Text Sets for Teachers: Gender’s Lens: Society’s Views and Expressions of Gender


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Gender’s Lens: Society’s Views and Expressions of Gender
Text Set for Every Day by David Levithan
created by Jack Dunn

At a time where celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner exist, society is increasingly regarding gender as a fluid construct. With this established, one can better examine the how’s of society’s view of gender. I chose this approach because I think too often the context of gender is lost in its portrayal in different texts. When it comes to women, often the discussion is framed as a “How does (female character) embody/defy the stereotypes of women in (role)?” While ideas like “strong female archetypes” are important, it is equally important to understand why roles like this matter in literature. Women do not exist merely as affirmations and challenges to society and so should not be regarded solely as such within the classroom. We must consider womanhood as a varied, independent structure, not a response to a long-established, less-than definite construct of genders and their roles. As for masculinity, any discussion at all would be breaking from the norm. The ways that Pudge in Looking for Alaska challenges masculine stereotypes, that Finny in A Separate Peace might embody them are not typical discussion topics. I am not suggesting that these are questions that warrant discussion, but why they are not discussed is something worth exploring.

Every Day by David Levithan seemed like a logical choice as an anchor text. Its protagonist is genderless, and is afforded a unique perspective into the lives of both men and women. From there, I looked for texts that could be explored from this particular perspective in new and interesting ways. I tried to include as many different perspectives as possible. I wanted to then expand the context that this conversation exists within. I tried to include both anecdotal and objective information about gender from numerous perspectives. I also included information about transgender people as it is a growing important part of the gender discussion. This text set is mean to open up the conversation about a topic that has been contentious lately.

Anchor Text (although other texts may be used!):
Every Day by David Levithan
every day

Books or Book Excerpts
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
of mice and men
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Poems and Songs
Jezebel – Iron & Wine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=990kOZxIOKw
Shrinking Women – Lily Myers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQucWXWXp3k
Gender Bender by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Short Stories
How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Halfie) by Junot Diaz
he Wife of Bath’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Dark Knight Rises
The Demise of Guys? – Phillip Zimbardo
A Powerful Poem on What it Feels Like to Be
Darius Simpson & Scout Bostley – “Lost Voices” (CUPSI 2015)

Articles/Internet Sources
Caitlyn Jenner – Diane Sawyer interview
Beyond ‘he’ and ‘she’: The Rise of non-binary pronouns
Excerpts from Constructing New Masculinities: The Representation of Masculinity in U.S. Literature and Cinema
Tips for Allies of Transgender PeopleGLAAD
Toys Are More Divided by Gender Now Than They Were 50 Years Ago by Elizabeth Sweet

Guiding Questions

  • What does being a woman mean? What does being a man mean?
  • Is gender binary? Should it be binary?
  • How does gender affect individuals?
  • Is gender a necessary categorization of people?
  • To what extent is gender a fluid construct?
  • What do we talk about when we talk about gender?
  • How does American culture define/express gender through different media and language?
  • What traits and ethics are associated with gender? What are the implications of those associations?

Writing Prompts

  • What does gender mean to you? Does YOUR gender mean something to you? If so, what?
  • How are the stereotypes and ideas that are applied to femininity/masculinity a woman/man?
  • How do ideas about gender affect those they apply to? How does this manifest itself in literature and the real world?
  • What does it mean to be a Strong Female Archetype? How does the way society views gender influence their prevalence in fiction? People to consider during your response: Meg Murry, Selena Kyle (Catwoman), Melinda Sordino, and Jezebel
  • Compare and contrast the relationships of Ponyboy-Cherry Valance, Bruce Wayne/Batman-Selena Kyle/Catwoman and A-Rhiannon? What part do gender and society’s views of gender play in each? What factors affect/complicate the role of gender in these relationships?

A special thanks to Jack for taking a unique perspective on the topic of gender. We hope this text set will prove useful for many anchor texts and classroom discussions! What do you think?

RickiSigandKellee Signature

Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Author Guest Post!: Cast Off by Eve Yohalem


Cast Off

Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen
Author: Eve Yohalem
Published: March 10, 2015 by Calkins Creek

GoodReads Summary: It’s 1663 and there is an extra passenger on board a Dutch merchant ship setting sail for the East Indies. Twelve-year-old Petra has stowed away to escape her abusive father. But she quickly realizes that surviving for months at sea will be impossible without help. So when Bram, the half-Dutch / Half-Javanese son of the ship’s carpenter, finds her hiding spot, Petra convinces him to help her stay hidden . . .and help disguise her as a boy.

