It’s Not Fair: Young Adult Literature and Social Justice

Instructor: Karel Rose
Thursdays, 5 PM – 7:40 PM
Macaulay Honors College, Online
MHC 327


It is no longer possible to view young adulthood through the lens of the teenage novels of yesteryear. Dramatic socio-cultural changes have occurred and produced new tensions. As questions and concerns arise a new literature is now available for young people as they come of age. School shooting, climate change, immigration concerns, political and social unrest, new attitudes about race and sexuality and the rise of technological communication have produced a different young adult. There is a new and relevant literature that will help to carry these people into the realities of the next phases of their lives. Adults, as well, embrace this literature, hungry to understand the responses of their children and students. This course will give students the opportunity to describe and examine their own understandings about the forces in contemporary society which influence their lives. The focus will be on the intertextuality of social justice issues and high quality literature will serve as the context. Students will be both surprised and challenged to discover the kinship they may feel with characters whose lives are very different from their own thus sowing the seeds for empathic and intellectual growth. There will be an ongoing dialogue with the authors and their works through personal writing, private and public peer discussions. We will not only examine the complexity of social justice issues in the novels but connect to the current problems that beset our society at this important cultural moment.


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Discrimination, Disability, Poverty)

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi  (Totalitarianism)

Refugee by Alan Grantz (Displacement, Outsiderness)

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Race, Class, Gender Issues)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Outsiderness)

See course site here: