An impetus for beginning the “Anatomy of a YA Anthology” series came from being asked a lot of questions about the anthology process while promoting the book when it first released. I got so many great questions that led me to want to know more about the process behind other author’s anthologies.
Another thing that I got asked in numerous places was if I would consider putting together some kind of discussion guide for Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World that could be used in classrooms and libraries. There is a reading group discussion guide available through Reading Group Choices, which I wrote and you can access here, but this sort of resource would be different. It would give concrete ideas for incorporating the book into classroom (or library) discussions, with places where individual essays could be paired with other topics of study in neat, creative, and thought-provoking ways.
Today, I bring that guide.
This resource guide is built in two different ways, in order to accommodate a wealth of ways to incorporate the book — or even pieces of it — into current curriculum. First, I’ve pulled together the general ways that the book fits within Common Core standards for literacy and for writing across a range of subjects and topics. Second, I’ve created a means of looking at each individual essay, the themes presented, possible discussion/writing ideas, and ways those essays may be worth looking at in conjunction with common class reading/study topics. It would be impossible to make a guide to cover every possible scenario, so this is a broad guide, but I’ve written in such a way to make it easy to search by topic/area of interest.
The guide focuses Common Core alignments with 9-10 and 11-12 grade, but these are easily applied to grades 6-8, as well. Likewise, I have selected not to repeat the questions from the Reading Group Choices guide, though those would allow a lot of opportunity in meeting literacy standards for writing.
If you’d like a downloadable version of this guide, you can access it here.
Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World Common Core Standards
CCSS.ELA.RI.9-10.1, 9-10.2, 9-10.3
CCSS.ELA.RI.9-10.4, 9-10.5, 9-10.6
CCSS.ELA.RI.11-12.1, 11-12.2, 11-12.3
CCSS.ELA.RI.11-12.4, 11-12.5, 11-12.6
All CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10, 11-12 all.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1, 9-10.2, 9-10.3, 9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1, 11-12.2, 11-12.3, 11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.9-10, 11-12 all.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1, 9-10.2, 9-10.3, 9-10.4, 9-10.5, 9-10.6, 9-10.7, 9-10.8, 10.9
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1, 11-12.2, 11-12.3, 11-12.4, 11-12.5, 11-12.6, 11-12.7, 11-12.8, 11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.9-10, 11-12 all.
Select Big Picture Topics and Themes For Exploration in Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World
- How can art be used to make a statement?
- Which pieces of art from this book would be hanging on the walls of various literary or historical figures and why?
- Words like “feminism” seem straightforward but they’re quite complex. How does this book highlight the similarities and differences among different people about what feminism is and is not?
- How does the format of a piece of writing impact the tone and the message within it?
- What is the purpose of a personal essay? Where and how does it tell a story? Why do people choose to write about their own experiences?
- Can personal essays be persuasive?
- Read the different voices represented in this collection as a means of staff enrichment or development, as the range of experiences included here mirror today’s students.
Topics, Themes, and Ideas To Explore Within Each Piece of Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World
Each essay below is listed with general themes and topics for discussion and writing purposes. Most, if not all, of the essays could easily be worked into research within and across a variety of areas. Likewise, almost all of these authors are published in a variety of formats, from online journals to novels to well-established and award-winning nonfiction. There is excellent opportunity for author studies on any of the writers, as well as excellent opportunity to introduce new works by them to students who may enjoy what they read here.
Forever Feminist by Malinda Lo
- Write about characters who have stuck with you or influenced your life.
- Explore classic feminists in literature — current and historic.
- The power of history and family history, particularly as it relates to refugee families.
- China and World War II.
- Author/Book connections: Madeleine L’Engle, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Little Women.
What Does “Feminism” Mean? A Brief History of the Word, from Its Beginnings All the Way up to the Present by Suzannah Weiss
- Explore the idea of etymology.
- How and why do the meanings of words change over time?
- Does knowing the evolution of the word “feminism” change how you read and explore the idea in classic literature? In early feminist texts?
- How has our idea of feminism evolved alongside or counter to the word’s evolution?
