“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.