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Critique my Eastern Hemisphere reading list


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I am creating a history/culture/geography class for my 8th grader next year. She is an avid reader and this will largely be a literature base course. I would like a mix of fiction, non fiction, and some poetry. We will be using Sonlight's Journey to the Eastern Hemisphere as the spine, but I've created this list based off Sonlight's as well as Honey for a Teens Heart. She is not as interested in Asia as well studied it quite a lot this year. Here is what I have so far:

Asia- 

China: The Art of War (Selections)

Japan: The Big Wave

Korea: Kite Fighters

N. Korea: ?

India: Daughter of the Mountains, A Beautiful Lie

Russia: Breaking Stalin's Nose, Stalin by Albert Marrin, Family Romanov, selected short stories of Leo Tolstoy

Middle East: Shabanu (Pakistan), Habibi (Palestine/Israel)

Polynesia: Call it Courage

Australia:?

Africa: Journey to Jo'burg (South Africa), A Girl Named Disaster (North Africa)

Capitalism: Whatever Happened to Penny Candy

Communism/Socialism: ?

We have room for about 1500 more pages. Any we shouldn't use? What else should we put in? Where are we weak? Do we need more in Africa or the Middle East?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just wondering: do you need below grade reading level? Many of the works you have listed are running 2-3 grade levels below 8th grade reading level with correspondingly less "meat" or maturity for discussing at an upper middle school level.

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A few comments.

Quote

Middle East: Shabanu (Pakistan), Habibi (Palestine/Israel)

Pakistan is not part of the Middle East. It is India’s neighbor.

Quote

Africa: Journey to Jo'burg (South Africa), A Girl Named Disaster (North Africa)

A Girl Named Disaster is set in Mozambique, which is on the east coast and well south of the Sahara. Journey to Jo’burg is under 100 pages.

I do think you need more about Africa. You’ve got books for many different countries in Asia, which you said you had already covered, and two to represent the entire continent of Africa. There are books out there. For example, Golden Boy is about an albino boy in Tanzania; it is a bit scary in parts but good.

I think it’s a bit of a mix between rather advanced readings (The Art of War, Tolstoy) and upper elementary level books.

Edited by stripe
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On 3/26/2021 at 7:12 PM, Calizzy said:

@Lori D. can you tell me which are too low? I'm pulling from the sonlight 8th grade list and the honey for a teens heart, so I assumed they were the correct level.

Please feel free to use what you guys would enjoy. 😄 Having a fewer lower level titles amongst mostly at/above level titles can make for a nice break. Just a thought!

SL Eastern Hemisphere was originally designed for grade 5, so most of the titles fall right in the grade 4-6 range, with a few on the upper end for 7th grade. If your student is a strong 8th grader, especially if bordering into high school level of literature/discussion, then you may wish to replace the bolded titles, as they are on the younger side as far as theme/content and reading level:

The Big Wave = gr. 4-6 / lexile = 790L
Kite Fighters = gr. 3-6 / lexile = 880L
Daughter of the Mountains = gr. 3-7 / lexile = 1000L
A Beautiful Lie = age 8-12
Breaking Stalin's Nose = gr. 4-7 / lexile = 670L
Stalin = age 12
Family Romanov = gr. 7-9 / lexile = 950L
selected short stories of Leo Tolstoy = grade 8+
Shabanu = gr. 7-12 / lexile = 970L
Habibi = gr. 7-9 / lexile = 850L
Call it Courage = gr. 4-6 / lexile = 830L
Journey to Jo'burg = gr. 4-6 / lexile = 760L
A Girl Named Disaster = gr. 4-7 / lexile = 730L


Some possible ideas:

