The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013
Dave Eggers and his students at the 826 Valencia and 826 Michigan writing labs compile fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comics, as well as category-defying gems that have become one of the hallmarks of this lively collection.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Dave Eggers is not only a well-known author of novels, he is also a philanthropist and champion of literacy education. Check out the link below to read a short bio on Dave Eggers. (This annotation contains a link)
Best American American Poem
Based on the structure of this poem, it is
Alexie isn't the only one who had a problem with the way Lear treated his daughter Cordelia. In the 17th century, Nahum Tate wrote an adaptation of Shakespeare's 'King Lear' and gave the troubled father and daughter a happy ending. (This annotation contains an image)
Select the answer that best describes the speaker's tone in this line.
Recently, there has been a rise in the number of parents who choose to not vaccinate their children against preventable diseases. Read this Washington Post blog post about how this is a dangerous trend. Why might someone like Alexie ("Indian as they are") be particularly offended by this anti-vaccine movement? (This annotation contains a link)
Alexie repeats this question a few times in the poem. What is he really asking himself? Do you think he already knows the answer, or is he afraid to find out?
Pay attention to how this last stanza acts as a sort of countdown (from six to one).
Murder ballads are a popular subgenre of traditional ballads. In America, these dark and morbid songs have roots in country, folk, and roots music; however, this genre has also been appropriated by some post punk and alternative musicians like Nick Cave, The Decemberists, and The Violent Femmes. (This annotation contains a video)
Explain the speaker's metaphor of singing a duet with his brother.
Best American Term Paper Assignment
From the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library: "Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Vonnegut acted as a powerful spokesman for the preservation of our Constitutional freedoms, for nuclear arms control and for the protection of the earth’s fragile biosphere. As the new century began, Vonnegut continued to try to be, as he said, 'a responsible elder in our society,' decrying the militarization of our county after the terrorist attacks of 2001. In his last novel, Timequake, and his last collection of essays, A Man without a Country, Vonnegut powerfully expressed his sense that corporate greed, overpopulation and war would win out in the end over simple humanity. As he ruefully apologized to those who would come after him, 'We could have saved the world, but we were just too damned lazy.' Kurt Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007, after a fall on the steps of his New York brownstone. He was mourned the world over as one of the great American writers of the second half of the 20th century."
Summarize the main theme of Vonnegut's writing advice to his students.
Best American Anti-War Poetry Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut
Listen to WWI war poet Siegfried Sassoon's poem "To Any Dead Officer" and compare and contrast themes with "A soldier lives...". Pay particular attention to how both poems address the differences between soldiers, civilians, and politicians.
'To Any Dead Officer' by Siegfried Sassoon (This annotation contains a video)
Despite his sadness, initially of the loss of his ancestors and ultimately the defacement of their graves, the speaker seems to find solace in
In the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps, this means 'time off' for a very short amount of time (usually 48 hours). Other branches of service would say that the soldier was on a 'pass.'
Best American Consumer Report
This chosen setting from which Cormac McCarthy pens his Yelp reviews evokes a feeling of
Recently, Chipotle has started including excerpts of works by famous authors on their drinking cups. While not quite a parody of McCarthy's style, some bloggers found it amusing to imagine what it would be like to read the disturbing imagery of the likes of Cormac McCarthy whilst gorging on a tasty burrito. (This annotation contains an image)
What does one have to consider when attempting to copy a writer's style? Identify two elements of McCarthy's writing style that are evident in this parody.
Best American Advertisement for a Home Security System
This creepy incident is a good example of the Freudian concept of the uncanny ('unheimlich'). This is the idea that something can be both familiar and alien, giving the subject a strange feeling of discomfort. Not only are these pictures disturbing because they are evidence of a lack of security in the home, but the surroundings and activities depicted in them are very familiar, while the people are menacing in their anonymity.
What do we know about the narrator of the story so far?
This short story has all of the makings of a good episode of the classic television show 'The Twillight Zone.' Watch this episode titled 'Mirror Image' and consider the similarities in tone it shares with this story. (Here's a hint: doppelgangers are another example of the uncanny). (This annotation contains a video)
Best American Apocryphal Discussion Between Our Nation’s Founding Fathers
Identify the best form of satire used in this imagined discussion.
This type of political satire, the use of irreverent humor when addressing a serious issue, has become somewhat mainstream due to the popularity of 'fake news shows' such as 'The Daily Show' and 'The Colbert Report,' as well as websites like 'The Onion' (which was formerly printed like a newspaper). (This annotation contains an image)
Teddy Wayne obviously had some fun coming up with 18th century euphemisms to describe 21st century technology and ideas (i.e. 'Top Rider of a Mechanical Flying Warhorse That Bombards Enemies with Cannonballs' = the movie 'Top Gun'). Find two more examples of these 18th century-isms, and explain them.
Best American Yada Yada Yada
What do all of these plot points have in common? How would you summarize this "TV show" in a sentence?
The fact that the editors of this anthology have decided to include excerpts from Twitter and Tumblr accounts should make you stop and think. How has the internet changed art and literature, and how we communicate and experience culture? (This annotation contains an image)
Best American Comic That Ends in Arson
Tattoo Stories Questions
Best American Story About a Hazardous, Symbolical Cesspool
Freddie Stories Quiz
How does the author describe the boys' interaction with each other after Nate returns to school?
