30 June 2010

Making lists.

One of the things I do in my spare time (read: instead of doing what I should be doing) is compile book lists for American literature courses.

It's not an idle process. I sometimes use them in actual American literature courses. For instance, I recently taught a course that included Walt Whitman, Henry James, Willa Cather, Langston Hughes, Saul Bellow, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Frank Chin. The theme was American identity, or what makes one an American.

Here's another one, themed around the road, or travel:
Kerouac, On the Road
Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Twain, Huckleberry Finn
Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Silko, Ceremony
McCarthy, The Road
I could probably throw Claude McKay's Home to Harlem in there as well. Actually, there are tons of novels that would fit the bill for a theme like the road. I'm thinking very much for this fall of putting together a course based upon the city. The list would look a bit like this:
Petry, The Street
Jones, Lost in the City
Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer
Hammett, The Glass Key

I may go, however, with a course on immigration/migrant workers/borders:
Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain
Banks, Continental Drift
Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus
Steinbeck, In Dubious Battle
Cather, My Antonia
Kingston, China Men
I could use a good book about Italian, Irish, or Polish immigration as well, preferably from the early 20th century. Any suggestions?


Washington Cube said...

For Irish immigrants. Fiction? Dennis Lehane's The Given Day. Polish: Jadwiga's Crossing by Richard J. Lutz. Italian: Christ in Concrete by Pietro di Donato. One more Irish: Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toibin. I love lists. :)

cs said...

I hadn't heard of any of the above except for Christ in Concrete, which seems to be the one everyone teaches (but I haven't so maybe I will). I have a novel I haven't been willing to teach yet about Slovakian immigrants in Pittsburgh called Out of This Furnace.