If Petra is discovered and exposed as a girl, she could be tossed overboard, or worse . . . returned to her father. And if Bram is exposed for helping her, he could lose the only home—and family—he has. As tensions rise on the ship, with pirates attacking, deadly illness, and even mutiny, Petra and Bram face impossible decisions that test their friendship and threaten their dreams of freedom.

Told in alternating voices and filled with secrets and intrigue, this richly researched novel is historical fiction at its best.

Review: Take me away! This book whisked me off on a marvelous adventure filled with grave dangers, stow aways, tall ships, and mutiny. I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my childhood favorites, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Petra escapes from a horribly abusive relationship with her father, and her bravery is an excellent model for young readers. She is discovered by Bram, the illegitimate son of the ship’s carpenter, and they form a very special friendship. This book delivers richly realized themes—particularly those of loyalty, heroism, sexism, and racism—that are very relevant to readers across time. I imagine a wide variety of audiences would appreciate this text because it touches on so many fascinating topics. It is clear that the author did her homework, and the result is magnificently entertaining.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is an excellent example of a text that could be analyzed with a critical theorist lens. (See Appleman’s book about teaching critical theory to students of all levels.) I imagine rich classroom discussions would evolve from the application of gender theory or race theory, for instance, to this text. This is a compliment to the author and the depth of this book.

Discussion Questions: In what ways do gender and race play a role in this text?; How does the author weave history into the story?; What does Petra and Bram’s friendship teach us about humans in general?; How do the main characters display qualities of bravery?

Read This If You Loved: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi; Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld; Secrets of the Realm by Bev Stout; Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Recommended For:




One lucky winner will receive a copy of CAST OFF: The Strange Adventures of Petra De Winter and Bram Broen (U.S. addresses; allow 4-6 weeks for delivery; offer ends 7/10/15).

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Guest Post from Eve Yohalem, Author of Cast Off!

Eve Yohalem photo

In 2009 I got this great idea for a seafaring adventure about two kids who sail from Amsterdam to the East Indies in the seventeenth century. There was just one problem: I knew next to nothing about the seventeenth century. Or the Netherlands. Or the East Indies. Or sailing.

No matter. I like a challenge. I researched for a full year before I started writing, and after I started writing, I kept researching. I’m still researching. (I like researching.)

Today my Cast Off file has more than four hundred different source notes. I read lots of books: scholarly academic stuff, journalistic stuff, fiction, memoirs, journals, every first person account I could find. I spoke to people who knew much more than me—VOC scholars, maritime scholars, curators, my husband (he sails), surgeons, and dentists. I hung out in oddball museums. I traveled to Indonesia, where I slept in the jungle and held baby orangutans, and to the Netherlands, where I retraced every step of my characters that I could and explored the dark nooks of two different full-scale East Indiamen replicas.

I have no research training. It would have helped if I’d majored in history in college, but I didn’t. Mostly, I followed my nose. I knew that my story would begin in Amsterdam and take place mostly at sea on an East Indiaman bound for Batavia. I knew two of my characters: a Dutch girl and an East Indian boy, both twelve years old. That’s a lot to get started with.

What’s surgery like by candlelight below deck on a rocking ship before the invention of anesthesia? How do you fire a 4,000 pound canon without getting crushed by the recoil? These were the kinds of questions I tried to answer.

I tried to convey what it felt like to cram three hundred men onto a 150-foot long vessel for six months (damp, dark, and airless below, smelled bad, no privacy). The layout of the ship is based on actual ships of the period, as are the various jobs, daily schedule, terrible food.

For my characters’ medical knowledge, I have to thank John Woodall’s The Surgeon’s Mate, a seventeenth century medical guide no ship’s surgeon would have been without.

And in case anyone’s wondering, I got most of my slang from the always entertaining A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew: In Its Several Tribes of Gypsies, Beggars, Thieves, Cheats, &c., with an Addition of Some Proverbs, Phrases, Figurative Speeches, &c. by B. E. Gent, c 1698. In my opinion, some of these terms should be brought back into everyday use. Please help make “Kiss my blind cheeks!” go viral!

Follow Cast Off on the blog tour:
Mon, June 1
Book Monsters
Tues, June 2
The Hiding Spot
Wed, June 3
Books Unbound
Thurs, June 4
Unleashing Readers
Fri, June 5
Read Now, Sleep Later
Mon, June 8
Mother Daughter Book Club
Tues, June 9
Cracking the Cover
Wed, June 10
The Compulsive Reader
Thurs, June 11
The Children’s Book Review
Fri, June 12
I Read Banned Books

*Thank you to Barbara at BlueSlip Media for sending this book for review!*