For another look at how siblings can be especially cruel to each other (to the point of death), read James Hurst's 'The Scarlet Ibis.' (Link to full text below.) (This annotation contains a link)
What do you think was Nate's role in his sister's death? Use textual evidence to support your response.
Best American Poem About a Particle Accelerator
Learn more about particle accelerators and watch one in action in this video. (This annotation contains a video)
What is being implied here about the reasoning behind politicians supporting more funding for scientific discovery?
Sometimes chaos can follow a major scientific discovery, especially if it changes a belief system (like evolution) or the way one lives (think how the nuclear bomb not only ended a war, but also created a culture of fear and paranoia).
Why are these couples not checking bags on their trip to Siberia?
Is science destructive, or what people do with the science later? Listen to this story about Fritz Haber, a scientist who both saved and destroyed many lives with his discoveries. (This annotation contains a link)
Best American Account of Tragedy and Nationality
What is an oral history? In what ways can an oral history be more powerful than telling the same (or similar) story through fiction?
Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha (1947-1989) (This annotation contains an image)
Catalina's father's sudden insistence on making sure that she take care of her siblings is an example of
Map of Soacha, Colombia (This annotation contains an image)
What is the tonal effect of Catalina's horrific description of her once handsome father?
In the 1980s, Colombia was extremely corrupt. Some violent drug lords, like Pablo Escobar, used the public's hatred and distrust of corrupt authorities to their favor. Escobar used the burgeoning punk scene in which to recruit assassins. (Picture from National Geographic) (This annotation contains an image)
What does it mean to be in limbo? What does it mean for Catalina?
Quiz 1 (Front Material)
Colombia still has its problems, but there are signs that things are getting better and that Colombia is on the rise. (This annotation contains a link)
Finding Oscar: Massacre, Memory, and Justice in Guatemala
What is the initial emotional effect of these opening lines?
Below is a map of Guatemala. Dos Erres is not clearly marked on most maps, but it is in central north Guatemala. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the battle against impunity mean here?
FAR symbol (This annotation contains an image)
Explain how a "criminal in uniform" is an exceptionally disturbing image.
The use of sexual violence and rape is still used as a weapon/tactic of war across the globe. A recent summit held in London attempted to shed more light on the issue, as well as urge nations to stop this brutal practice. (This annotation contains a video)
Identify the type of horrifying imagery used in the highlighted section.
The School of Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) is located in Ft. Benning, GA. There is a lot of controversy surrounding this school and its role in the atrocities committed in Central and South America in the latter half of the last century. (This annotation contains a link)
Why did it take so long for the truths of these atrocities to come to light?
This is a common term used in the military for someone who fails to meet the required standards of basic or specialty training. This term has the demeaning connotation of weakness and someone who is substandard; a disappointment.
Why might Oscar's family refuse to help the investigators?
Oscar Ramirez Ramos (This annotation contains an image)
What does it mean to be a 'striver'?
ICE is an acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and is part of the Department of Homeland Security. They enforce the laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration.
Why is it essential that the ICE team follow all laws closely while questioning Jordan?
A lot of these former commandos wanted to confess the atrocities they committed because of their feelings of guilt. In this case, it seems that Jordan wants to be found out by Longo by offering little clues ('throwing out breadcrumbs). Not all war criminals who escaped punishment have similar urges to purge their guilt to authorities. Nazi war criminals are still being found out by chance or circumstance almost 70 years after the end of the war. (This annotation contains a link)
The idea that Jordan is not a danger to the community is an example of
In 2013, Montt was convicted of genocide and sentenced to 80 years in prison. However, this conviction was overturned by the Guatemalan constitutional court. The court claimed that Montt had been denied due process. His retrial will resume in January 2015. (This annotation contains a link)
Explain why Oscar is reluctant to dig into his past. What does he have to lose and, conversely, what does he have to gain from learning the truth?
Learn more about the kind of work Fredy Peccerelli does by reading about the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation. (This annotation contains a link)
Why would Castaneda initially be more sad than joyful at this news?
Tranquilino Castaneda holding a picture of his son and grandchildren. (This annotation contains an image)
Why are many Guatemalans angry and/resentful about searching for and prosecuting war criminals?
If you want to learn more about Oscar's story (including interviews with the people discussed in this story), listen to the episode of This American Life (created in collaboration with ProPublica) titled "What Happened in Dos Erres." (This annotation contains a link)
In your own words, describe why Oscar seems somewhat ambivalent about putting these war criminals on trial.
The waiting is over - Tranquilo sees his son for the first time in over 30 years, and meets his grandchildren. (This annotation contains an image)
Hannah and Andrew
Why do the Overtons want to adopt a child into their already somewhat large family?
Pay close attention to the details about the relationship between Andrew and his new adoptive family. Much like 'true crime' TV shows (like 'Dateline NBC' and '48 Hours Mystery'), you, as the audience/reader, will be expected to come to your own conclusions based on the evidence presented. Sometimes the real outcomes will not be what you expect.
The tension and shock delivered in this paragraph can be attributed to its
Christian punk rock, while seemingly paradoxical, does have a wide following. Some bands, like Paramore and Relient K, are actually quite popular in mainstream culture. (This annotation contains a link)
As a reader, you are being asked to make a judgment about the culpability concerning Andrew's death. Using textual evidence, at this point, do you think Hannah is capable of harming Andrew?
