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Holes in Racial Constructions

Page history last edited by Abigail Heiniger 3 years, 6 months ago

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Yesterday, Bishop Brown made a startling and powerful statement that gets to the root of this class. He said that reconciliation among believers begins at the ROOT of the issue of difference and hatred. When he was talking to a group of white pastors who wanted to start creating partnerships with African-American churches, he said, it comes down to one question: Would you let my son date your daughter? 


This is the root of the curse in Holes and the issue we are exploring this semester. How do race, sex, and citizenship collide in ethnic and regional literature? 


As Pastor Moore stated, he sees more PLACISM than straight racism in our society. Our negotiation of race, is never limited to race and ethnicity alone.    


Dr. King said that we need to be free to SPEAK and free to CHANGE our ideas if there is ever going to be change in this world. This class should be a space where everyone has that freedom! You are going to be shaping the world as you leave BC - this class is about preparing for that! 


It also means that knowledge does not flow one way in this class! This is a place for discussions - especially discussions that lead to CREATIVE TENSION. As Dr. King said in his letter, this creative tension is the catalyst for change. We never change without it! 




Book Break:

Break into groups and look at the picture books spread out on the table. Can you find a picture that you would have identified with as a kid? 


Discussion Questions:

How important was it for you to be able to visually identify with characters in books as a kid? 



Diversity Question:

When I say the words "diversity" and "children's lit" what is the first thing that pops into your head? Write it down. Now, what ELSE could diversity mean?  



Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/raceindicators/indicator_rbb.asp. 10/16/2018.


When this data was taken in 2013, only FIFTY PERCENT of students identified as white, which means that HALF of the students in public schools around the US ALREADY identify as members of racial and ethnic minorities. However, FAR MORE than 50% of children's and YA literature is written by white authors (and features white characters). OUR LITERATURE IS NOT KEEPING PACE WITH THE BEAUTIFUL DIVERSITY OF OUR SCHOOLS! 


I was talking with a colleague and we realized that in our experiences, a student's first introduction to their own heritage may be through art and literature in your class. In literature, we learn about our pasts and often find ourselves. With that in mind, think about the ways you need to MODEL speech, action, and belief in your class as we work journey into the world of children's literature for the next two weeks. How could you use these texts, or ones like them, to empower your students?  



Holes in Racial Constructions


Louis Sachar's Holes is classified as a Young Adult novel. The label is misleading, because "Young Adult" novels are actually directed at school-age children (anywhere from fifth-grade to high school). 


Holes and Loop Holes in American Race


Sacher implicitly applies the inanity of the legal construction of race in the United States to his novel Holes. The Yelnats (Stanley's family) and the Zeronis were neighbors in Eastern Europe. Although "white" was not a category in their country, both families would be identified as Caucasian. However, when these two families came over to the U.S. they were assigned different races: white and non-white. Have those labels shaped their lives in the U.S.? Their opportunities? 


I just found my Bapo's naturalization papers (I'll pass them out). Notice how race is ALREADY filled in! What could that mean? 


  • What does this tell us about the nature of race and the immigrant experience of race?


These documents I'm passing around are PRIMARY DOCUMENTS. You can find documents like this at online databases (especially the LoC). Pairing these sorts of documents with literary texts (which are also primary documents), can lead to creative and insightful close readings. This is also a good exercise for older students - it can help them connect literary texts with lived experience of race while keeping those connections from being more direct that students want (or are perhaps prepared to handle).   


  • How is race characterized at Camp Green Lake? In "Chapter Five" Stanley cannot tell the race of the campers right away. Why is that? What does that say about race? 



Anti-Miscegination Legislation


What is the backstory for the curse (and treasure) of Camp Green Lake? How does this relate to the history of race (and racial construction) in the United States?


Resources for Anti-Miscegination Legislation: Definitions   


Race, Hate Crimes and Lifting the Curse 


Reading critically (or Critical Reading) is the term that we use to describe making connections between the text and the world. So far, we have been approaching Holes through a critical reading lens. Now let's try some close reading, where we delve entirely into the text. A good literary analysis balances close reading AND critical reading. 


What is the Yelnats' curse? How does it intersect with the curse on Camp Green Lake? What is the message here? 


  • How are holes metaphors for the message of the novel? 
  • How are mountains and mountain streams (like the stream on God's Thumb) symbolic? 
  • How many Edenic references and allusions can you find in the passages about Camp Green Lake?
    • Where are the snakes? What/who are they?
    • Where is the Tree of Knowledge? And the fruit?
    • Who is the Fallen Angel?


These are the sort of questions that lead to insightful close reading. They focus on what happens within the text.


