As an enrichment to this unit and its core novel, students may be encouraged to branch out their independent reading to other young adult literature with strong protagonists who break away from the expectations and limits of their past. It must be shown, via brief book talks by the teacher, that while writing is not the only way for a young person to break free from the tethers of poverty and racism, education is the necessity that paves the way in virtually all cases.
Books can be selected from other subcultures in the United States, such as The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, in which Starr struggles with her cultural identity and whether she is strong enough to speak out against racism, and Bronx Masquerade, a novel written in verse that explores young African American men breaking out of stereotypes that confine them. An example of historical fiction which has a strong female protagonist is The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd, the story of a girl with a passion for agriculture who views the family’s slaves as human beings, which speaks to the difficulty of young women in the past breaking away from gender role expectations. Gender identity issues for LGBQT youth are eloquently addressed in the nonfiction title The 57 Bus, in which a disadvantaged African American youth sets fire to the skirt of a trans youth and the reader becomes intimately acquainted with both teens.
There are also books about children in other cultures that could be introduced to the students via book talks. Black Dove, White Raven is the story of a white girl and lack boy who are being brought up by a single female pilot in Ethiopia during the World War II, and both young people and the woman raising them confront stereotypes as well as racial and gender expectations. Lina, the protagonist of Between Shades of Grey, is a strong Lithuanian girl who must make choices that affect her family’s destiny in Lithuania in 1941 and defies almost certain death in a camp in the Gulag. The Breadwinner tells the story of Pervana in Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban. Fed up by the socially normed gender role for a girl she must take on the identity of a male to insure her family’s survival. Faten, a female teenager in The Servant and her boyfriend from another Beirut subculture must both break away from cultural and parental expectations. These novels are only a sampling of the myriad of diverse books available for teens today. Importantly, multicultural books appropriate to students’ own cultures of origin should be sought by the teacher from lists that are readily available.36