There are certain milestones children are expected to reach during childhood in order to be 'on target' developmentally. Developmental delays are not uncommon, and can be overcome. Every child is unique! (This annotation contains a link)
While asking for help through prayer is consistent with the Overtons' beliefs, how might this be poor judgment on their part?
Watch the video below to learn about Pica. (This annotation contains a video)
We know that Andrew dies of salt poisoning. Looking back at the events of this day, what could NOT have contributed to his death?
Detective Hess's comment about preparing for 'the media' can be construed as being both jaded and spot-on. The media does tend to fixate on such cases, especially when a close family member is a suspect (think the JonBenet Ramsey case, and more recently, the Casey Anthony case).
Does the author reveal any bias regarding this case? Give specific examples.
Picture of Andrew Burd (This annotation contains an image)
Despite facts, why was the case against Hannah gaining momentum?
From NewsLab. org: "Television news is highly competitive; its reliance on slick production values can sometimes heighten a story's excitement. In our survey, one person in three said that important information was left out of a story; one person in five complained that his or her interview was taken out of context, and nearly one in five thought the coverage of the particular event was both overblown and sensationalized. 'I don't think they want accuracy,' said one source. 'They're just looking for something that sells.' Another added, 'If it bleeds, it leads. If it doesn't bleed, it gets cut.' Even when you factor out the people who questioned a story's accuracy because they had some sort of an axe to grind, you're still left with a troubling number of people who got a bad taste from their journalistic experience."
The use of the phrase "recast as a monster" implies the metaphor of the courtroom as
As the author stated before, medical professionals have very strong feelings about perpetrators of abuse, based on what they see and treat on a regular basis. It is possible that Rotta's judgment here is clouded by his previous experiences.
What questions would you ask Hannah if you had been working for the prosecution?
Texas is one of thirty-two states that still has the death penalty. (This annotation contains a link)
Which statement about the jury is true?
This can also be called 'hysterical blindness.' The blindness referred to can be physical or just 'freezing up,' as Dr. Cortes relates here. (This annotation contains a link)
It seems that Hannah's conviction can at least be partially blamed on
A prosecutor found to have purposely withheld evidence can face criminal charges.
Where do you think Larry finds the strength to carry on as he does?
Below is a picture of Hannah in prison. (This annotation contains an image)
Despite the author's description here of their normalcy, how are the Overton children quite remarkable?
A Q&A with the author (This annotation contains a link)
Bewildered Decisions in Times of Mercantile Terror
Quiz on 'Black Box'
Pay attention to the parallel structure of this story, and watch the video below on parallel plot. (This annotation contains a video)
What does this metaphor imply?
Bobby makes an interesting metaphor here for the coterie of hipsters that his cousin seems to date. Why corduroy? Probably because it has been called, by some, the fabric of hipsters. (This annotation contains a link)
Bobby's description of how he cannot understand his cousin's jargon is an example of
Even with roommates, living in San Francisco is very expensive. Take a look at this website on the cost of living in San Francisco. Pay particular attention to restaurants/markets, transportation, and rent per month, as it relates to Bobby and his financial woes in this story. (This annotation contains a link)
If Bobby thinks so little of his invention, why is he expending so much energy to get his cousin to help gain a patent?
It is not a surprise that Nora would make such an analogy, considering her affinity for all things Irish. Collins and those of the Irish delegation sent to sign the treaty would get all of the publicity, and blame, for the treaty's pitfalls. (Pictured: Michael Collins and the Irish delegation reviewing the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.) (This annotation contains an image)
Describe Nora's behavior while at the conference in Los Angeles.
People's Park was created during the 1960s, a time of radical activism. It is now a public park and retreat for many of the homeless population in Berkeley. (This annotation contains an image)
What seems to be the driving motivation behind Bobby's visiting old haunts in the Berkeley area?
Below is a picture of a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the voicemail message that Bobby leaves Nora illustrate the 'macabre' sense of humor that they share?
The Irish bartender's dislike of U2 could be because she hates their music, how they seem to be the go-to Irish band that anyone really knows about, or the recent accusations of front man Bono's hypocrisy when it comes to tax avoidance. Or some combination thereof. (This annotation contains a link)
The inclusion of a Beatles tribute band contributes to the story's ____________ of _____________.
Below is a video from the T.V. show "the office", where the character Ryan defines "wunderkind." (This annotation contains a video)
Summarize what Nora is attempting to do here with her graphic description of WWI trench warfare.
It seems that many people in the meeting do not understand the seriousness of their predicament, and are spouting off IMDb trivia. Such as , in tune with Nora's macabre sense of humor, "On the set, Dan Aykroyd referred to the 'Slimer' ghost as the ghost of John Belushi."
What do you think Nora felt while observing these Russians' fearlessness in the face of danger?
Nora's use of the word 'veneer' implies more than it being just a facade. 'Veneer' is specifically thin and decorative.
What is the effect of Dave's speech on the reader?
Dave seems uncomfortable with anything that can be deemed 'wild.' His flirtation with Nora (who is 'wild' in many ways) is a departure for him. (This annotation contains an image)
Write a brief outline of Bobby's day so far.
Bobby has not learned Ringo's real name, even though he has been a real friend to him; which is something he is really lacking in his life. (This annotation contains an image)
Where did Bobby get the idea for the Man Handle?
