In a way, this is cultural criticism, which is the lens that I would employ with this topic. Of course, many other lenses would be applicable: feminist, afro, marxist, etc. (What are our social expectations? How are women viewed differently when it comes to sex? How are they oversexualized? How does the music industry sexualize african americans? How do the economically disadvantaged feel the consequences of unsafe sex more than others?) The list goes on. I believe these lenses would be a very compelling way to approach this topic in a classroom.

Great Job Jess! Thanks for getting me thinking about this topic!




  1. Thanks, Allison! Your feedback helped relieve the stress of this week’s chaos, and your elaboration on the topic made me think even deeper about it.

    Comment by jexter1 — May 8, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  2. Sounds like it was a great seminar, Jess. Congratulations! Allison, I looked up Rainbow Party via your Amazon link and was surprised by the content of the book (and oral sex party) but also noted that most of the reviews criticized the writing of this book. From Publishers Weekly: “the story here is not as compelling as its premise.” From School Library Journal: “with its too-obvious agenda, much of the novel seems forced, but particularly curious readers will plow through to the end. Melvin Burgess’s Doing It (Holt, 2004) is far more graphic in its depiction of teen sexuality, but it is a much better crafted book.” Not to mention the reveiws from readers.

    What do you think? How important is good writing when a book covers important material? How can good writing enhance a controversial topic? Jess, what was your take on this book compared to others in terms of the quality of writing?


    Comment by sostrom — May 8, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

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