- Research project idea: find early uses of a common word in primary/secondary sources and how it has changed (or not!) over time.
- How has social media impacted the meanings that words have?
Bad Feminist: Take Two by Roxanne Gay (originally published in Gay’s essay collection Bad Feminist)
- What makes a feminist “good” or “bad?”
- What defines the idea of “good” and “bad?”
- Identify a single strong female character and analyze why/how they are “good” or “bad” feminists. Compare them with other strong female characters.
- Examine the tone of Gay’s piece and how it effects the overall theme and takeaways of the essay.
Privilege by Matt Nathanson
- Analyze a selection of advertisements in print and in other forms of media to determine the messages sent to male vs. female readers. Consider and write about who those ads are really meant to reach.
- What messages do girls and boys each receive growing up that creates a self-esteem gap? Where do those messages come from?
- Identify and explore examples of male feminists through literature. What does or does not make them feminist?
- What does “privilege” mean?
The Monster Book of Questions and Answers by Anne Thériault
- How and why is mental illness a feminist issue?
- Explore “what if” scenarios relating to well-known examples of those in history and literature who suffered mental illness. For example: what if Vincent Van Gogh had better access to mental health help? Would Sylvia Plath have fared better or worse in today’s slightly-more-accepting climate of mental health?
- Using the “Ten Amazing Scientists” list at the end of the article as a springboard to researching famous women in science and their enduring legacies. Tie-in to Hidden Figures and other recent media on women in science.
Pretty Enough by Alida Nugent
- How does the use of humor help convey its theme? How can humor help structure an effective essay?
- Talk about why we need diverse representation in literature and history.
- What messages — subtle or not — are sent to people in our culture who don’t fit the typical mold of white beauty? How do we deconstruct that model of the “ideal” look?
So I Guess This Is Growing Up by Liz Prince
- How can comics be like personal essays?
- In what ways do comics convey information that traditional texts can’t or don’t?
- Create your own comic about a moment in your life that was important OR create a comic based on a character in a book you’ve read recently.
I Have Always Eaten The Bread by Lily Myers
- What does the phrase “this is the shape I make today” mean? How does it apply in your own life?
- Examine the messaging of men’s and women’s magazines. What do the covers and articles suggest about bodies, health, and/or what’s “good shape” in each? Compare and contrast.
- What’s the psychology behind advertising? What messages do advertisers hope to convey to people?
- Read this one alongside “Privilege” by Matt Nathanson to talk about gender, sexism, and social messaging.
Dragging Myself Into Self-Love by Constance Augusta Zaber
- What are gender roles? Where do they come from and in what ways do they come into and play a part in our everyday lives?
- Pick a fictional character or historical figure who defied conventional gender norms.
- Pick a living individual who defies gender norms and highlight the ways they’ve been a trailblazer within their respective area of expertise.
- Discuss what “choice feminism” is as a topic and why it’s not key to being a feminist or understanding feminism more broadly.
- Read this one alongside “I Have Always Eaten The Bread” by Lily Myers and “Privilege” by Matt Nathanson to talk about peer pressure, self-love, self-recognition, and gendered messaging.
The Likability Rule by Courtney Summers
- Explain what “The Likability Rule” means, citing examples in books, music, movies, or other media.
- Why do we label some characters as “unlikable?”
- Create a list of unlikable male characters in literature and apply the “likability” standards to them as outlined in the essay. Where do they fail to fit? Do they have more leeway than similarly unlikable female characters?
Broken Body, Worthless Girl, and Other Lies I Called The Truth by Kayla Whaley
- Where does the idea of desirability come from? What messages do we receive about what does or doesn’t make a person, place, or idea something we desire?
- Dive into the history of a disabled author or person from history and talk about the great contributions they’ve made.
- How does this piece’s format — a letter to one’s younger self — convey its message? In what ways is it more effective than a more traditional personal essay?
- Use the format to inspire a creative writing project: have an adult character from literature or history write a letter to their younger selves with the lessons they’ve learned.