This echoes what he said to the librarian earlier in the story. Is he really unsure of his idea, or is he just looking for someone to reassure him and say that he has a good idea? Does he just need some positive feedback to help get out of his cycle of behavior?
Why is it surprising that Ringo is alone on his futon?
This is quite a feat. It does not seem that it would be easy to impress Nora, but Dave manages it through his unexpected morality. Unexpected being the key term.
Think back to the video clip on parallel structure that you watched at the beginning of the story. How did the varying points of view enhance the story?
Cuba’s New Now
It is difficult to discern right away whether some of the stories in this section are fiction or non-fiction. The fact that this story was originally published in National Geographic is a giveaway that this is a work of non-fiction.
Describe the relationship between the author and Eduardo.
Florida has the most recorded shark attacks in the world. (This annotation contains a link)
Eduardo's description of how the government lies to its population is an example of
The highest number of tourists in Cuba are from Canada. And despite US/Cuban sanctions, almost 100,000 Americans (not including Cuban nationals) visit Cuba annually. (This annotation contains a link)
In your own words, explain the Cuban government's mismanagement of its natural resources and infrastructure.
Below is a picture of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. (This annotation contains an image)
How does this woman view the last 55 years of Cuban history?
Rumors are still circulating about the abolishment of the the dual currency system in Cuba. (This annotation contains a link)
Explain how t-shirts with a picture of the iconic Cuban leader can be considered "foreign."
You won't find many Cubans shopping in malls like this one, the Addidas Carlos Tercero Mall in Havana. (This annotation contains an image)
Why id Dr. M "silent and impassive" after touring the museum?
Paladares are privately owned restaurants. Below is a picture of a Cuban paladares. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the use of the term 'fiefdom' imply about Cuba's governance?
Since Raul Castro has taken power, Cuban travel policies have become a little less stringent. (This annotation contains a link)
The author mentions how she has found both cynics and optimists during her time in Cuba. How would you characterize the tone of this article -- cynical or optimistic? Use specific examples.
All Due Respect
Which word best describes Jake Adelstein?
Below is a picture of Pipokun. (This annotation contains an image)
It is somewhat paradoxical that someone who becomes obsessed with violent culture and hard living (and Adelstein is not alone in this) would also be interested in Zen Buddhism. Pictured: Zen Buddhist Temple, Japan (This annotation contains an image)
Adelstein has fashioned himself into the _________ of the American self-made man.
The video below is of Jake Adelstein talking about yakuza. (This annotation contains a video)
Do you agree with Jake's style of journalism? Using textual evidence, explain your answer.
Your tweets can be used against you in court, no subpoena necessary. (This annotation contains a link)
Oddly enough,in the recent past, the police viewed the yakuza with
Tadamasa Goto (This annotation contains an image)
What image has Adelstein fostered for himself?
In 2009, '60 Minutes' did a feature on Adelstein's story. Click on the link to watch the video. (This annotation contains a link)
Demonstrate how Adelstein and Goto have similar characteristics. Use specific examples.
There are several style of 'manga' brows, but the author's use of the culturally relevant image is probably meant to mean manicured and expressive. (This annotation contains an image)
Really, Michizuki is surprised at Adelstein's willingness to
There is something reminiscent of an earlier era of journalism in Adelstein's methods. One could easily picture his life as a 1970s film starring Al Pacino or Charles Bronson. He's not gonna play by your rules!
How would you describe Eddie's relationship with his son?
Here is an article about Williams's release from prison in 2003. (This annotation contains a link)
What conclusion has the author come to about Adelstein?
In general, most high-profile companies in Japan are pretty conservative and male dominated. (This annotation contains a link)
Explain why the author enjoyed this image. What does it reveal about his feelings toward Adelstein?
Everyone’s Reading Bastard
Does this title have more than one meaning? Whether that apostrophe is possessive or a contraction can change the meaning! Make a prediction.
Charlie claiming that Elaine will 'vaporize' him is an example of
Charlie should have read up on dating 'textiquette' in the link below. (This annotation contains a link)
What do we learn about Elaine's character indirectly here?
Without actually making any outright accusations, Charlie is not pulling any punches when describing Elaine's selfishness. Solipsism is the erudite way of saying that someone does not (or cannot) believe or recognize anything that has not been originated within him or herself.
We are learning about Charlie's shortcomings through descriptions of Elaine's columns. How have these revelations changed the way that you feel about Charlie?
The meaning of the title is now clear. Did you figure it out earlier, or did you forget about it until now?
Charlie is perplexed by the current state of
Charlie goes for the denotative use of the word here, and is quite unbastard-like in the sensitivity he shows toward his daughter.
There is evidence that Elaine's abhorrence of her husband is representative of
The author uses very strong and violent language (vaporize, eviscerate) in describing what Elaine is doing to Charlie, but it seems disproportionate to the calmness of Charlie's public reaction to the columns.
What does the fact that Charlie does not think of anyone as a 'bitch' reveal about his character, especially in relation to the character of his wife?
Internet comments are a very interesting (and sometimes scary) byproduct of online discourse. Why were commenters quicker to defend 'Bitch' than 'Bastard'? Are gender dynamics at play here? (This annotation contains a link)
What is Charlie's (unspoken) complaint here about how he is being perceived by readers of Elaine's column?
