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Old 03-14-2011, 08:49 PM   #1
Hasaf
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Seeking book suggestons for 17-24 year old women

Background:

I am teaching at a college in P.R. China. My classes are almost entirely female. That is the reason that I am asking about books suitable to young women.

The stated purpose of the English program is to teach English communication. Literature is only one class in a four year program. First I will provide an excerpt from a letter that I sent in response to a question by the school management.

Quote:
This leads to another concern that the foreign teachers have discussed, and, quite frankly, mocked, for years. I am speaking on the reliance of literature that is often over one–hundred years old. While there is no doubt that Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Mark Twain , along with other classic writers, have made significant, historical, contributions to English literature, reliance on these works for the purpose of teaching any English class, other than the history of literature, is non-productive and should be stopped immediately.

By way of example, if I were studying the Chinese language, as it is used today, I would be far better served by reading 韩寒 (Han Han) than 孙子 (Sun Tzu). The works of Sun Tzu are significant and should not be diminished; however, they do not inform me, through my reading, of how the Chinese language is used today. The same exists in English; but, as English is a very dynamic language, the time frame is much shorter. The library and campus stores should provide students with a broad selection of books written since the 1980’s and significantly less emphasis should be placed on books written by authors born before the 1880’s.
The standard reading list is built around the works of Mark Twain, Emily Brombeck, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen. Particular emphasis is also placed on the venerable work, Gone With the Wind with nearly every student writing their senior thesis on either this book or on Jane Ayer. I emphasize that this is not for the purpose of studying literature. This reading list is intended to aid the students in writing and communication.

The Question:

What books would you suggest for young women about 17-24 years old? Keep in mind, they, as a group, do not like monsters or explicit romance.

They like challenging vocabulary; in general, they think the value in reading is to discover, previously unknown, words. However, as a teacher, what I want them to be doing is to be involving themselves in engaging stories that will aid them in internalizing proper grammar, particularly tense and forms of be (that’s right, throw Twain off the train).

So, no explicit sex, nothing scary, and 17-24; any suggestions?
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Old 03-14-2011, 09:38 PM   #2
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I can think of a couple of books that might suit your students.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, 1943 -- a coming-of-age story about a young girl in New York. There are references to sexual matters, but sexual activities are not described in the book. I recommend this one highly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Tree_...rooklyn_(novel)

Ordinary People by Judith Guest, 1976. A family recovering after the accidental death of a teenaged son. The character of the mother is particularly interesting. The protagonist is an 18-year-old boy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordinary_People_(novel)
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Old 03-17-2011, 04:37 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doreenjoy View Post
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, 1943 -- a coming-of-age story about a young girl in New York. There are references to sexual matters, but sexual activities are not described in the book. I recommend this one highly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Tree_...rooklyn_(novel)
I was going to suggest this as well - a very good choice.


Unless they've already read this, Maxime Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior might be a good choice as well. I liked it a lot and I'm pretty sure students with a chinese background will get even more out of it than I did. (I'm german, so I'm fairly certain that quite a few cultural references and in jokes were lost on me.) The book does discuss sexual slavery though.
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Old 03-17-2011, 12:19 PM   #4
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Just about anything by Anne Tyler I would suggest would be suitable, or perhaps some Joyce Carol Oates - either novels or short stories.
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Old 03-17-2011, 01:05 PM   #5
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What about Shirley Jackson's stories, especially her family collections, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons?
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Old 03-17-2011, 06:30 PM   #6
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They are looking for works which feature contemporary conversational American English, right?

I haven't read any, but I suspect that for young women that age they will enjoy the Murder She Wrote books.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss...he+wrote+books
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Old 03-17-2011, 10:15 PM   #7
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are you teaching British English or American English?

eP
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Old 03-18-2011, 03:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elemenoP View Post
are you teaching British English or American English?

eP
I was going to ask that question myself. "English" for me means "the language spoken in England". American "English" is a considerably different language.
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Old 03-18-2011, 05:39 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elemenoP View Post
are you teaching British English or American English?

eP
American English.

One of my largest goals with the reading list is to aid them in internalizing grammar and word choice. It is a hard sell to convince people that enjoyable things (reading a fun book) can be learning. Learning is viewed as something that should be painful and done only when necessary; definitely not a leisure activity.

They liked the film, " the Princess Diaries," at movie night last week; so, I provided a copy of that book to a few of them. I am waiting to see how they review it.
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Old 03-18-2011, 10:32 PM   #10
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Yes, Chinese people learning English are obsessed with vocabulary. It's instilled into them that a broad vocabulary is the secret to learning English, to the point that kids are learning English words that they don't even use the Chinese equivalent of yet.

They are very impressed with the classics for the same reason that many Westerners are: they look prestigious. If you want something contemporary, you'd probably have to choose something that has won an award in order to get it approved by whomever. You could try The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Booker Prize), Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (PEN/Faulkner), or Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (PEN/Faulkner and Orange Prize). I really can't remember how much sex is in those books, though, as I'm pretty immune to it. But, if you're choosing PEN/Faulkner winners, stay away from Philip Roth because of the sex issue.

You may want to check out the Orange Prize (small discussion here). It's an award specifically for female writers, so the books may appeal to your students.
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