Every semester, I post the syllabi for the course I am teaching. This semester, I am teaching “Multicultural American Literature,” a graduate level course for education majors. It is an online, asynchronous course, so my approach differs from the face to face classes or online synchronous courses I teach. Since students in this course are education majors, I wanted to focus on things that they could take from the course and implement in their own K-12 classrooms. As such, I chose texts, mostly, that they could teach in their own classes, and my assignments focus on them constructing lesson plans and activities for their own courses.

Course Description and Objectives:

Writing to a high school English teacher in 1959, Lillian Smith told him that “there is always what you learn when you build bridges to other people: to one, then to one more, and on and on.” Literature does the same thing. It helps us build bridges to other people, and it lets us see that life is not monolithic, in any sense. As James Baldwin put it, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire writes, “Knowledge emerges. . . . through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry [human beings] pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” As educators, our job is to help students, no matter what level, confront and engage with the world around them as citizens. We must prepare them to critically examine themselves and the world that forms them. As well, we must provide students with texts that represent each of them, and in this class, we will look at texts that just do that and discuss ways to bring these conversations into your own classrooms. 

Specifically writing about Black students, Beverly Daniel Tatum states, “The stereotypes, omissions, and distortions that reinforce notions of White superiority are breathed in by Black children as well as White. Simply as a function of being socialized in a Eurocentric culture, some Black children may begin to value the role models, lifestyles, and images of beauty represented by the dominant group more highly than those of their own cultural group.” By introducing students to a wide range of authors, texts, and characters, we can provide every student with images of themselves.

During this course, we will read texts from the latter part of the twentieth century into the twenty first. We will read works by Cuban American, Iranian American, and African American writers, as well as a variety of genres from novels and poetry to comics. Along with these texts, we will read secondary sources that look at the texts we read and sources that directly address pedagogy.

At the end of the semester, you will create a lesson plan and present it to the class via video. You will also compose an essay, using scholarly sources, detailing the choices you made when constructing your lesson plan. You will learn more about this project later in the semester, but the purpose of it is to help you think about different ways to take what you learn in this course and implement it in your own classroom.

Primary Texts:

  • Crucet, Jeannine Capó. Make Your Home Among Strangers. Picador Paper, 2016.
  • Dumas, Henry. “Ark of Bones.” 1974*
  • Gaines, Ernest J. A Gathering of Old Men. Vintage, 1981.
  • Gaines, Ernest J. “The Sky is Gray.” 1968.*
  • Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Plagiarisms, Authorships, and the Academic Death Penalty.” College English, vol. 57, no. 7, Nov. 1995, pp. 788-806.*
  • Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Sexuality, Textuality: The Cultural Work of Plagiraism.” College English, vol. 62, no. 4, March 2000, pp. 473-491.*
  • Mafi, Tahereh. A Very Large Expanse of Sea. Harper Collins, 2018.
  • McDuffie, Dwayne and Denys Cowan. Hardware: Man in the Machine. Milestone Media, 2010.
  • Medina, Tony, John Jennings and Stacey Robinson. I Am Alfonso Jones. Tu Books, 2017.
  • Morrison, Toni. “Race Matters.” The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations. Alfred A. Knopf, 2019, pp. 131-139.  
  • Morrison, Toni. “Recitatif”*
  • NCTE. “Students’ Right to Their Own Language.”*
  • Royster, Jacqueline Jones. “When The First Voice You hear is Not Your Own.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 47, no. 1, Feb. 1996, pp. 29-40.  
  • Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path”*
  • Wilson, G. Willow and Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal. Marvel, 2014. 
  • Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Puffin Books, 2016.

*–I will provide text.

Secondary Texts:

  • Bedard, Carol and Charles Fuhrken. “Deepening Students’ Reading, Responding, and Reflecting on Multicultural Literature: It All Started with ‘Brown Girl Dreaming.’” English in Texas, vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 25-31.
  • Clayton, Ashley, Mary Medina, and Angela Wiseman. “Culture and community: Perspectives from first-year, first-generation-in-college Latino students.” Journal of Latinos and Education, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 134-150.
  • Cueto, Desiree and Susan Corapi. “Critical Inquiries Into Politicized Issues.” Journal of Children’s Literature, vol. 45, no. 1, Spring 2019, pp. 38-49.
  • Hebert-Leiter, Maria. “A Breed between: Racial Mediation in the Fiction of Ernest Gaines.” MELUS, vol. 31, no. 2, 2006, pp. 95-117.
  • Middleton, Joyce Irene. “‘Both Print and Oral’ and ‘Talking about Race’: Transforming Toni Morrison’s Language Issues into Teaching Issues.” African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Elaine B. Richardson and Ronald L. Jackson II, Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 242-258.
  • Rashid, Hussein. “Ms. Marvel is an Immigrant.” Ms. Marvel’s America: No Normal, edited by Jessica Baldanzi and Hussein Rashid, University Press of Mississippi, 2020, pp. 47-64.
  • Reyns-Chikuma, Chris and Désirée Lorenz. “Kamala Khan’s Superhero Burkini: Negotiating an Autonomous Position between Patriarchal Islam, French Secularism, and Feminism.” Muslim Superheroes: Comics, Islam, and Representation, edited by A. David Lewis and Martin Lund, Harvard University Press, 2017, pp. 63-87.
  • Warfield, Adrienne Akins. “‘ In the South Pain is Segregated’: Waiting Rooms and Medical Ethics in Eudora Welty’s ‘A Worn Path’ and Ernest Gaines’s ‘The Sky is Gray.’” Papers on Language and Literature, vol. 53, no. 3, July 2017, pp. 211-236


This is an online class, so the delivery of material will be done asynchronously. I will provide, each week, a lecture or video discussing various topics and themes from the text(s). Some of these lectures will be conversations with other scholars and writers. We will use discussion boards to talk about topics during the semester. Each of the assignments in this course are meant to help you think about how you will carry the information you learn into the classroom and use it when teaching your own students. As such, keep pedagogy in the front of your mind when reading and working throughout the semester.

Weekly Schedule:

  • Monday: I will post the video lecture for that week online
  • Monday through Friday: Watch the video lecture and read the assigned readings
  • By Friday: Post your question or observation and your response to your peers on the forum.

Course Requirements and Explanation of Grading

  • Attendance and Participation                                                 10%
  • Discussion Boards                                                                   30%
  • Lesson Plan Paper                                                                   15%
  • Lesson Plan                                                                             20%
  • Lesson Plan Video & Materials                                               25%

A=90-100; B=80-89; C=70-79; D=60-69; F=59 or below

Attendance and In-Class Participation Although I believe that as adults you should have control over your own education, attendance is vital to your success in this course. Much of your learning and work will involve discussing the readings in online. To fully comprehend and hopefully appreciate the texts, you should come to these discussions fully prepared. This means you should have read the homework and completed any assignments.

You will be held accountable to the following attendance policy: 4 or more unexcused absences will result in a grade of FA (failure due to absences). If you have an excused absence—e.g., university-sponsored trip, doctor’s visit—you must provide verification to the course instructor, in writing, no later than one week after the absence occurs.

For attendance, I will check Canvas each Monday to see that you have been engaged in the course. This means the videos, readings, and discussion board. Canvas provides analytic tools that show the last time you have logged in, the times spent on pages, the downloads, etc. I will check this each Monday.

Attendance will be taken based on your participation in the forums and on engagement with materials (downloads, time on pages, etc.).

Lesson Plan—The lesson plan is meant to get you to think about how you would teach one of the texts or themes we cover in this course in your own classroom. This is a pedagogical exercise, helping you consider the best way(s) to have students engage in oftentimes difficult conversations. For this assignment, you can use any lesson plan template you would like, but you must the plan must at least cover one week’s worth of classes and must include the English Language Arts Georgia Standards of Excellence standards. 

Lesson Plan Paper—In the lesson plan paper, you will discuss the choices that you made when you were constructing your lesson plan. You examine your own choices and the secondary sources and scholars that informed them. This paper will be between 1,500-2,000 words.

Lesson Plan Video and Materials—For this assignment, you will present one part of your lesson plan for the rest of the class. You will treat this as if you are teaching the class that day. These will be asynchronous, of course, so you will have to think about ways to engage the students. Along with the video, you will create materials for the lesson. These can be question sheets, discussion boards, PowerPoints, etc. You must create two of these.  

Discussion Boards—Every week, you will be required to post a question or observation about the readings for that week. You must also respond to two people’s posts on the forum to receive full credit for the assignment. For some weeks, I will have guided prompts.

5 Comments on “Multicultural American Literature and Pedagogy Syllabus

  1. Pingback: Whiteness in “Ms. Marvel” and Tahereh Mafi’s “A Very Large Expanse of Sea” – Interminable Rambling

  2. Pingback: Plagiarism in Jennine Capó Crucet’s “Make Your Home Among Strangers” – Interminable Rambling

  3. Pingback: Who is the Villain in Ernest J. Gaines’ “A Gathering of Old Men”? – Interminable Rambling

  4. Pingback: Multicultural American Literature Syllabus 2021 – Interminable Rambling

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