The same could be said for those who date songwriters. Some, like Taylor Swift, have gained a reputation for using past romances as fodder for their music. (This annotation contains an image)
Do you believe that Charlie truly wishes to better himself, or will he just continue behaving badly in time?
It is interesting that Charlie finds dealing with his mother amidst all of this public humiliation the most. He uses war imagery here.
We now see that the reason why Charlie has been so accepting of his situation is that
It appears as if Charlie has read some of those dating 'textiquette' articles, judging from his worrying over how many x's Helena included in her message.
How is this a turning point in the story?
Notice that it is both men and women who are calling Elaine out here, and resorting to the similar name calling (the "B word'). Her column had hit a nerve, and become too personal.
What line has Elaine crossed now?
Elaine may continue to disparage him publicly in the media, but his fellow bankers can commiserate in the sense that their reputations have consistently been attacked in the media.
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance
'Cold Drank' is the name of Kiese Laymon's website which features cultural essays and short works of fiction. (This annotation contains a link)
Describe what unexpected about this imagery.
Edward Evans was 15 years old when he was murdered in 2012. (This annotation contains a link)
What does the speaker's reaction to this situation suggest?
Unfortunately, this kind of blatant racism in a southern fraternity is not an isolated incident. It still happens. (This annotation contains a link)
Why does the speaker put the gun back and pick up a T-ball bat instead?
Laymon continues to include the names of young black boys, a little younger than he, that have been killed as a result of racism and/or the culture of violence in which they lived. (This annotation contains an image)
"61 year-old white boys named George" refers to the president of Millsaps College, but can also be refer to
He is rewarded a scholarship named after a victim of racist violence, and throws his gun into a reservoir named after a former Dixiecrat governor of Mississippi who supported segregation. Consider the symbolism of his keeping the bullets.
Explain the difference between the speaker's and his mother's philosophies of life.
The speaker sings love songs and reminds himself about the love he felt (yet doesn't currently feel?) for his grandmother. Love is only in his memory.
Reckoning could mean comprehension, but in the speaker's case it could also mean
Oberlin College has a reputation for being quite liberal and a haven for artists. (This annotation contains a link)
Relate this statement of purpose to the title of the essay. What is the author hoping to accomplish?
Here is an article about this occurrence, focusing on Azikiwe. (This annotation contains a link)
Snake River Gorge
Pay attention to how Henry develops as a character throughout the story. (This annotation contains a video)
In what role is Henry presenting himself here?
Making money by selling items on eBay can be hit or miss. It is definitely not a consistent source of income. (This annotation contains a link)
The fact that he needs parental permission lets the reader know that Theo is
Using nicknames can be a way to build bonds and camaraderie in the workplace, but also consider how it gives the 'namer,' Henry in this case, power. (This annotation contains a link)
How would you characterize the group's silence?
Watch the video below on foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
Describe the job Theo has signed up for.
These warnings that Theo keeps receiving contribute to the foreshadowing of something sinister. They are obviously warning him that wherever he came from is better than being there with them, but are keeping secret just why that is.
What is the only way that Theo learns anything about Mattie?
We are slowly learning more about Henry as a character through his behavior. We know that something is off and disconcerting about him, but can still only make inferences at this point.
Using specific examples, describe the dynamic in the room. Also, why are Nora and Mattie given non-alcoholic beer?
Have you noticed that there are no quotation marks to identify dialogue? This is a stylistic choice on the author's part, and one that not everyone appreciates. (This annotation contains a link)
Why do Henry's workers stay despite this horrific treatment?
Theo is using the tactics he has learned from Mattie here to charm the lady at the front desk to give him what he wants.
We have seen how character elements of Henry were slowly revealed to Theo (and to the reader), but how has Theo's character developed? How has he changed by the end of the story?
Seven Stories About Kenel of Koulèv-Ville
Despite its structure as a sort of travel essay, this is a work of fiction.
What do the first two curses have in common?
The earthquake occurred in Haiti on January 12, 2010. (This annotation contains a link)
Why would Kenel expect someone to attack an American Airlines jet? Do you think he is just wondering, or hoping it would happen?
Zombies (or zonbis) originated in Haitian folklore. (This annotation contains a link)
Why would Kenel think of his mother at this moment.
Just as we saw in "Cuba's New Now," in Haiti, luxurious hotels and tourist destinations co exist side by side with the desperate poverty of its population. (This annotation contains a link)
Identify the literary device used here.
Below is a video example of a Haitian marketplace. (This annotation contains a video)
Do you trust Kenel's appearance of sincerity? Why does this "uncharacteristic sincerity" appear at this moment?
This kind of 'humblebrag" or "complaintbrag" has become a popular form of expression in social media. #humblebrag (This annotation contains a link)
What is the source of the narrator's bitterness toward her sister?
These conflicting feelings the narrator has in relation to her sister does not seem out of the norm of usual sibling dynamics, especially ones who have a thinly veiled competitiveness. (This annotation contains a video)
What common ground do the sisters have?
Because of the amount of money that flows through casinos, security and surveillance is extremely tight. (This annotation contains a link)
How is the tone of the sisters' relationship changing, and why?
The statistics on teenage runaways are not encouraging, as you can see in the link below. (This annotation contains a link)
Why did the narrator keep these things to herself?