FILMS/DOCUMENTARIES

World

Babies (2010) -- documentary; babies/toddlers from Namibia (Africa), Japan (Asia), Mongolia (Asia) and the U.S. (N. America)
On the Way to School (2014) -- documentary; children from Kenya (Africa), Morocco (N. Africa), Argentina (S. America), and India (Asia)
Life in a Day (2010) -- PG-13; documentary "time capsule" of people around the world in daily life on a single day
Oceania
- Polynesia = 
South Pacific - film, musical; deals with racism
- New Zealand = Whale Rider - film; contemporary Maori people
- Australia = Rabbit-Proof Fences -- film; Aboriginal children taken from families travel hundreds of miles to get home
East Asia
- Korea = The Way Home (2002)
- Japan = My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
- Japan = Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) -- animated

- Japan = Spirited Away (2001)- movie; animated -- Japanese "spirit world" with a fairytale like story 
- Japan = Seven Samurai (1954) -- film, B&W, subtitled; Samurai
- Japan = Hidden Fortress (1958) -- film -- film, B&W, subtitled; Samurai (the original "Star Wars" based on this film)
- Mongolia = Cave of the Yellow Dog (2005)
- China = Please Vote for Me (2007) -- short documentary
- Tibet = The Cup (2017)
- Vietnam = Foreign Letters (2012)
Central Asia
- Afghanistan = The Breadwinner (2017) -- much more intense/adult than the book it's based on, but gr. 8+ could do this one

India
- Like Stars on Earth (2007)
- Bride and Prejudice (2004) -- "Bollywood" musical modern retelling of the Jane Austen novel
Middle East
- Iran = Children of Heaven (1997)
- Iran/Afganistan = Baran (2001)

Central Africa
- Uganda = Queen of Katwe (2016)
Southern Africa
- Botswana = No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency -- light-hearted TV episodes based on the books
_________________________________

BOOKS

OCEANIA
Polynesia

- Kon Tiki (Heyersdahl) - gr. 8+; nonfiction
Australia
- Dreamtime: Aboriginal Stories (Nunukul) - folktales
_____________________________

EAST ASIA
Japan
- The Master Puppeteer (Paterson) - gr. 6-8; 1700s
- The Samurai's Tale (Haugaard) - gr. 8+; 1500s Samurai
Korea
- The Year of Impossible Goodbyes (Choi) -- gr. 7-9; memoir; nonfiction; fleeing communist take-over at the end of WW2
China
- Young Fu of the Upper Yanghze - gr. 7-9
- Revolution is not a Dinner Party (Compestine) - gr. 6-9; nonfiction; memoir
- Red Scarf Girl (Jiang) - gr. 8+ nonfiction; memoir
Nepal/Thailand
- Sold (McCormick) - gr. 8/9+  human trafficking/s*xual slavery of a 13yo girl
Vietnam
- The Land I Lost (Nhuong) - gr. 5-8; memoir; pre-war rural Vietnam; kind of intense in places, so that bumps it up to usable for 8th grade
House Without Walls (Russell) -- gr. 5-7; 1979 Vietnamese boat people escape; subject matter might bump it up to be usable
Cambodia
- Never Fall Down (McCormick) -- gr 9-12; 1970s Cambodian genocide

_____________________________

INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
Myanmar

- Bamboo People (Perkins) -- gr. 6-9; teens forced into the army
Pakistan
- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Yousafzai) -- memoir, nonfiction; adult version; children's adapted version is roughly gr. 5-6

_____________________________

MIDDLE EAST
Syria
- Welcome to Nowhere (Laird) -- gr. 5-8; the civil war and refugees
Iraq
- Alia's Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq -- gr. 5-8
- Children of War (Ellis) -- gr. 6-9; nonfiction

_____________________________

AFRICA - GENERAL
- Glorious Age in Africa (Chu) - gr. 4-6; nonfiction; the 3 main kingdoms of the Middle Ages era; below grade level, but it would provide info while staying shorter, rather than an adult level history

EASTERN AFRICA
Sudan

- A Long Walk to Water (Park) -- gr. 6-8; simple/short in writing, but the intensity of the true events bump it up to upper middle school
Ethiopia
- Cry of the Giraffe (Oron) -- gr. 8-12
Kenya
- Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna (Lekuton) -- gr. 7-12; memoir; nonfiction

