"My entire community suffered from a lack of trust: we didn’t trust society to provide the basics of a good education, safety, access to good jobs, fairness in the justice system…even as we distrusted the society around us, the culture that cornered us and told us we were perpetually less, we distrusted each other…we hated what we saw, without and within." - Jesmyn Ward in Men We Reaped
In Unit 4, students will examine the thematic idea of home, the intricate relationship between personal responsibility and public responsibility, and the significance of telling historically untold stories. During this unit, students will examine the historical and social context of the Gulf South, specifically New Orleans and Delisle, Mississippi, in order to better position themselves for close reading and analysis of Men We Reaped: A Memoir. Additionally, they will dissect Ward’s intricate structure for her memoir, analyzing the impact of telling her story and the stories of the five men she lost in both reverse chronological order and chronological order on the meaning of the overall text, and unpack the significance of home as a place and the act of returning to one’s home.
This unit starts with a close reading of Hannah Giorgis' "Beyonce’s Black-Intellectual Homecoming" and provides students the opportunity to begin to unpack the idea of home while also examining how an author uses evidence and claims to craft a compelling textual analysis. In the remainder of the first arc of the unit, students read a variety of supplemental texts to explore the specific home that is prominent in Ward’s memoir of the Gulf South. Texts include Barbara Howes' "The Homecoming," excerpts from Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House, and the official trailer of Beyonce’s Homecoming. At the end of arc one, students will engage in a Socratic seminar and write an insight piece, putting various authors and texts into conversation with each other and reaching a new conclusion.
The second arc of the unit is a research phase that builds students prerequisite research skills. Students will unpack the end of the unit performance task and create a research question around one of the following issues:
- the school to prison pipeline and/or the criminalization of black and brown young people in schools
- the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, the war on drugs/substance abuse
- police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement
- homelessness and eviction
- education and poverty
In this phase, students will define and qualify what makes a strong source, build a research tracker, and write an insight piece that puts various authors and texts into conversation with each other and reaches a new conclusion.
The third arc of the unit is a study of Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped: A Memoir, a memoir about Ward’s hometown of DeLisle, Mississippi, the stories of five men she lost in the span of four years, and her story of how she processes her grief and gives voice to their life. While reading this memoir, students will track the stories of the five men, noting important details about their lives, the historical and social context of their communities, and their family dynamics and how Ward’s intentional choices around structure impact the stories she tells. Additionally, students will zoom out analyzing the development of Ward’s argument about the relationship between personal responsibility and public responsibility as it relates to their deaths.
In the fourth and final arc of the unit, students will engage in a summative unit seminar on Ward’s Men We Reaped and prepare for the unit performance task that asks students to investigate multiple perspectives of an issue in an individual research report and present solutions to said issue in a team presentation. Please note that this task is modeled after AP Seminar Performance Task 1.