Through a set of unique opportunities Kate and I were able to work on a project surrounding The Catcher and the Rye and its influence on YA literature. It eventually end up in a paper published in English in Education. You can read it here. There is also a summary of what we were doing and the books we reference from and early blog post way back in 2014.
Kate is more than making her way in the world in her home town of New Orleans. She is also the current 2021 Louisiana High School Teacher of the Year. Congrats Kate! I was thrilled to learn so much by working with you.
Darius the Great is Not Okay, but Building a School Reading Community Is
by Kate Youngblood
I downloaded Adib Khorram’s novel and got started. Immediately, I fell in love with Darius, lover of Star Trek and tea, a good big brother, and a son struggling to make his dad happy. He had hints of Miles Halter in him (Looking for Alaska), but the setting, mostly in Iran, was completely new. For a year where we’ve been quarantined and homebound, traveling with Darius and visiting his family members felt like going on the adventure I’d been craving. Khorram wrote openly about Darius’s (and his father’s) struggles with depression, about his therapy and medication. Again, in a year where almost everyone I knew was turning to therapy (or turning back to it) this novel and its characters felt familiar and relevant.
Currently listening to: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
English Department Chair
Student Council Advocacy Sponsor
Benjamin Franklin High School
When I was reading Darius, another student, Anita, reached out to me and said, “I saw you’re reading a book with a Persian protagonist! I need to read it -- you know my research this year is on helping with food insecurity in Iran.”
Similar student engagement happened each time my signature shifted. When I changed my signature to say I was reading Song of Achilles, Anderson, Annabel, and Tierney all separately let me know that they too were reading the novel. We checked in with each other for emotional support as we tore through Miller’s latest re-imagining.
When I changed my signature to say I was reading Homegoing, Liyah sent me this email: “When you responded to my mom's email she told me ‘Liyah, I know what your teacher is currently reading! It makes me want to read it too.’”
I’ve picked up new books from my students in this way too. When they see in my signature that I’m reading something they’ve read or heard of, they feel more comfortable making recommendations to me. That’s how Maya got me into the Red Queen series this year, and how Amy let me know that I needed to check out The Water Dancer.
Kate Youngblood is in her 7th year of teaching high school English. She currently teaches 9th and 11th graders at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans, where she also serves as the department chair and student council sponsor. She is the Louisiana 2021 High School Teacher of the Year. The book that changed her trajectory in college was The Catcher in the Rye, but her favorite YA book has always been The Perks of Being a Wallflower.