It’s Time to Dream!

I feel like a kid in a candy shop: I have received clearance to design a contemporary literature course to be taught in the spring semester of 2018. I’m interested in your suggestions regarding books to include, of course. I also have to work out the basic parameters of the course, which is likely to be junior-level, though seniors will be able to enroll in it for elective credit. Let me know precisely what sorts of things appeal to you.

  1. Should it include fiction only? Are students also interested in non-fiction, poetry, or drama?
  2. Are there genres or subjects (e.g. southern lit, dystopian lit, social justice) that students find especially important?
  3. Some “young adult” titles can be considered; I am also interested in working with more advanced materials. Suggestions are welcome.
  4. How strictly should the course description apply the term “contemporary”? Should we consider titles published in the last three years? Five years? Ten? Is a work contemporary if the author is simply still living?
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28 Responses to It’s Time to Dream!

  1. Brianna Ladnier says:

    1. Honestly fiction. Yes, a lot of people are different, but fiction is such a varied and lovely thing that can engage a range of people.
    2. Southern Literature, and more contraversal topics
    3. The Fault in Our Stars (don’t laugh, its a great book)
    4. In our lifespan, even more recent being 5 years.

  2. Vera L. Taire says:

    That’s wonderful! Any chance we can develop a world lit class for the seniors that don’t want UE2 or Brit Lit? (Also known as the students wanting to avoid a certain senior English teacher)
    A lot of students are part of the hipster movement and enjoy poetry and drama. Though you can enjoy those types of literature without enjoying pretension… I think. Nonfiction… I hate it but this is nerd school so a lot of other people might be interested?
    Dystopian lit is certainly popular right now, as is social justice. I don’t think exploring the Southern narrative is particularly important right now. I think we need to be focusing on the immigration movements across the world and the fear surrounding the future of society. I took a class on dystopian lit a few years ago- it was really interesting. We had the staples like hunger games and WWZ, but we also looked at Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I didn’t expect to enjoy or like that (it felt a bit more serious) but it ended up being my favorite. I’m sure you’ve read it, so I won’t botch the summary!
    Contemporary would be, to me, written within the past two generations. Like 80s to now. Maaaybe 70s.
    Goodluck E!

  3. AK Mynatt says:

    The content needs to be interesting for sure, and for me, fiction is the most interesting. Current authors who have relatable content would be the best type of reading material for this class. Books like The Fault in Our Stars and Twilight are hated on constantly, but people are still buying and reading them. Just make sure the class is full of current, interesting books, and it will be a success.

  4. Sabrina Solomon says:

    First, I would say focus on pieces that would do good to the readers. Explore all the topics, such as religion, cultures, medical, and even sex and death. They don’t all need to be fiction but you are more likely to find fiction books with different topics. I would consider contemporary books to be published within the past five years.

  5. Liam McDougal says:

    1. I think it should include only fiction. I haven’t really heard of contemporary non-fiction, and personally, I find fiction a lot more interesting. There are plenty of classes to take that deal with non-fiction, and most of the classes talking about fiction have to deal with older fiction. I feel like this class could be a great opportunity for those of us who want to learn about the more recent works of literature.

    2. The class, in my opinion, should regard topics that are at least semi-relevant to the world we’re living in and the world we may be living in in the future. With my pessimistic outlook on things, the first thing that came to mind was dystopian novels such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. Books such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Neuromancer would also be interesting.

    3. If 1984 qualifies as young adult, that would be great; it covers a lot of topics we see going on in the world today. Novels such as The Book Thief would also be good.

    4. I think contemporary should apply to post-war literature, or maybe 1950s onwards. It sounds like a long time, and it is, but in the context of literature I think it’s rather recent. Many of the themes prevalent in post-war literature are still prevalent in our literature today, and even in our actual world.

  6. Kamal Bhalla says:

    Having fiction only, compared to having other genres is really a toss in the air. Some students will enjoy things that others won’t which will always cause problems. I think that the best option is covering something in at least every genre at its best.
    “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, “Hush, Hush” series by Becca Fitzpatrick are some books that I recommend to check out.
    Seeing that the word “contemporary” itself means that “living or occurring at the same time”, I believe that it would make sense if the author was still alive, but some books that become very popular, yet the author dies early or something, they should still be considered to touch up on.

  7. Lydia Holley says:

    1. Fiction only would be an amazing thing, but many students love nonfiction books as well. I would include both fiction and nonfiction in order to appeal to everyone in the class.
    2. Many teenagers enjoy dystopian literature, but include southern literature as well.
    3. Unbroken
    The Fault in our Stars
    4. Books published no later than 10 years ago.
    Good Luck!!!

  8. Meagan Pittman says:

    I have never been particularly inclined to any type of contemporary literature, however, lately I have been branching out my reading list in an attempt to become a more well rounded reader. I recommend a few books that I have either read or researched about, all of which have been published in the 2000s. These books that I recommend are all well developed and worthy of studying in a classroom setting.
    -The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
    -Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
    -The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
    -Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
    -Did you Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
    -The Green Road by Anne Enright
    -A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
    -pretty much anything by Haruki Murakami
    -All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
    -Ruby by Cynthia Bond
    -Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

  9. Briana Johnston says:

    I think a mixture of both fiction and nonfiction would represent the class better because even if when a teenager thinks of contemporary as fiction books, a lot can be gained from real stories and accounts of certain events. Autobiographies of people who have impacted recent society would be a good selection, or even books accounting the events of big events that have happened in recent years. To truly understand and gain from contemporary works, there needs to be nonfiction works that contribute to the understanding of the time period we are living in. To me, contemporary is in the last 5 to 10 years. The Road by Cormac McCarthy was mentioned before and I agree that would be a good book to teach. It’s a hard read on the emotional and moral level to some and can lead to some great discussion about what is morally correct in certain situations. Some other good books that are fairly easier to read, but they still have great lessons to be learned are Moon Over Manifest (it’s a little on the easier side) by Clare Vanderpool and The Book Thief (for a classic young adult fiction book) by Markus Zusak. Both books incorporate the different historical periods and how life was different in those periods. This gives student insight on the past and can be related to the future. Overall, I think this class is a brilliant idea and I’m excited to get a chance to take it.

  10. P. Patel says:

    The class should be mostly consistent of fiction, but it should not be restricted from non-fiction, poetry, or drama genres. The reason for that is because majority of the students find fiction stores more appealing that other genres. Students especially find subjects that are current or that cause a controversy important and interesting. One specific fiction work that can be used is The Fault in Our Stars. Work should be considered from the past ten years because however it is not current the students can still relate and discuss the story.

  11. Emily King says:

    Personally, having a variety of poetry, drama, and fiction included in the class all sound like great ideas to me. However, I don’t think nonfiction should be included–or, at least, there should be less of it than the other types of literature. I can’t think of any types of nonfiction that’d be as engaging and interesting as fictional material would be, and some students (myself included) might not enjoy it as much.

    I don’t have a particular genre that I like, although I’d prefer that there’d be as little southern literature as possible. I’ve read some short stories in English classes in the past that involve magical realism, which weave elements of fantasy into everyday life. However, the really interesting things about such stories is that some use aspects of the societies they describe to serve as a metaphor for problems with our society today that might be a bit of a touchy subject. This way, they advocate social justice without directly doing so or ruffling any feathers. (However, I understand that, as someone who isn’t a fan of fantasy or sci-fi, you may not want to include such literature!)

    I think that there should be literature included up to ten years ago. However, there should definitely be more of a focus on things published more recently.

  12. Aurelia Caine says:

    I personally think you should only include fiction and maybe a bit of drama! Nonfiction definitely should not be covered as heavily as the others. Not too many pieces of work in that genre are found to be interesting. Dystopian lit is most certainly the popular thing right now! I think anything within the last 10 years can be considered contemporary. In most cases I agree that work can be considered contemporary if the author is still alive. I have to suggest “The Fault in Our Stars.”

  13. Devon M says:

    I think that this class should have books that are mostly fiction and maybe some autobiographies about current events of that time. Dystopian lit is a genre very popular to our age group. We love being able to see a world in the eyes of another in such a crazy universe. I think Harry Potter should definitely be considered, but I am biased because HP for the win! I think maybe some mystery that is a little harder to read like Dan Brown’s Inferno or The Da Vinci Code would be some cool books to read.

  14. Devon M says:

    I think that fiction and types of autobiographies should be considered. Also, dystopian lit is pretty famous among the young adult age group. We love being able to live in the perspective of others in a radical world. I think that Harry Potter should definitely be considered for this course, but I am biased because HP for the win! Maybe putting some upper level books in there. I think something like The Da Vinci code or John Grisham books (since he’s from MS) would be some great books to consider.

  15. Landry Filce says:

    I think this class should include fiction, poetry, and drama. All of these art forms express modern thought and opinions, and therefore I think they should all be included. I personally enjoy older dystopian fiction more than its modern counterpart, but I think that modern social justice literature is more intellectual than it has been ever before. I think books like “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”, “Looking for Alaska” and “Speak” are the kind of books students would genuinely enjoy reading. I think ten years is a good general guideline, but I think the subject matter and the way the book is written matters more than the year it was published.

  16. Shuchi Patel says:

    1. I think that it should mostly be fiction; drama and poetry also seem interesting. You could also briefly go over a non-fiction text.
    2. I believe some students are fans of sci-fi. For example, the Hunger Games trilogy is amazing.
    3. THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS! It is a fantasy series that any teen will love; there is alot of drama and bits of comedy. The Selection is also a great series. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is another interesting book.
    4. I believe that contemporary books don’t need to involve a certain time. As long as a work is somehow relevant to today, it is fine. Even if the author is not living, their work can be considered contemporary.

