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An Alien in the Cotton Fields: 47 by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley mixes social realism and science fiction in 47, the story of a young slave in 1832. In 47, Walter Mosley elucidates (almost incidentally) how close to impossible it was for slaves to overthrow their bondage because of the machinery of the law, and their inability to match their white masters’ firepower, as well as the personal and familial bonds that made the price of rebellion one that affected family and community members. This unit will introduce students to a subgenre of African American literature while also providing them with the opportunity to develop a more nuanced understanding of the machinery of slavery.  Reading 47 will provide my students with an opportunity to reflect on differences between science fiction and realistic fiction.

In the Core Curriculum, new emphasis is being placed on text-dependent analysis.  This unit is based upon the strategies described by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts in their book, Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Tests—and Life.  Lehman and Roberts use what they call a series of lenses through which readers gather information to discern patterns in the text. Readers then use these patterns to refine their understanding of the text, looking at issues that help them understand individual characters or whole text issues like theme, author’s point of view, symbols, motifs, tone, and purpose.

Joan Taylor
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