Visibility & Invisibility in Short Texts

Students explore the factors, people, things, and characteristics that make people more or less visible in the eyes of others through their reading of short stories, poems, essays, and letters.



Unit 1

9th Grade

Unit Summary

“To be Nobody is to be vulnerable. In the most basic sense, all of us are vulnerable;
to be human is to be susceptible to misfortune, violence, illness, and death [...] Unfortunately,
for many citizens—particularly those marked as poor, Black, Brown, immigrant,
queer, or trans—State power has only increased their vulnerability, making their
lives more rather than less unsafe.” - from Nobody by Marc Lamont Hill


In Unit 1, students will explore the factors, people, things, and characteristics that make people more or less visible in the eyes of others through their reading of a plethora of short stories, poems, essays, and letters. Throughout the unit, students will read short texts to analyze the techniques authors use to develop and portray complex characters and speakers, synthesize themes about visibility and invisibility across texts, and examine how authors use word choice and language to develop their perspectives.

This unit starts with an introduction to the course essential questions around invisibility, where students begin to explore who or what makes people invisible and the plethora of attempts that individuals who are lacking visibility take to become more seen. To introduce this concept, the unit begins with an excerpt from Marc Lamont Hill's book, Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond, and Emily Dickinson’s, “I’m Nobody! Who are You?” setting a foundation from which students should analyze the various prose and poetry that follow: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Imitation,” Junot Diaz’s “How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Halfie),” Sherman Alexie’s “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me,” Frank Ocean’s Open Letter on Tumblr, Dream Hampton’s “Thank You, Frank Ocean,” Jose Olivarez’s “(citizen) (illegal),” and Fatimah Asghar’s “Super Orphan.” The exposure to multiple genres will help students learn how to work with and navigate a variety of text types, seeing the commonalities in how they should approach each as a reader and critic, more than their differences.

During this unit, students will also craft standalone argument paragraphs about the extent to which characters and/or narrators in the unit texts are “nobodies” as defined by Marc Lamont Hill.  By the end of the unit, students will have established their thematic foundation for the year: “Invisible Humans: Literature of the Marginalized and Othered” and will be able to define invisibility and identify the key characteristics of marginalization and otherness. 

Fishtank Plus for ELA

Unlock features to optimize your prep time, plan engaging lessons, and monitor student progress.

Unit Syllabus

Build student independence and support their planning and self management by sharing the Unit Syllabus, which outlines the objectives and assignments for each lesson, as well as the assessments for the unit.

Texts and Materials

Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click and make a purchase, we receive a small portion of the proceeds, which supports our non-profit mission.

Core Materials

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 1 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Key Knowledge

Essential Questions


  • What does it mean to be invisible?
  • What factors make people and places invisible?
  • How are people or groups made to feel “invisible” or marginalized by society, social institutions, and the “majority”?
  • In what ways do invisible people become more seen?


  • What makes a character, speaker, or narrator complex?
  • How do authors introduce and develop complex characters and narrators?



humanity intersectionality marred misogynistic pliable submissively subverted susceptible visibility vulnerability

Literary Term

conflict diction metaphor narrator other perspective simile symbol tone

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 1, view our 9th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.


In order to successfully teach this unit, you must be intellectually prepared at the highest level, which means reading and analyzing all unit texts before launching the unit and understanding the major themes the authors communicate through their texts. By the time your students finish reading this text, they should be able to articulate and explain the major themes the authors communicate through their texts related to the following thematic topics as they uncover them organically through reading, writing, and discourse. While there is no one correct thematic statement for each major topic discussed in the unit texts, there are accurate (evidence-based) and inaccurate (non–evidence-based) interpretations of what the authors are arguing. Below are some exemplar thematic statements.

  • Invisibility, Otherness and Marginalization: The most invisible members of society are often the most otherized; societal norms and values unfairly and systematically  prevent those outside of the norm from being truly seen and valued.
  • Acceptance: Accepting ourselves and others for our truths and differences leads to increased open-mindedness and an understanding of everyone’s humanity.

Notes for Teachers

Unit 1 features some controversial texts, “How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Halfie)” and “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me,” that have been banned in some schools around the country because their authors, Junot Diaz and Sherman Alexie, have been accused of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. A primary point of contention is that Diaz’s and Alexie’s poor behavior with women and sexist acts are grounds for removal from classrooms and curriculums. Additionally, “How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Halfie)” contains a few profane words and includes brief references to sexual acts. We strongly believe that these texts, despite their flawed authors, are meaningful and appropriate for high school students, so long as proper guidance and support are provided around how to discuss and handle mature topics.

This unit launches with a complex excerpt of nonfiction, the preface from Marc Lamont Hill’s Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond. It addresses issues of injustice that are rooted in the intersectionality of racism and classism. Subsequent texts integrate the following lenses: gender, immigrant status, and sexuality. No matter the racial, gender, sexual, and ethnic identities of your students, this unit will undoubtedly spark difficult—and important—conversations. Students may have strong emotional reactions to the content. As always, it is important to consider the knowledge and diverse experiences your students bring with them to your classroom.  

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards


Pre-AP English Standards

Core Standards

LO 1.2B
LO 1.3A
LO 1.3B
LO 1.4B
LO 2.3A
LO 2.3B
LO 2.3C
LO 2.3D
LO 3.1A
LO 5.1A
LO 5.1B
LO 5.2A
LO 5.2B
LO 5.2C
LO 5.2D

Unit 2

Power, Alienation, and The American Dream in Of Mice and Men and The Central Park Five