  17. Darby Meadows says:

    1. I am a huge fan of fiction, but I think to be a well rounded class it might need a bit more (I really like the idea of drama)
    2. Dystopian literature is a big hit right now
    3. Well “13 Reasons why” has a younger reading level, but it talks about some serious subjects.
    4. I say 10 years!

  18. Madalyn Coln says:

    I wish that I could have had the opportunity to take this class.. Oh well.
    What I would say about this is that no matter how you define “Contemporary”, just be sure not to mix it up with “Mainstream”..
    The Hunger Games, Maze Runner and whatever else are really great books– but I feel like there are other gems in present-era literature that we should be exposed to as well.

  19. Summar McGee says:

    Just my two cents, but you should check out some collections of poetry by our laureate, Natasha Trethewey (I recommend “Native Guard”). Honestly, you could teach an entire course just on Tretheway, so you could pick up ANY of her collections and not be disappointed. I’ve read almost all of them and she’s never lost my attention.

    Also, I recently read a novel (“Long Division”) and a collection of essays (“How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America”) by an English and Creative Writing Professor at Ole Miss, Kiese Laymon. Kiese is a fantastic writer, but not in a conventional sense; His writing is odd, gritty, but deliberate. If nothing else just read the prologue of his collection of essays.

    The best part: not only are they contemporary writers but also Mississippi natives (which I’ve found makes their work both relevant and relatable).

  20. Amber Jackson says:

    Fiction and Drama are good topics that I think most students would like. I would shy away from Southern literature a bit because I feel most students kind of get that hammered into their head 8th-10th grade. I do recommend dystopian novels or books that encourage people to think and question the world around them. I think the term contemporary should be applied lightly. There are plenty of things written the last century that still happen today or could be considered modern/contemporary.

  21. Kayla Patel says:

    I think that fiction and drama would be the best topics to choose to keep the students engaged. Depending on the topic of the two genres, you could throw in some interesting non-fiction. I say 10 years would be a good limit and maybe a couple of exceptions depending on how important that writing is.

  22. Sarah Swiderski says:

    1. I think the course should cover both fiction and nonfiction, but focus primarily on the former. After all, most contemporary work is fiction.
    2.The course should cater to a variety of works, each to expand the student’s viewpoint(easier said than done, I know). 1981 would be a good read. It was published in 1949, but that can be overlooked…
    3. I would shy away from young adult books because they all too often have poorly constructed characters, metaphors, symbolism, etc, causing the work to fall apart under scrutiny. Obviously, this would please the masses, so I would by all means consider Wonder by R.J. Palacio and note that Emma Donoghue ( author of “Room”, another good read) is making her young adult debut in 2017. Also consider Cujo or Carrie…… at least one Stephen King book would be interesting.
    4. Books published since 1970. If the author is still alive, it is contemporary.

  23. Mariana Strawn says:

    I personally believe that the class would be better suited presenting primarily fiction books, however, if the nonfiction book is popular and as well read as any fiction book then it would be fair to include it as well. The only limitation with time is that it should be well read, although not a classic. Or perhaps it addresses popular concerns and issues of the day.
    Good works to read may probably include, but are not limited to:
    1. The Book Thief
    2. The Fault in Our Stars
    3. Divergent
    4. Allegiant
    5. Insurgent
    6. The Harry Potter Series
    7. 1984 (If you still consider it modern)
    Most of these books are contemporary, or at least were well read within the past few years. This might show what style of writing is more contemporary and attractive, and I’m sure students would like to look at this books in a more analytical perspective.

  24. Samuel Patterson says:

    So excited to hear about your new course. I believe that there should be nonfiction and poetry in your course. I believe that you should seek the most diverse set of fenres for your course to ensure that students are exposed to a variety of material, including adult novels. Contrmporary should be used loosely in your course, you should poll your students to see what’s popular to read. It would be appropriate to keep your selections withing the century because these works are still being analyzed. A work is contemporary if it isn’t thoroughly examinated.

  25. Erin Owens says:

    1. Fiction because contemporary works are mostly fiction
    2.Southern literature, race issues, teenage life in general.
    3. Young adult novels should be equally focused on as advanced
    4. 10 years

  26. Jagger Riggle says:

    I am excited to hear about this new course. I would not mind taking it myself. I think it should include all types of literature: fiction, non-fiction poetry, and drama. I also think you should give students a vote, say things like, “I have (name), (name), and (name). Which one would you guys like to read next?” Give a little information about each and then have the class vote. Giving the class options would make it better and more enjoyable for the class. The definition of contemporary is “of the present time; modern”. Give the class option to say what is ‘modern’ to them and what is not. You do not have to stick with “of the present time”, you could use modern/current so you are not confined to just necessarily in the same time-period. The author does not have to be currently living, either. Especially after 2016, a lot of great people have died, but it does not mean they are not modern. Another way to go is to use “relevant” instead of “modern”. If it is still relevant to today, then it could be considered for the class. Again, then you could narrow it down before class, and then have the class vote on what they think.

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