Monday, September 29, 2014

Who Am I Without Him? Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their Lives by Sharon G. Flake

Engaging short stories written in African American voices for teens are always in demand and not always easy to find.  Enter Sharon G. Flake, author of The Skin I’m In and Money Hungry, with this collection geared toward girls, originally suggested to me by my colleague Chrystal Stewart.  While this book makes for an enjoyable read from start to finish, three stories recommend themselves to ELA faculty.  “Don’t Be Disrespecting Me,”  one of the collection’s few stories written with third-person narration, would serve as an accessible lesson on characterization and offers a good match with a Venn diagram or other compare and contrast  graphic organizers. This tale meaningfully contrasts two teen males, Erin and Noodles, who are friends striving to make it through high school in the face of poverty and who approach their frustrations differently.  Another stand-out is the last story, written in epistolary form and entitled “A Letter to My Daughter.”  Articulated in the voice of an absent father returned from prison after a decade or so, the narrator speaks to his daughter from a distance about her experiences becoming a young woman.  Full of admonitions, this story pairs interestingly with Lupe Mendez’s “What Should Run in the Mind of Caballeros” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” for students learning to think critically about voice, form, and purpose.  Chrystal additionally favors the collection’s first story, “So I Ain’t No Good Girl.” This book works well as an independent read for middle school and younger high school girls, but the true beauty of a collection like this one is that students are likely to become motivated to read it on their own after reading one or two of its stories with an engaging teacher. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Flake, Sharon G.  Who Am I Without Him?  New York: Jump at the Sun, 2007.


Click here for the author's discussion guide to the book found on her website.

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