Dreaming from the Margins, Living in the In-Between: Identity, Culture, and the Power of Voice

byLudy P. Aguada

This unit was developed for use in an Advanced Placement English Literature or Language classroom. While one may not think contemporary American Indian history belongs in an AP English classroom, if carefully crafted, it can work. The skills on which both English exams focus—the ways authors of non-fiction and of imaginative literature use language to achieve a particular end—can be taught using historical documents in conjunction with and to frame Louise Erdrich’s The Round House and Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the anchor texts for this unit. Students will develop close reading skills by analyzing laws, policies, and Supreme Court cases that established the unique relationship between Native nations and the federal government, and shaped policies on Native sovereignty and self-determination. They will examine how narrative voice and point of view portray identity and culture. Finally, they will explore how visual images convey voice in Dreaming in Indian:  Contemporary Native American Voices. In their culminating project, students will choose one piece from Dreaming to “mimic” in a piece about their own sense of identity.

(Developed for AP English Literature and Composition, grades 11-12; recommended for English 3, grade 11, and English 4, grade 12)

Comments (1)

    elizabeth Odette duckworth (Patrick Taylor Academy / Jefferson Parish Public School Syst, Westwego, LA)
    Subject taught: American Lit and AP Lit and Comp, Grade: 10
    Great teaching novel!
    My students in American Lit have read The Round House for the last three years. It is a great teaching novel for American Lit because it presents both past and present realities for Native Americans. For example, Erdrich reveals some of the atrocities committed by the U.S. government. She also presents life on a reservation in a realistic fashion. This is a \"coming of age\" novel which deals with issues of developing sexuality, alcoholism, racism, abuse, positive family relationships, etc. There is also humor in this book which the kids enjoy, which provides a break from the intense plot details.

    Caution: there are many sexual situations--some students or parents may be squeamish about these, but my students agree that it is a valuable book to read and to teach.

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