- Pair with Siobhan Vivian’s essay and Erika T. Wurth’s essay for more in-depth discussion of letters as means of persuasion and writing styles/techniques.
All The Bodies by Rafe Posey
- How does this essay expand and/or explore the Langston Hughes essay “My Life As A Social Poet?”
- Why is “feminism” a loaded concept, as stated? In what ways can it become less loaded, if it can be?
- How does reading help encourage empathy?
Do Female Black Lives Matter Too? by Amandla Stenberg
- How are black women represented in the media? In literature? Through history? Cite examples of good and bad representation.
- Where do we see black women in literature?
- What black women authors should become part of the literary canon?
- This short piece notes that “When the media is not ignoring black women all together, they are disparaging them.” What does that mean?
- Research project: highlight the life of a black woman from history or literature who made an impact in their given field.
An Interview With Laverne Cox: “I Absolutely Consider Myself a Feminist” by Tricia Romano
- Explore feminism and womanism as noted in the interview, including bell hooks and Kimberlee Crenshaw, noted academic who coined the term “intersectionality.”
- Read and analyze “Ain’t I A Woman?” by bell hooks. How does Cox see herself in light of this poem?
Feminism Is As Feminism Does by Mia and Michaela DePrince
- Read Michaela DePrince’s memoir Taking Flight and compare/contrast her story there with how she’s pursued helping others in her young life.
- How do you pursue a passion?
- What does global feminism look like? How do Western feminists help women (and other genders) throughout the world?
- Research an organization dedicated to helping women in another country. What and why do they do what they do? How have they helped those communities?
- Explore some of the further reading and resources included in this essay to learn more about the issue of female genital mutilation and sexual violence. Pair this essay and research with the interview about girls’ stories and sexual assault with Laurie Halse Anderson and Courtney Summers.
- Mia’s song at the end of the piece highlights early feminists. Who are they, and how and why have they influenced her in her own feminism?
- How is songwriting an effective means of conveying an idea?
Somewhere In America by Zariya Allen
- Explore the history of censorship in America. Dig into what censorship does and does not mean?
- Select a frequently banned book and research why it’s controversial. How does/doesn’t that differ from what we see on the news or in the media?
- How is poetry and effective means of highlighting an idea or topic?
- Pair with “Shrinking Woman” by Lily Myers to talk about slam poetry and oral storytelling.
- Watch both this piece and Lily’s via YouTube and compare/contrast the impact of hearing vs. reading it.
Choose Your Own Adventure: Why Fandom Is Right For You (Yes, You!) by Brenna Clarke Gray
- Develop your own fan fiction for a character in a classroom read.
- Or, write a short piece of fan fiction from the voice of a character in a book you’ve read.
- Read a selection of fan fiction and discuss how, where, and why it’s effective creative writing. What keeps you reading? What makes you stop?
- Discuss how fandom impacts the what/how/ways we connect with books and stories.
- Read a book, then explore a selection of fan fiction and/or fan art from it. Write about how the fan work sticks to or strays from the original work.
Facets of Feminism by Mikki Kendall
- Who are your feminist icons and why?
- Research the variety of women named in this essay — historical and contemporary — and explore where, why, and how they’ve had their feminism criticized.
- In what ways have historical feminists criticized modern feminists of color? Where, why, and how has this happened?
- How do we allow new, younger voices take the mic up about feminism?
- Read Alice Walker’s views on womanism and talk about the difference between feminism and womanism.
- Pick one of the women named in this essay and research her life.
Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows by Amandla Stenberg
- Research the history of jazz and blues. How do those music genres relate to hip hop?
- How has black culture been bought and sold?
- Why does it matter to see and read diverse literature? What is the power of #ownvoices (stories written by marginalized people about those from their same marginalization) vs. those stories which are diverse but written by those outsize a particular marginalized group?
- Create a visual or write a short essay on recent trends in popular culture which had their roots in black culture.
A Conversation About Girls’ Stories and Girls’ Voices with Laurie Halse Anderson and Courtney Summers by Kelly Jensen
- Use this interview as part of a novel study with Speak and/or All The Rage.