CENTRAL AFRICA
Democratic Republic of Congo

- Child Soldier (Chikwanine) -- gr. 6-9; memoir; nonfiction

SOUTHERN AFRICA
Malawi

- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Reader's Edition (Kamkwamba) -- gr. 6-9; memoir; nonfiction; 
Botswana
- The Full Cupboard of Life (Smith) -- grade 8+ ; book 5 of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series (book 1 is rough in the writing, as he was still getting his feet under him -- book 2, 3, 4 or 5 would all work well)
South Africa
- It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Noah) - memoir; nonfiction -- the adult version has a lot of 4-letter words and mentions s*x but more in passing;  adapted for Young Readers version is for gr. 5-6

Edited by Lori D.
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@Lori D. thanks for all these suggestions! I didn’t know that about the so light curriculum! They light it as for grade 6-9. 

@Rosie I’m just trying to do a survey of some places we are unfamiliar with. So I’d be happy with a biography of a famous Australian, literature from an Australian,  books set in australia, etc. 

 

@stripe I guess that’s because the Eastern Hemisphere spine breaks out the Asian countries individually, but it just lumps Africa into 2 sections- Northern Africa and Southern Africa. 
 

to be honest I’m not committed to the eastern hemisphere textbook. If you know of something else that covers Africa and Middle East better I’m open to suggestions. 
 

basically I am just wanting a survey course of cultures we haven’t studied much.

 

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51 minutes ago, Calizzy said:

... If you know of something else that covers Africa and Middle East better I’m open to suggestions... basically I am just wanting a survey course of cultures we haven’t studied much.

If she is a strong reader and would feel confident working at high school level, you might check out these 2 high school level programs -- you might just use excerpts that work for you:

Global Perspectives: core 1 - Africa and East Asia -- this program is by WTMer @Farrar
Guest Hollow: World Geography -- this program is by WTMer @jenn&charles

 

Also: I don't think there's anything wrong with having a few works that are below grade level. SO many of the grade 8/high school level books are very intense, and focus on the wars, violence, human trafficking, poverty, etc. I would balance that out with some traditional folktales, and some travelogue books/shows to see actual everyday culture. Otherwise, there's the tendency to think that *all* eastern hemispheres nations are only about the negatives, and no positives. 😉

Edited by Lori D.
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Why are you doing Eastern Hemisphere if she's done Asian history and lit and doesn't want to do more?

From a critique standpoint, a few things stand out to me...

Your reading about capitalism is super biased. It may be from a bias that you specifically want so that could be purposeful. But just in case you don't realize.

You have a real dearth of own voices literature. When you want to read and encounter a wide variety of time periods and places for middle school, then your options are sometimes pretty limited. But I do think it's worth evaluating. There are ways to make this list less American authors writing about other places. But... it depends on the goals. I'm not totally sure what you want from the list, ya know?

A Girl Named Disaster is Mozambique, by the way, so definitely not North Africa.

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12 hours ago, Lori D. said:

- Botswana = No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency -- light-hearted TV episodes based on the p

This series is fun BUT does contain one episode in particular that involves some attempted seduction that you may or may not appreciate. I had forgotten about it when I showed it to my kids. 

In case these are useful

https://bookriot.com/african-fantasy-novels/

http://www.bu.edu/africa/files/2016/02/Carol-Marshall_Edited.pdf about South Africa

You might also want to include some inspiring real people such as Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize winner for Green Belt movement in Kenya) or Alia Muhammad Baker (librarian from Basra), whom Lori D mentioned along with William Kamkwamba (inventor teen). 

Here’s a list I found for Oceania (no, not where Winston Smith lives)

https://bookriot.com/read-harder-an-ownvoices-book-set-in-oceania/

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I know I said this before, but I feel like I need to say it again because I keep seeing references to Pakistan and Afghanistan as being in the Middle East. I think we should be really careful when teaching our kids geography to be accurate about this. Many people conflate Arab, Muslim, and the Middle East, and they are not the same. I had a coworker who used to organize tours to Turkey and a lot of people would get concerned if there was a bombing in Tel Aviv on the news that it would be unsafe in Turkey (also not in the Middle East!).