She is embarrassed to use the vocabulary of 'users,' but like it or not, she is a member of the culture by proximity and experience.
Explain the narrator's motherly worry over Cyril's lack of coat.
East of the West
Penkov explains why he wrote this story: "I wrote 'East of the West' during my time at the University of Arkansas’ creative writing program. I had already lived in Arkansas for five years and because I didn’t own a car, and because I was restricted to life on campus my feelings of nostalgia were reaching a dangerous depth. But in writing I was free and could travel across ocean and time unimpeded. I wanted to write a story about those Bulgarians who, at the will of the Great Powers, were severed from our country, and who inevitably will lose, if they haven’t already, their sense of being Bulgarian. At the same time, I wanted to write a story about myself, abroad and alone, with a huge body of water between me and the people I love."
Why was it compulsory for them to eat and drink to excess at these gatherings?
Many aspects of Western culture became an obsession on Soviet bloc countries - especially blue jeans. In the late 1970s, the Soviet Union approved the production of blue jeans in order to curb the black market obsession with them. (This annotation contains a link)
What literary device is the highlighted section an example of?
The relationship between Serbia and Bulgaria (as with other eastern European nations during the time of Soviet dominance) is troubled and complicated. (This annotation contains a link)
Explain Nose's small feeling of triumph here. What is he feeling?
In this instance, Elitsa's proximity to what she wants (to live in the West and to have everything that comes along with that) could be more difficult than if she was farther away. She is so close and yet so far...
Vera and Nose's situation closely resembles what myth?
Are Elitsa and Boban heading for a Romeo and Juliet-like tragic ending? Just because a nation is divided by politics and ideology does not mean that its people will not meet and fall in love in spite of the dire consequences. Serbia and Bulgaria. Israel and Palestine. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. (This annotation contains a link)
What is one example of how Elitsa's plans are not exactly a 'sure thing'?
This image of two families on opposite banks of a river, shouting a marriage contract is both extremely sad and absurd.
Elitsa taking off her jeans to put on a traditional outfit is
Politically, Nose does not have much recourse for all of the terrible things that have happened, and continue to happen, to his family. Physically breaking the land as a miner is a symbolic way of harming the land that has brought him so much pain. Picture: Bulgarian mine (This annotation contains an image)
What literary device does Nose use to describe the land throughout the story? Why does he do this?
NATO bombs Kosovo in response to the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the turning point for Nose?
Notice the circular structure of the narrative.
What does the little boy reveal (directly and indirectly) about Vera's life?
This final metaphor flips Nose's usual personification of the land and river to now refer to himself.
Kim Philley lives, writes, and teaches writing in Phnom Penh. (This annotation contains a link)
What initially attracts the narrator to Jonathan?
VIsa and passport requirements can be tricky for anyone visiting a foreign country, especially for an extended period of time. Things can be more complicated and tricky if you are from a politically volatile country (like Nigeria) because of the risk of fraud and staying in the country longer than is legal. (This annotation contains a link)
How does the narrator characterize Jonathan's mourning of Austin's death?
The Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) was also known as the Khmer Rouge. They were a very oppressive and murderous regime that held power in the late 1970s. By some estimations, 2 million people died under this regime. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the implication here about Agbeze's position as the Nigerian Community Association president?
These refurbished trains are obviously geared toward attracting foreign tourists, not unlike what we have read about in "Cuba's New Now." This is problematic in that it gives the impression of nostalgia for a time of colonial oppression. (This annotation contains a link)
Using textual evidence, make a prediction about the relationship between Jonathan and the narrator.
Medical Intuitives practice alternative medicine. They are sometimes called a medical clairvoyant or intuitive counselor. (This annotation contains a link)
Describe the setting of their meeting with Agbeze.
'The Thorn Birds' was a very popular (and somewhat salacious) novel written by Australian author Colleen McCullough. It gained world wide attention after its successful adaptation as a television miniseries (followed by sequels) in the early 1980s. The fact that the narrator judges harshly against a country based on its (lack of) identifiable literature is an interesting character detail. (This annotation contains a video)
Why is the face of Ulysses S. Grant improbable?
The fact that the narrator assumed that the man was offering marijuana instead of just a regular cigarette can be construed as another example of how she tends to think and live in extremes.
Why is the narrator suspicious of Freedom?
A non sequitur is "a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement." (This annotation contains an image)
Jonathan referring to his documents as MY LIFE is an example of
There is still a strong belief in voodoo in many African nations, including Nigeria. (This annotation contains a link)
What is happening to the narrator here?
An infidel is someone who does not believe in religion, or adheres to the beliefs of another's religion. She thinks that Jonathan is accusing her to be the former, perhaps an atheist.
What is your opinion of Jonathan? Is this violent side of him unexpected?
Part of the concept of exoticism is the "charm of the unfamiliar." In post colonial literary theory this is the problematic and superficial lens through which the colonizer views the colonized.
Explain the significance of the title of this story, "Two Deaths." Can it have both a literal and figurative meaning?
Davy Rothbart is the editor of Found Magazine, a kind of public art project. (This annotation contains a link)
What do we know about the narrator so far?
The original meaning (16th century) of a 'swashbuckler' refers to a pirate, a pretty apt description of Chris. Over the centuries, the meaning has shifted a bit to refer to an archetypal heroic character who saves 'damsels in distress." That sounds less like Chris. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does the narrator feel hopeful?
