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Topic: ideas for High School Am. Lit. term paper?

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Subject: ideas for High School Am. Lit. term paper?
Date Posted: 9/6/2007 8:32 AM ET
Member Since: 1/31/2006
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ETA-Thanks for all the suggestions.  For anyone who is interested, she will be reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James for her Lit & Comp term paper. 

My daughter is in 10th grade and must write a number of term papers this year.  Her Literature and Compostion class requires the students to write on a novel of their choosing that fits the following:  Fiction (novel length) by an American author that is level appropriate (my emphasis, I think that last part is merely added to weed out any works deemed 'too easy'.)  The required list for the year includes: To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Crucible and either One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or The Bean Tree, so she can't use any of these.  There is no requirement as to publication date, genre or content.  She would like to "try out" a few before she must turn in her topic in order to make sure she's interested in the book, can find enough material to write about, supplemental sources, etc...

Any suggestions?

eta-I wasn't sure if this should be posted here or in the Thoughts forum but most requests for book suggestions seem to be here so...

Last Edited on: 9/14/07 2:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/6/2007 9:02 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2005
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I had some ideas in mind, then realized they weren't American authors!  I can think of a few right now:

The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West:  About a family of Quakers just before and during the Civil War.  Lots of adventure, some very funny moments about a close knit family.  A gentle read. 

Any story by Janice Holt Giles:  A writer from the '50s, most of her stories are set in the 1800s Kentucky hills.  I have loved everything I've read by her!  Gentle reads. 

Both of these authors have interesting lives-West was a Quaker herself, and Holt Giles started writing her stories later in life and never believed she'd be published.  I'm thinking if your daughter chooses one of these two authors, she could add some interesting background info on these author's lives.

Another book I absolutely loved was Norris Church Mailer's "Windchill Summer".  This might be a little too old for her, although the main characters are girls going into their Senior year in high school.  Norris Church Mailer is author Norman Mailer's wife.  This book is set in a small town in the late 1960s, mostly about 2 girls, best friends.  One girl falls in love for the first time with the new boy in town, the other girl has a slightly older boyfriend who just got back from Viet Nam (which turns out to play a HUGE part in the story).  There is a murder in the small town which rocks the girls' lives...a bit of a racial theme, as one of the girls is Phillipino...the effects of Viet Nam...family life...small town secrets...(a bit of sexual stuff here and there, that's why I'm thinking maybe it's too old for her, but use your judgement) so much going on, just a great read.  You can probably find a more detailed review on PBS here or Barnes Noble. 

Oh!  Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns would be a great choice too!  Very good, gentle read.  I'm sure there's a review on here.

I hope these help! 


Date Posted: 9/6/2007 9:15 AM ET
Member Since: 4/12/2007
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An Invisible Man by Richard Wright.  Lots of materials and a fantastic book. 

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.  Ditto.

- Tracy



Date Posted: 9/6/2007 9:40 AM ET
Member Since: 7/9/2007
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The Awakening by Kate Chopin would be a good one.  My AP English teacher (and it seems like every other English teacher) loved it and it's a great one to use for essays on the AP test (if your daughter decided to go that route).
Other American authors she might consider - Truman Capote, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, J.D. Salinger, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck and a ton of other ones.

Date Posted: 9/6/2007 12:21 PM ET
Member Since: 11/17/2006
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In 10th grade, I remember reading two of my favorite all-time books:  To Kill A Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn.  They are both by American authors and are fiction.



Date Posted: 9/6/2007 2:10 PM ET
Member Since: 7/29/2005
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I'm going to chime in with a few I remember actually enjoying:

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Johny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Date Posted: 9/6/2007 2:32 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
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I suggest The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It's a  wonderful read that touches on many different themes. Your daughter could find plenty to write about this book.

Date Posted: 9/6/2007 3:48 PM ET
Member Since: 7/23/2006
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Any of the classics would be good.

Last Edited on: 9/6/07 3:49 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/6/2007 3:48 PM ET
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Any Mark Twain. She can relate it to the political/hiistorical events of the time and to present day as well. Tons of sources.

Date Posted: 9/6/2007 5:59 PM ET
Member Since: 4/17/2007
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How about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith or Fahrenheit 451

Date Posted: 9/6/2007 6:53 PM ET
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If she needs short one night read, "The Old Man and the Sea" by Hemingway, or  I would second "The Call of the Wild" by London.

For unorthodox, kinda hip.  Philip K Dick just went to Library of America.  Interesting to compare his "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" to Blade Runner.  Future vision are great.  I enjoyed "Slaughterhouse Five" by in 11th grade.  Unintentionally, skipped class for half the day and read in the school library.  Sat on the floor, never left the V section of fiction.  Of course, "Catcher in the Rye" by Salinger.

