Connecting Lines: Building Empathy Through Literature
January 11, 2017: Introduction
Why Literature Matters and How Reading Leads to Empathy: A Reading and Lecture Series presented by Dr. Pearl A. McHaney Kenneth M. England Professor of Southern Literature at Georgia State University.
In light of the calls for justice in the US, and hearing our leaders from many areas say that one action that should be taken is to consider others, to think about being in their shoes, their situations, to understand the daily fear people of color experience, Pearl McHaney will present the following series for the Georgia Center for the Book for Spring 2017. Pearl believes that the way to the future is not in how we are different but how we are the same and that literature provides the thinking and actions that are being called for. The texts she will present include young adult, adult, and crossover novels. The lectures will be suitable for general audience, young people, parents, and teachers. Attendees could read the books or not. Pearl will be bringing the texts to light in how the authors and their characters see other worlds, recognize and work with difference, make decisions, learn empathy.
February 1, 2017
African American Young Men in Jails and Wars: Walter Dean Myers’ Monster, Fallen Angels, and Sunrise over Fallujah.
Myers is the most celebrated African American writer of novels for young adults. His more than 100 books have earned him the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement (1994), the Coretta Scott King — Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement (2010), and in 2012 he was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by Library of Congress.
In Monster, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon finds himself in jail, a detention center, for being an accessory to a murder and writes his imagined trial as a screenplay.
Fallen Angels tells the story of young Richie Perry in Vietnam, fighting to stay alive as his buddies fall, as he faces death. Critics ranked Fallen Angels with Michael Herr’s Dispatches and Tim O’Brien’s Going after Cacciato.
In Sunrise over Fallujah, Perry’s nephew, nicknamed Birdie, is an army recruit in the Afghan War, a culture and time seemingly different from what he expected from his uncle’s letters written decades earlier.
March 1, 2017
Gangs, Bullies, and Difference: S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, and R. J. Palacio’s Wonder.
The classic teen book The Outsiders, written by S. E. Hinton when she was 16, that pits the Socs and the Greasers against one another is resolved when Pony boy discovers that people are more alike than they are different.
Spokane Indian Arnold Spirit, Jr. (Junior) uses cartoons and humor to negotiate his “part-time-ness” as he attends a white school off the Reservation in Alexie’s graphic novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, a book that quickly became a twenty-first century classic read alongside The Outsiders.
Adding to the angst of adolescence and the push and pull of values a visible difference that marks Auggie Pullman more so than even skin color, Wonder by R. J. Palacio is also a coming-of-age story in a school setting.
March 29, 2017
Choices and Their Consequences: Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Lois Lowry’s The Giver.
In each of these novels, classics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the protagonists are faced with nearly overwhelming odds as they revolt against the status quo of their cultures. How Huck Finn and Jonas come to realize their worlds as drastically flawed and how they make decisions suggest to readers that choices have consequences, sometimes favorable, sometimes disastrous.
April 19, 2017
Individuals and Communities: Toni Morrison’s A Mercy and Beloved.
Nobel Prize novelist Toni Morrison writes about each of us, no matter the setting, the conflict, or the race of the characters. In A Mercy, Morrison asks how one can be an individual with one’s own priorities and values and at the same time belong to a community. Can one stand alone without the sustaining support of others? A Mercy asks “When did the color of skin first determine one’s identity?”
Beloved, Pulitzer Prize-winning neo-slave narrative, powerfully illustrates the feelings of being enslaved and the power, detrimental and enriching, of both communities and individuals.