As he is over 100 years old, Vernon is a centenarian. More and more people are surviving into their 100s. (This annotation contains a link)
What do you think is going to happen between Davy and Lauren? Why?
Old people trying to use new technology is something that gets a lot of lolz (to use the jargon) in entertainment media. here Vernon doesn't seem to be struggling, and actually seems quite young ("it'll be cool"). (This annotation contains an image)
What makes you think that perhaps Vernon's great-granddaughter is not entirely welcoming of his visit?
There is obviously a history here. Her insistence that he not even come inside the house for a moment shows that this is not the first time that he has shown up unexpectedly needing to stay. Yet, she still wants to spend time with him, just not support him financially.
What is contradictory about Chris's character?
Davy mentions that he used to live in Chicago, but never explains what he was doing there, as it seems that he now lives in Detroit. Was he going to school in Chicago? Working there, but then moved back to Detroit?
Explain how the metaphor of the snowball relates to the story.
Vernon gives Davy advice that conflicts with what he was just telling himself about not moving too fast. Vernon knows that life can be too long to deal with past regrets.
Why do Chris and Davy continue to help out Vernon's extended family?
Think about how this seemingly small detail aids in the character development of Chris.
What does the dialogue between Davy and Chris, while a loud fight is occurring near them, reveal?
The characters in this story are pretty dynamic. It is difficult to flesh out a character in a short story due to its brevity, but we learn a lot about Anthony in just these few paragraphs.
Did you expect Chris to share the winnings with every one in the car? What do you think would have happened if he had decided to keep it all for himself?
This is very smart on Chris's part. He is hitting on two important traits that every one in the car values - pride and loyalty.
What does Davy's "posse" give him that he didn't have before?
Murphy's law -- If anything can go wrong, it will. (This annotation contains a link)
Describe all of the instances of good luck that characters have had in the story so far. Do you think this lucky streak will continue?
Mary takes a risk here, but it pays off in the end! She knows this cop well enough to know how to deflect the tension of the situation. However, it is not always advisable to get too chatty when you get pulled over by the police! (This annotation contains a link)
As the story wraps up, the tense mood of the story is giving way to
Without really trying, Davy has managed to impress Lauren with his ability to make so many friends in an unfamiliar town so quickly. The term 'dazzle,' however, implies temporariness.
This paragraph is an examples of
The Blind Faith of the One-Eyed Matador
Juan Jose Padilla before his injury (This annotation contains an image)
In describing the bull fight, the narrator relies heavily on
Juan Jose Padilla after his injury (and after surgery) (This annotation contains an image)
Based on what we know of Padilla so far, what will be the most difficult obstacle he will have to overcome in achieving this goal?
Despite the public outcry against the violence and inhumane treatment of the bulls, many wish to preserve bullfighting as a cultural practice. (This annotation contains a link)
Using contextual clues, what does this figure of speech mean?
Learn more about what drives matadors to this 'art' despite the prevalent dangers by watching this '60 Minutes' story on the Ordonez brothers. As with Padilla, toreros run in the family, and so does near death experiences in the ring. (This annotation contains a video)
What is your opinion of Padilla? Do you view him as a heroic figure? Explain your position.
The kind of facial reconstruction and therapy Padilla goes through was pioneered by Harold Gillies in the wake of WWI. (This annotation contains a link)
The author's description of Diego's appearance can best be described as
The dressing of the matador by a 'squire' is a ritual, usually done in private or with a lucky small group by invitation only. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does the author feel frightened for Padilla at this moment?
Behind the scenes footage of Jose Juan Padilla (companion to this story) (This annotation contains a video)
Explain this description of the final moments of the fight. How can it be all of these things at once?
Here is one of the paradoxical elements of bullfighting -- he loves the bulls, but he kills the bulls (slowly and violently).
What does Padilla gain the most from his profession?
This is the concept of the biological imperative of self preservation.
What is the narrative perspective of this story?
Maintaining childhood friendships through middle school, high school, and adulthood is a difficult task. Kayla is perceptive enough in her adolescence to recognize that the changes she and Luz will go through will more than likely mean the end of their closeness. (This annotation contains a link)
What do Kayla and Luz have in common?
Though she finds it somewhat stifling, Kayla needs this routine of watching soap operas in the dark with her mother. This routine gives her a sense of security.
What is the emerging theme of the story regarding mothers and daughters? Use specific examples.
The fishing that Luz does is probably not just for fun, but to supplement what food they have. This is a reminder that Luz's and Kayla's lives are harsher than those of their peers.
What does Luz's failure to also not wear underwear represent?
This is a different side to Tammy that is being revealed. Her younger self invested more time in her daughter and wanted to make sure that she had the best education that she could access. The U.S. News and World Report publishes a list of the best schools in the nation annually, but it usually only focuses on high schools, universities, and graduate schools. (This annotation contains a link)
How would you describe the way the other parents treat Tammy?
Do you have some time and a good supermercado near you? Here is a recipe for Guatemalan tamales. (This annotation contains a link)
Pilar's parents are disapproving of Pilar dating outside of her culture and religion. While Estela and her sisters seem to be easily adaptable, her parents still hold on to beliefs from their more homogeneous experiences in Guatemala. (This annotation contains a link)
What role does Estela fulfill in the Lopez family?