Date Posted: 9/7/2007 7:42 AM ET
Member Since: 5/5/2006
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Ditto on The Awakening, it's not a lengthy book but it certainly packs a wallop. Questions for discussion:

  • What kind of marriage do the Pontelliers have?
  • In what ways does Edna "awaken"?
  • The children don't do much in the novel, but they are crucial to what happens. Why does Edna feel so conflicted toward them?
  • The sea plays a role in both Edna's awakening and in her suicide. What about the sea proves so fatally attractive to her?
  • Why does Edna seek solitude? Can she only be "awake" by herself?
  • Why is the little "pigeon-house" more important to Edna than the far larger house that she lives in by herself while Léonce is out of town?
  • Why does Edna fall so quickly for Alcée Arobin?
  • What is the meaning of Edna's suicide?


    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, an early "African-American" author. 

    • How does the novel address the conflict between the private self versus the public one?
    • How does Janie experience scarcity and abundance in different ways throughout her life?
    • What does the novel suggest about the power of the spoken word and storytelling?
    • What does the novel tell us about creation and light?
    • How does Hurston present the complexities of Janie's race and class?
    • What does Hurston's novel suggest about the role and purpose of money in Janie's spiritual reality?

    The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty, I'm adding Delta Wedding, I found some good discussion questions.

    Delta Wedding:

    • Early in the novel, it is observed of the Fairchilds that "it was the boys and the men that defined that family always" (p. 16). Is this consistent with the roles of women and girls in the story?
    • As a founding family, the Fairchilds know and are known by everyone in their community, and the young people, at least, socialize constantly. What is the nature of their relationships outside of the family?
    • Both George and Dabney surprised and disappointed their family with their choices of a mate. Are their spouses unsuitable for the same reasons?
    • A bird flies into the house, and the various shouts of "Get it out!" are really, Welty explains, "one cry. . .half delight, half distress, all challenge" (p. 214). What does this say about the family and its sense of crisis?
    • What themes are expressed with reference to time and its passage in the novel?
    • Storytelling is a recurrent theme in the literature of the American South. What is the Fairchild approach to family lore?
    • What's going on with Pinchy, the young servant, who is "trying to come through" (pp. 39-40)?
    • What part do shared meals and food play in the story?

     The Hours by  Michael Cunningham    ~Interesing because the author weaves in Virginia Wolf and Mrs. Dalloway in the novel. Plus it addresses a current health issue we face today.

    • What does the pattern of the writing contribute to the feeling of the novel?
    • Where does the title come from? 
    • "She thinks of how much more space a being occupies in life than it does in death; how much illusion of size is contained in gestures and movements, in breathing. Dead, we are revealed in our true dimensions, and they are surprisingly modest." (p. 165)
    • What emphasis is provided by the structure of the novel?
    • What links the three main characters?
    • Is there a coherent view of suicide?
    • Is there a tension between youth and age?
    • Kisses play an important role. What is it?
    • "She could, she thinks, have entered another world. She could have had a life as potent and dangerous as literature itself." (p. 97) Discuss.
    • "We're middle-aged and we're young lovers standing beside a pond. We're everything, all at once. Isn't it remarkable?" (p. 67) Isn't it?
    • Discuss the tension between the normal and the hyper.
    • "Richard . . . is as gaunt and majestic, and as foolish, as a drowned queen still seated on her throne." (p. 57) What meanings are communicated here? 

    Last Edited on: 9/7/07 8:39 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
    Date Posted: 9/7/2007 8:53 AM ET
    Member Since: 9/6/2006
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    There were very few pre-20th century American authors I enjoyed (and I majored in English in college!) but one I did like was The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A great modern American author is Anne Tyler--Saint Maybe is filled with questions for discussions. I read that first when I was in 10th grade and I loved it.

    Date Posted: 9/7/2007 10:09 AM ET
    Member Since: 1/31/2006
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    Thanks everyone : )  I'm putting all of the suggestions on a list and she'll start looking up info on all of them.  With all of these choices, she's bound to find something that she'll enjoy.

    Date Posted: 9/8/2007 8:52 PM ET
    Member Since: 6/21/2005
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    • A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
    • East of Eden
    • The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck its set in China but she is an American author, one of my favorite books.


    Date Posted: 9/9/2007 10:43 AM ET
    Member Since: 8/7/2007
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    A Prayer for Owen Meany

    Date Posted: 9/9/2007 11:05 AM ET
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    I second either the The Old Man and the Sea (an excellent book)  by Hemingway or The Catcher in the Rye( which I really LOVED btw!).


    Date Posted: 9/14/2007 2:31 PM ET
    Member Since: 1/31/2006
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    I want to thank everyone for their suggestions.  Some were either on required lists from the past two years or the next two years so her teacher couldn't allow those.  I was pulling for F. Scott Fitgerald but of her short list of Fitzgerald, Irving, Alcott & James, the teacher went for James.  (Figures, least accessible, oh well, they are supposed to be challenging themselves.)  Anyway, she will be reading The Turn of the Screw for her Lit & Comp term paper.  Thanks again for all of your help  : )