Group Work:

Come up with a FUN close reading activity that you could do with students reading Holes.


At the Dark End of the Street 


At the Dark End of the Street.pdf   


We dipped our toes into the world of scholarly texts with the Prologue to At the Dark End of the Street. Break into groups and see if you can locate the main point of the message (hint: it's not at the beginning).


The first step in reading scholarly texts is adjusting expectations about WHERE the thesis sentence (or topic paragraph) is located. Scholarly  texts are longer than the typical 3-5 page essay you write for school, so they often build their case and reach three or more pages into the argument.


What functions as EVIDENCE in this paper (and what does that even mean)? 


Does reading this article make you think differently about Holes?


Group Work:

Create a possible quiz question about this article. 




"Teaching Social Justice Through Young Adult Literature".pdf


Discussion Questions:

  • What is the thesis for this article? 
  • How would you relate it to your own practice (i.e. teaching a novel like Holes in the classroom)?  


Group Work:

Create a possible quiz question about this article.  




Beginning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwzUXN9OhSY 


How does the opening work to start the narrative? How does it compare to the novel? 


How does the scene create a message about romance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1bttQ-MhM0


Legend of Kissing Kate Barlow:



Climbing God's Thumb

Go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Beny3qdAlqI 



Film Analysis


  • How is the story told: 
  • How does the film cue particular reactions: 
  • How are the characters costumed? What does it reveal about gender, nationality, and ethnicity? 
  • What shot distances are used? Why?  How does camera angle/movement function?
  • What types of cuts are used?
  • Do different characters use different language? 
  • What is music's purpose in the film?  

Legal Boundaries for Social Constructions: Guy v. Daniels


Group Work: Read through the Guy v. Daniels case, which not only demonstrates the ambiguity and fluidity of race and slavery in the United States, but the different facets of this social construction. 


  • How many ways is race categorized in this lawsuit?
    • What are the categories? 
  • WHY do you think these socially constructed categories were so important to the U.S. legal system?
    • WHAT seems to have been the most important aspect of the case to mainstream America at the time?
    • Could there be a different take-away now?  
  • HOW could you implicitly relate this court case to Holes?  




Cinematic Poetry 


How does Poe's "Annabel Lee" become a central motif in the film? Was this poem included anywhere in the book? How does this relate to the music associated with the film?


Annabel Lee


It was many and many a year ago, 

   In a kingdom by the sea, 

That a maiden there lived whom you may know 

   By the name of Annabel Lee; 

And this maiden she lived with no other thought 

   Than to love and be loved by me. 


I was a child and she was a child, 

   In this kingdom by the sea, 

But we loved with a love that was more than love— 

   I and my Annabel Lee— 

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven 

   Coveted her and me. 


And this was the reason that, long ago, 

   In this kingdom by the sea, 

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling 

   My beautiful Annabel Lee; 

So that her highborn kinsmen came 

   And bore her away from me, 

To shut her up in a sepulchre 

   In this kingdom by the sea. 


The angels, not half so happy in Heaven, 

   Went envying her and me— 

Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know, 

   In this kingdom by the sea) 

That the wind came out of the cloud by night, 

   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee. 


But our love it was stronger by far than the love 

   Of those who were older than we— 

   Of many far wiser than we— 

And neither the angels in Heaven above 

   Nor the demons down under the sea 

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul 

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 


For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams 

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes 

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side 

   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride, 

   In her sepulchre there by the sea— 

   In her tomb by the sounding sea.


Film and Moral Education


What was the main point of the article? How did it compare to the other scholarly text we read? 


Can you use it as a lens for the class if you want?




Comments (3)

Taylyn Strange said

at 4:12 pm on Jan 24, 2019

Taylyn, Carlee, Nae-
Compare and Contrast descriptions of characters vs. who plays them in the movie/how they are portrayed
How is the camp described in the book vs. in the movie. Could one (or both) be tied to the Holocaust? How?
Observing differences in dialogue

Noel Saunders said

at 4:13 pm on Jan 24, 2019

Kaitlyn, Noel, Megan

Activity for book: Have certain students read the lines of specific characters. Students can doodle related to what is being read during each session.
Activity for book and movie: After watching the movie, lay out strips of paper with questions relating to the book and movie. Students can choose which questions they want to answer. Also, they can compare their illustrations to the movie.

Ashley Young said

at 4:17 pm on Jan 24, 2019

Christalyn, Ashley

They could make a poster of compare and contrast of different items in the book/film. The students could break up into groups and look at different portions of each and they can present what they each learned from it. Have the students think about what each of the characters were thinking about/how they were feeling. See if they think the emotions of the characters were different in the book and movie.

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