- Why is it that girls’ stories have been historically underrepresented?
- Why is the Western literary canon primarily white men?
- Explore rape culture as seen through classic literature. For example: How/where does The Scarlet Letter play into rape culture? Does the context of this story change some of its messaging?
- Topics about women and literature abound: the use of male pen names, the meaning of genre vs. “literature,” and so forth.
Girl Lessons by Sarah McCarry
- What messages might girls pull from the books that they read or the media they consume about how they should “be a girl?” About how they should relate to other girls?
- Use this essay in conjunction with studies about gender norms and conformity.
The Princess and the Witch by Wendy Xu
- What is cultural fetishization? Cite examples through modern and historical times.
- Use this comic to discuss the power of comics as a medium of storytelling and information sharing.
- How does this comic relate to Xu’s note on being fascinated with “Beauty and the Beast” while growing up?
- Pull this piece with “Feminism is as Feminism Does” by the DePrince sisters, as well as with “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows” by Amandla Stenberg to talk about global feminism, as well as cultural identity.
- Compare and contrast Xu’s story about growing up as an Asian American with the experiences that Malinda Lo shares in her essay “Forever Feminist.”
Corny Won’t Kill Your Cred: Rearview Mirror Reflections on Feminism and Romance by Siobhan Vivian
- Cite examples of teen romance in books and in the greater media and explore what the messages they share might be. What might readers walk away with about the ideas of love and romance from them?
- Tie in with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. What if Juliet had received a similar letter from her future self? What would change, if anything? Perhaps, going out on a limb, there’s an opportunity for Juliet to write a letter to her young self in an imagined world where she is still alive.
- Compare and contrast the letter-style essay format with Kayla Whaley and Erika T. Wurths pieces.
Faith and the Feminist by Kay Mirza
- Research project: explore famous Muslims in history, literature, and contemporary times.
- Why does representation matter? How might Mirza’s experiences growing up have been influenced by seeing more Muslims in books and television?
- Mirza’s essay explores the tensions between feminism — historical and modern — and her faith. In what ways have religion and other philosophies impacted history and/or literature?
- Can one be religious and feminist? How does someone come to terms with some of their beliefs contradicting?
In Search of Sisterhood by Brandy Colbert
- Where have you found sisters/brothers outside of your family? If you never have found a sister/brother in the world, why?
- Research project: black women through history and/or literature.
- Read in conjunction with Colbert’s novel Pointe and see where Colbert’s own shared experience appear in her novel.
- Colbert wrote a list of great black girl friendships. Brainstorm and write about great black girl friendships in books.
A Feminist Love by Jessica Luther
- What are some examples of messaging to women about romance?
- Explore dating ads and the messages they present about gender and gender norms.
- What and why are some couples seen as “power couples” through history or the media? Give examples.
- How could the experiences Luther talks about in relation to her own marriage be useful in offering dating or romantic advice to literary characters?
The “Nice Girl” Feminist by Ashley Hope Pérez
- Who are examples of “nice girls” in literature or history? What about in pop culture? What makes them “nice girls?”
- Apply the tips of being a “nice girl” to a character in a book who might need it.
- What are the differences and similarities between the “nice girl” and the “unlikable” girl? Are there equivalent labels for boys and other genders?
Shrinking Women by Lily Myers
- Explore cultural messaging about women and self-esteem, especially as it relates to body image.
- How and why is slam poetry and effective method for persuasion?
- What characters or people from history would relate to this poem? How and why?
- Pair with “Somewhere in America” and watch the performances of both poems on YouTube. How does the viewing experience differ from the reading experience of each of these poems?
Dear Teen Me: It Would Have Changed Everything; It Would Have Changed Nothing by Erika T. Wurth
- Where and how do we typically learn about Native Americans? What sorts of stories are shared in the classroom and in popular media?
- Why does representation matter? Tie this piece in with others on the same topic of representation and inclusivity.
- Pair with reading Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. How does Junior’s experience compare with Wurth’s, if at all?
