Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week, the theme is “Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101” and we’re happy to be participating!
I would like to make about a million of these (social justice & YA! LGBTQI literature!) but eventually settled on this topic, which is basically … novels from the Western literary canon and YA books that I think it’d be cool to teach with them and vice versa. Some of these are adaptations of canonical lit, others are loosely inspired by it, and others are just paired together because I want them to be.
The sort of guiding question that I had in mind for these pairings – because there are approximately a million adaptations in the world! – was how do these novels explore what it means to be human? (With secondary questions about what adaptation means for these books – both in the sense that some of them are adaptations or at least loosely based on another novel – but also in thinking about adaptation as the process through which potentially human life gets created, as with Frankenstein’s monster.)
1. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
2. Unwholly – Neal Shusterman
This is a thing I’ve actually taught! And it worked out really well, so yes, I would absolutely do it again. I taught Unwind after my class had read Frankenstein and The Handmaid’s Tale, and because many of them liked Unwind a bunch, some of them picked up Unwholly and told me it would have been a much better fit than Unwind because View Spoiler » it features a character who is pieced together from other kids who have been unwound « Hide Spoiler. I still haven’t read Unwholly but I believe them. If you aren’t familiar with the Unwind series, it’s about a dystopian America, sometime after a war centered on reproductive rights, where teenagers can be retroactively aborted by their parents – a procedure referred to as “unwinding.”
3. The Island of Dr. Moreau – H.G. Wells
4. The Madman’s Daughter – Megan Shepherd
So, this one’s an adaptation. Shepherd’s book takes Doctor Moreau – a doctor! an island! experiments in animal-human hybridity! – and imagines what it would be like if Moreau had a daughter – Juliet – who was also scientifically minded, curious about her father’s work, and troubled by her own desires for similar knowledge. View Spoiler » Would she … be a hybrid herself?!?! « Hide Spoiler I liked the first book, but could have used less of the love triangle and more of the crazy scientific experiments. But, cool fact, the second and third book are inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein respectively.
5. Persuasion – Jane Austen
6. For Darkness Shows the Stars – Diana Peterfreund
Diana Peterfreund’s adaptation of Persuasion is awesome – it’s one of the books that brought me back to reading YA, to be honest. If you haven’t read it, go read it – the sequel, Across a Star-Swept Sea, is equally great (cough cough, even better than the first!). Both books are set in the same world – one where science gone awry has destroyed the world’s population, oh noes! – but, interestingly to me at least, both worlds illustrate different responses to the same event. In FDStS, it sets off a revolution against technology – because science is why we can’t have nice things – and defines social classes by their relationship to technology (Luddites, who are anti-technology, and the Reduced, who as a result of the apocalyptic event, are for the most part left unable to speak and become an underclass). Books = super interesting. The second is incredibly fun.
7. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
8. The Body Electric – Beth Revis
This was actually the first one I thought of, though I don’t actually know what I’d teach it with. In an ideal world, Janelle Monae’s studio album The Electric Lady because I think that’d be a really interesting pairing. But anyway. Here I’m using Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which I haven’t read. (But I have seen Blade Runner. ;) That counts, right?) Revis’s novel, which came out this past year, is a standalone about android life and personhood and what it means to be human. And fighting the man! A lot of that.
9. Twilight – Stephanie Meyer
10. Fledgling – Octavia Butler
I just think this would be fun, ok? Both are novels are vampires and were published around the same time but, obvs, they could not be more different. Twilight, you probably know of: sparkly vampires, Bella Swan, vampire babies biting their way out of your womb. Fledgling is a totally different account of vampire life and it thinks about otherness, queerness, & familial relationships – and is very much worth the read.
So, what classes are you teaching, universe? and what we will be reading? and can I sit in? :)