We just finished reading Educating Esme, a teacher's memoir about her first year teaching fifth grade in a Chicago school. I'm conscious of showing our middle schoolers what their peers are experiencing in very different environments. What do they have in common? And what is taken for granted?
To that end, with an eye toward both Global Citizenship and Cycle of Life, we have just begun reading A Long Way Gone, another memoir. The author, Ishmael Beah, was twelve years old when the civil war of his native country, Sierra Leone, reached the small central village that was his home.
The story is heartbreaking, over and over again. It is also gruesome at times. I am treading lightly over those passages. Since I am reading the book aloud to the students, I have not hesitated to edit for violent content now and then, and I will continue to do so throughout the book.
On a related note, having learned little about the continent of Africa prior to my teaching career, and then spending two years living and teaching in Kenya, I'm sensitive to the portrayals of Africa as (a) benighted, (b) violent beyond reason, and (3) romantic. You don't have to look too hard lately to find subtler and more balanced reportage. The least romantic newsmagazine in the world, The Economist, just published a sixteen-page special report on Africa's increasingly rosy political and economic outlook.
Here's another example.