A Reading List from the “Midwestern Black Professor Teaching MAGA Babies”

This reading list is a followup to the essay “The Midwestern Black Professor Teaching MAGA Babies is Not Alright”.

Like most other university writing programs out there, my program had a list of suggested readings. There are some great writers and composition theorists on that list, Donald Murray, Ann Lamott, and others. Except for one essay by bell hooks, the were few women (and virtually no melanin) on that long list of very white writers. As a professional writer, I’ve read so very many essays and books by black writers, writers of color, and writers from the LGBTQ community. I knew that there were more voices out there that could teach the students the same lessons while also offering them a look into someone else’s world.

So, I sought out stories and articles that spoke to a different perspective. For my students at that Northwest Indiana college, these stories often became their first exposure to a perspective that wasn’t white, male, cis-gendered, or heterosexual. I did keep a few items from my program’s suggested list, and I have added some new materials each semester. Here, I offer you a list of the readings I used for my classes. The .pdfs for many of the readings listed are available by signing up for the “Notes from Midwestern Black Professor Teaching MAGA Babies” newsletter.

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Photo by iam Se7en on Unsplash

The List

Who Gets to Graduate?” by Paul Tough for the New York Times.

“Writing Autobiography” by bell hooks.

A Writer’s Process” by Hailey Cantor for The New Yorker.

“Simplicity” by William Zinsser.

“Making Meaning Clear: The Logic of Revision” by Donald Murray.

“My Family Slave” by Alex Tizon for The Atlantic.

Going It Alone” by Rahawa Haile for Outside Online.

“The Waynes v Johnsons of Abermarle County” by Tyrese Coleman.

Peculiar Benefits” by Roxane Gay for The Rumpus.

Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person” by Gina Crosley-Corcoran for HuffPost.

I am Full of Contradictions: Amy Tan on Faith and Family” by Terry Gross for NPR.

A Study Found Adults See Black Girls as ‘Less Innocent,’ Shocking Everyone but Black Moms” by Jonita Davis for Washington Post.

The Danger of Disclosure” by Roxane Gay for Creative Nonfiction.

What is DACA?” by The University of California Berkeley.

Grammar is Dead: Long Live Grammar Nerds” by Jen Doll for The Atlantic.

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Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

A Veteran ICE Agent, Disillusioned with Trump, Speaks Out” by Jonathan Blitzer for The New Yorker.

The Lying Art of Historical Fiction” by James Forrester for The Guardian.

We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here’s What We Learned” by Laura Sydell for NPR’s All Things Considered.

What Does It Mean to Be Articulate” Jamilah Lyscott for NPR’s Ted Radio Hour.

New to the List for this Semester

A Letter to Marlon Brando About Putting an Indian on the Oscar Stage” by Tommy Orange for The Nation.

For the Jews — Life or Death” by IF Stone for The Nation.

The Vital Importance of Learning to See Latinos in Trump’s America” by Graciela Mochkofsky for The New Yorker.

Dear White Girls in My Spanish Class” by Ariana Brown for Write About Now.

The Assignment

The students are expected to read the assignments, but I don’t stop there. Each student completes a summary/strong response essay for each reading. The essay is a page or two about the reading, a short rhetorical analysis, and an overall judgment of the text. We then have a discussion on the day this essay is due.

The discussion on some of these readings is really rich. Students are often upset about ending our talks. A few times, the discussion has overtaken the entire class period. I suggest taking notes of your own and highlighting areas that may give the students difficulty.

And don’t shy away because of your own discomfort with the text. In fact, sit with that prior to class and write about your thoughts. Some of your students may have the same feelings and they may need you to help them navigate them in the classroom.

For More Info and Updates

You can keep up with me as I continue to teach writing to freshmen students. Just sign up for my monthly newsletter here. In addition to stories from the classroom, I’ll also send out resources (like this reading list) that you can use in bringing the race and diversity conversation to your classroom.

I would love to hear your suggestions for my reading list leave a note in the comments or hit me up on social media.

Written by

Jonita Davis is a writer, film critic, and professor. She’s a member of NABJ, AAFCA, a Rotten Tomatoes critic, and an adjunct professor.

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