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9 hours ago, stripe said:

I know I said this before, but I feel like I need to say it again because I keep seeing references to Pakistan and Afghanistan as being in the Middle East. I think we should be really careful when teaching our kids geography to be accurate about this. Many people conflate Arab, Muslim, and the Middle East, and they are not the same. I had a coworker who used to organize tours to Turkey and a lot of people would get concerned if there was a bombing in Tel Aviv on the news that it would be unsafe in Turkey (also not in the Middle East!).

Not trying to argue, but I genuinely understand the conflation because of the cultural and religious connections.

I totally agree about Afghanistan, as it falls into the grouping of Central Asia with Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan etc.

However, even that is not cut and dried; from the Wikipedia article (linked above): "The UNESCO History of the Civilizations of Central Asia, published in 1992, defines the region of Central Asia as: Afghanistan, northeastern Iran, northern and central Pakistan, northern India, western China, Mongolia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics." 

That same Wikipedia article goes on to say: "An alternative method is to define the region based on ethnicity, and in particular, areas populated by Eastern Turkic, Eastern Iranian, or Mongolian peoples. These areas include [the Uyghur region of western China and]... Afghanistan as a whole, the northern and western areas of Pakistan and the Kashmir Valley of India may also be included. The Tibetans and Ladakhi are also included."


So, I was thinking that while geographically India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are all part of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan and Bangladesh specifically split off from India to each be their own nation due to such strong religious and cultural differences, with Pakistan and Bangladesh being strongly Muslim. How do the Pakistani people self-identify, religiously and culturally? Middle Eastern? Central Asian? Indian subcontinent? That article seems to suggest that geographic regions can be identified by ethnicity...

And, it looks like frequent usage also can dictate what we call regions geographically -- Turkey does appear to be considered to be part of the Middle East, as the Middle East appears to be synonymous with Western Asia -- which includes Iraq, Iran, and Israel, as well Arabian Peninsula countries such as Yemen, as well as "Asia Minor" countries such as Turkey and Cyprus... 

And it looks like political considerations can come into play when considering what countries are part of a "region" -- from the Wikipedia article on "Middle East", while not listed formally, the "Greater Middle East was a political term coined by the second Bush administration in the first decade in the 21st century, to denote various countries pertaining to the Muslim World, specifically Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan." So by frequent usage in our politics and press for 20 years now, it is no we DO call those nations part of the Middle East...

And what about Myanmar (formerly Burma), as the "bridge" country between the Indian subcontinent and East Asia -- it is sort-of neither fish nor fowl. What does it get classified as -- it seems pretty far west and south to be "East Asia" alongside Japan, Korea, China, and Thailand...

Again, not trying to pick a fight, @stripe. 😄 Just some aloud musings expressing my own confusions -- and my geographical ignorances 😉 ...

Edited by Lori D.
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9 hours ago, Calizzy said:

@Rosie I’m just trying to do a survey of some places we are unfamiliar with. So I’d be happy with a biography of a famous Australian, literature from an Australian,  books set in australia, etc. 

For a nice, easy read, 'Walking the Boundaries' by Jackie French. That should be easy to find.
There are also a bunch of Indigenous stories on Youtube.
'Rabbit Proof Fence' is heavier, but history is like that. I agree with Lori about watching the movie instead of reading the book.
'Sand Talk' by Tyson Yunkaporta should be a good read if you're wanting a bit more thinking.
I haven't read the kiddie version of 'Dark Emu' yet, but it's on everyone's shortlist of Australian "must reads" for kids.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied's autobiography is a good read, if you don't mind a bit of language. She did work on an oil rig, and that's the lingo there.
'Future Girl' by Asphyxia (a Deaf artist) is a very good teen fic read if you're okay with dystopian, coming of age novels.

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