We don't know what exactly happened to DeMarcus. We see here that there is a lot of violence in the Lopez household. Kayla suffers from neglect, but she is not used to violence.
Even though they seemed like close friends, how was Kayla's and Luz's relationship unequal?
Another theme of the story deals with abandonment and its effect on those left behind. Tammy was abandoned by her mother, Kayla was abandoned emotionally by her mother and physically by her only friend.
What did Kayla realize too late?
Consider the connotations of the terms "foxhole," and "plantation." These words evoke images of war, bombardment, and oppression. Yet, the narrator seems unaware of this.
How does the narrator describe the International Templeman Prize for Faith in Science?
The narrator has a vested interest in the outcome of the story. He is very close to Sir James , and admires him greatly (even perhaps idolizes him). As a reader, you should note how biases influence the reliability of the narration.
What do you think is the purpose of making the foxholes so far apart?
Establishing his 'plantation' in a tropical area for 'tax reasons' makes him pretty circumspect. It also hints at the idea that he has similar characteristics to other cult leaders, like Jim Jones, who have made similar moves. (TempleLand vs. Jonestown?) (This annotation contains a link)
Identify some of the contradictions in thought and behavior/characteristics that we have seen in the story so far. How do these examples contribute to the idea of faith?
From Oxford Biblical Studies Online: "The only character to be given a name in Jesus' parables (Luke 16: 19–31) where he is the archetypal beggar in contrast with Dives, a billionnaire, who is given no name—though often referred to as Dives. The brother of Mary and Martha who lived at Bethany; he was raised from the dead by Jesus although he (Jesus) deliberately delayed his response to the sisters' call for help (John 11). Because Lazarus is said to be ‘loved’ by Jesus, he has been identified by a few commentators as the ‘beloved disciple’ who wrote the fourth gospel (John 21: 24), but the view has not attracted much support."
How does the narrator characterize the media's and scientific community's response to Sir James's beliefs about the disappearance?
There is a long history of self harm in order to be closer to God in the Christian religion, but this usually took the form of mutilation or flagellation. Even so, the narrator admonishes himself for not recognizing that the fervent would attempt to throw themselves in the hole as a literal leap of faith.
According to the narrator, why are all of these people jumping into the hole? What does the narrator think of all of this?
The narrator jumps to be redeemed in the eyes of Sir James more than for anything else. The narrator has characterized Sir James as a Christ-like figure, and he jumps to prove his faith in him.
Which line has a double meaning, with the connotation of a kind of resurrection for the narrator in this experience?
Explain what you think is happening here. Is any of this real?
The author begins the story rather abruptly, as if answering a question that the reader did not hear. The reader is forced to pay close attention to figure out who these people are and what their relationships are. The only specifics we are given are that Siju is the narrator's older brother and that his girlfriend is Manju.
Using context clues, what is the setting of the story?
An iron ore mine in India (This annotation contains an image)
How does the narrator describe the atmosphere of the mine in this paragraph?
Sexual harassment and violence in India is a major problem. Unfortunately, Manju and the other women working in the mine more than likely witness or are the victim of sexual harassment regularly. (This annotation contains a link)
This line is from the English poem "Casabianca," written in 1826. Why has the narrator remembered this specific line, do you think? How does it relate to him and the theme of the story?
What literary element does the author use to describe the image of Amma sieving the ore?
Unfortunately, over mining and illegal mining practices have had a detrimental environmental effect on the area. Watch the video below to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)
Saris can be very elaborate and decorative, but Munna's has to be functional and easy to work in. (This annotation contains an image)
How is their ignoring Munna's cries representative of life in the mines?
It is almost as if the mine is bleeding, which is not a far fetched comparison considering how destructive mining is to the land (remember Nose in "East of the West" who became a miner because he wanted to physically stab at the land as if murdering it). The virgin land in the distance seems impossible to the narrator, yet is touched by the same sun that beats on him.
Why does the narrator think that he might have a good chance at persuading Mr. Subbu? Do you think that Mr. Subbu will give him the job?
Lowering a man into a pit is very dangerous business, and it does not seem that Appa is doing so without any safety precautions. (This annotation contains an image)
How do the miners (bot the women and the men) seem to deal with the stress and danger in their work?
There is a growing urban monkey problem in India. (This annotation contains a video)
How does the atmosphere in the tent change when Munna hears her husband approach?
The fact that he is using this particular voice signals that what follows will be a kind of performance.
How does Appa exert power over his family? How does this influence your understanding of him as a character?
10 km is a little more than 6 miles.
What might be the subtext of Appa's horrid treatment of Siju?
How would you describe Amma?
Guna's misuse of "Lympic Games" is an example of
Suzuki stopped making the Esteem in 2002. Do you think it is significant that a man like Subbu drives a car called "Esteem?"
Explain the exhilaration Guna feels at this moment.
Throughout the story there have been references to the 2008 Beijing Olymoic Games (Picture - Beijing gold medal) (This annotation contains an image)
Guna's description of Manju's hair and the rain are
The change in the weather can represent a shift in the story as well. Guna has been waiting for the rain to come, and it is just about to break.
At this point, how does Guna feel about the routine of his life?
What is the significance of using the Beijing Olympic Games as a motif in this story? How does it contribute to the overall theme of the story?