Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I need advice



My going into 7th grader has a summer reading assignment.  It is a 10 part project that will take a month, so we will be spending a lot of time with the book.  Problem:  He doesn't want to read it.  Disclaimer:  He will read ANYTHING, almost.

The book is Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Crowe.  The book jacket told him it was about a vicious murder of a black teen.  He hates books about death, especially violent death (Hunger Games included).  So, I read the book.  It is one of those books that leave you feeling icky.  They include portions from the real trial which include the fact that the young boy has his genitals removed during his murder.  I did not find it particularly well written.  I didn't really like any of the characters.  I certainly don't want to spend a month on it and I am not sure I should make him.

I think racism and civil rights appropriate subject matter for 7th grade, but to begin the discussion with something so heavy seems almost too much.  The book doesn't leave you with a clear sense of anything.  The injustice is glaring but how one meets such injustice isn't really to be found except "do the right thing even if it is hard."  But my guy will see that doing the right thing in MS 1955 didn't help anyone, most especially the dead black kid.  He will only remember the cruelty.  And he will have to spend a month in Mississippi 1955, a place none of us would want to be for long.  Not sure that is a good thing.

We have read hard stuff.  MacBeth has some violence, Harry Potter has some death of characters you love.  But this seems different.  Racism has no easily explained reason, like you want to be king.  And the solutions to our country's racism are still being figured out today.  It is not an easy subject and having visual images of the cruelty may make it harder to discuss for one who inherently finds it evil.  I don't have to convince him racism is wrong.  He knows it.  What he doesn't yet have, and what I don't know if I want him to have is a visual of just how damn cruel human beings can be.

So...
Do I just skip it?
Write the teacher and ask to use a different book with no explanations?
Call her to discuss my concerns?
What would you do?