A Thousand Paper Cuts by Shveta Thakrar
- How do underrepresented voices get heard? How do the works of marginalized groups get read and shared?
- How is writing a feminist act? How is writing a political act?
- An excellent piece to talk about the writing process more broadly and might make for a solid first day reading for a writing-focused course and/or a solid piece of inspiration in similar classes.
The Win That Comes From Losing by Wendy Davis
- Explore “losers” through history and what experiences or victories came in time for them.
- Discuss: when is it okay to lose? What do we learn from failing to achieve something we set out to achieve?
- When is it okay to quit? Is it ever okay to be a “quitter?”
- Write about a character who has suffered a big loss and how they used that loss to motivate them on their journey.
- Contemporary research project: what initiatives or activities has Davis participated in since her loss? How has she continued to be active and engaged in her community (both the small and big community)?
Many Stories, Many Roads by Daniel José Older
- Research the quote that leads off the essay. Who is it credited to and why is it an important introduction to Older’s essay? How does it tie into what the essay explores?
- Using the definition of “feminist” explored, discuss how various characters through literature have found their way to feminism.
- Pair this essay with luminaries included within it: Audra Lorde, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
- At the end of the essay, Older talks about “the beautiful struggle.” What does that mean? How does it play out in history or literature?
Reading Worthy Women by Nova Ren Suma
- Do we all need to read the same sorts of books to be considered “well-read?” What does being “well-read” mean?
- Why is the Western literary canon predominantly straight white male authors?
- What makes some books “literature” and others not? Why do some get studied in school and other titles don’t?
- What female authors should be part of a reading curriculum? What five female authors should everyone read in high school English classes?
- Pair with essays about representation and voice.
- This essay would pair excellently with the first class read of a book by a female author.
The Choice Is Yours by Kody Keplinger
- Why are children a symbol of achievement for women? Is it the same for men?
- What, exactly, is selfishness? How is one act considered selfish and another not? Who decides the line between the two?
- Explore literary and historical examples of when a choice made early in one’s life has had a huge impact on them, especially if it was a choice met with significant resistance.
A Guide To Being A Teenage Superheroine
- Create your own superhero identity and make yourself into a comic to tell your story.
- Create a superhero identity for famous heroes and villains through history and/or literature.
- An easy “introduce yourself” activity for new classes, as well as a way to introduce new characters in a book — one part of a reading assignment could be to develop a series of superhero profiles for a book’s main characters.
- Discuss superhero identities broadly: why do they matter? Why do we like them so much? Where and how is it okay for superhero identities to grow and evolve? Pair up with discussions about race and gender changes in superhero stories (like Miles Morales, Thor, etc.).
- Pair with discussion of mythology.
Don’t Peak in High School by Mindy Kaling
- Why does pop culture romanticize high school?
- Culturally, what does high school represent? Where and how has the representation changed through history?
- Explore images and renderings of high school and the growth of teen culture after World War II.
- Why are high school experiences of people of color lacking in pop culture and history? Tie back into discussion within other essays about representation of diverse experiences in literature and pop culture.
- Write about your own high school experience and how it is similar and different from an example in a song, a book, a movie, or a television show.
Owning My Feminism by Kelly Jensen
- How are feminists portrayed through history and in popular culture?
- Imagine the impostor syndrome literary or historical figures have experienced: what were they thinking or feeling during some of their biggest, scariest moments? What about in their quieter and still important moments?
- How can you own your feminism?
I hope this helps those of you looking for ways to incorporate the book and/or parts of it into your curriculum. I’ve heard from a number of readers that they’ve incorporated the book into unique and creative discussions, and I’d love to hear more about how you’ve used Here We Are with teens (or adults!).
For those who are interested, I do offer free Skype visits for teachers or librarians using Here We Are. All of the details for doing that are available here, as are details about the non-fiction writing for teens program I offer more locally (Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, and Rockford areas are all local to me). You can find my contact information there, too, and I’m happy to hear feedback or suggestions for this curriculum guide.
If you’d like a downloadable version of this guide, you can access it here.