It is a requirement every year in Quarter One to read aloud a book called
The Skin I’
By Sharon Flake. This book will be the foundation of my unit. My plan is to teach five lessons throughout the duration of the novel at different appropriate points in order to analyze the identities of five of the main characters: Maleeka, Char, John-John, Caleb and Ms. Saunders. I plan on using other texts to compare with
The Skin I’
as they apply to specific characters and their situations.
The Skin I’
is the story of a 6th grade girl at McLenton Middle School named Maleeka. Her father has recently died, leaving her mother in a deep depression. Her mother has taken to sewing to keep her mind off of her grief but it not very skilled. She makes clothes for Maleeka that her classmates bully constantly. Maleeka wears the clothes to school to make her mother feel better. However, when Maleeka arrives at school, she changes into trendier clothes lent to her by a bully named Charlese Jones in exchange for her “protection.” Char is an older student who stayed back once or perhaps twice. She has very nice clothes and is popular amongst boys and other students. Char orders Maleeka around and if Maleeka does not heed her every order, she does something mean or embarrassing. Char is popular more by intimidation rather than by charm. Char has two sidekicks, twins named Raina and Raise. They echo all of Char’s sentiments, and the three of them hold court in the girl’s bathroom where they smoke cigarettes and skip class. Maleeka is bullied by Char and a boy, John-John, due to her extremely dark skin. Char only lets Maleeka wear her clothes if she does Char, Raina, and Raise’s homework every day. When Maleeka cannot complete it some nights, Char is extremely mean to her.
The book explores a series of difficult situations for Maleeka. Woven into the story is Maleeka’s relationship with a new teacher named Ms. Saunders. Maleeka also has a love interest, Caleb, who broke up with her due to peer pressure and because of his extreme guilt, is always trying to win back Maleeka’s affections. The story climaxes toward the end when to get back at Ms. Saunders for giving Char a failing grade, Char, Raina, and Raise convince Maleeka to join them in vandalizing Ms. Saunders’ classroom. They accidentally start a fire and Maleeka is forced to take the credit. Maleeka finally stands up to Char at the end of the book, and Char is sent to live with family far away.
Throughout the book Maleeka is torn by her emotions and pain due to the traumatic events in her life at home and the bullies at school. Her trauma has clouded her ability to be confident or to be guided by adults close to her, as they too are affected by grief and loss. Maleeka finds her voice through writing after an assignment given to her by Ms. Saunders. I want my students to analyze the identities fighting for ownership of each character, and eventually choose one that they feel exemplifies their own experience.
I feel that my students will be able to relate to some of the main characters in the book. Below you will find character analyses and resources to use in order to analyze those characters. The unit consists of five lessons each looking closely at five main characters: Maleeka, Ms. Saunders, Charlese, John-John, and Caleb. The students will analyze how the characters see themselves and how they appear to others. They will also analyze what each character possesses in terms of sources of identity (non negotiable identities, such as physical appearance, family history, events you have experienced), and what each character chooses to show the world from these traits. The students will also take a look at whether the characters invent identities to showcase that do not reflect who they truly are. After analyzing each of these characters, my students will conduct an analysis on themselves using the same criteria. Each analysis will have suggestions for excerpts from other literary resources and rationales for each. The students will use text evidence from both
The Skin I’m In
and the supplementary reading excerpts to show how they connect with the various characters.