Black History Month: Reading Zora Neale Hurston & Rebecca Skloot

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By Ruthie Cowper Szamosi and Tara Silver, Linden Teachers

This term, Linden's high school English classes are studying Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Studying these books after seeing the blockbuster film Hidden Figures in January helps extend students' learning about Black history. Students are encouraged to think critically about the unacknowledged literary, cultural, and scientific contributions of racialized women.

Grade 9 students enjoyed the challenge of studying English as spoken in an African American context in the American South in the 1920s and 30s. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is so engaging and interesting. It relates to a lot of things we are learning about consent," Grade 11 student Emma Wymant tells us. Isobel Bain in Grade 10 adds, "I like learning about the science as well as the history."

Co-teachers Ruthie Szamosi and Tara Silver agree. "These books open the door for all kinds of important discussions and deep learning about ethics in science and cultural production. Who profits from art and science? Who profits from these stories?"

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