Monday, June 19, 2017

"Official" Summer Reading: How Dare the Sun Rise

Synopsis from Greece Athena Library school handout for one
summer reading option.
Our school's summer reading program (as part of a district wide expectation) is mixing things up with this year's assignment. Last summer we offered ice cream treats as the carrot for reading a single text during the summer months (a half-sheet with basic information needed to be submitted as evidence), and this year's final product will be participating in a book talk regarding the text read using notes kept on a more extensive work sheet depending on whether the text is fiction or non-fiction. Numerous staff members have also elected to read the same title will also be completing the task and participating in the conversation.

I signed up to read the recently published How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana with Abigail Pesta. The synopsis shared with students (above) prompted quite a bit of interest on the part of my current eleventh graders as well as my teaching colleagues. With my task clear, I picked up a copy (available only in hard cover so not inexpensive) from the local Barnes and Noble and very quickly made my way through it. (A quick check of the local library online card catalog informs that there are 22 copies within their system, too.)

How Dare the Sun Rise is an incredibly engaging and honest autobiography of Congolese refugee Sandra Uwiringiyimana and her family finding their way from a satisfying existence in Africa though a series of hellish events (thus the subtitle Memoirs of a War Child) until finding a purpose and sense of acceptance in the United States. A traditionally structured autobiography, it is the conversational tone and the manner in which Uwiringiyimana uses the differences between the two cultures to shed light on the strengths and weakness of our American culture that elevates the text. The journey Uwiringiyimana and her family take is powerful. Despite having read and taught numerous immigrant experience works ranging from Upton Sinclair's muckraking classic The Jungle to Francisco Jimenez's short story "The Circuit," How Dare the Sun Rise presents a compelling voice that is underrepresented among the genre. The first person perspective of the Congolese refugee experience is fresh and informative. While I have taught students in my classes who have themselves shared a similar set of circumstances, the trauma likely experienced precluded too much sharing. As many good reads do, however, it raises more questions as it answers others...

As interesting as Uwiringiyimana's odyssey to (and through) the United States is, I really found myself drawn into the unique perspective of the author's veiled social commentary on facets of American culture that most are frequently not meaningfully discussed in many classrooms.  Issues such as obesity, modern segregation in the American public education system, as well as subtle racism within the larger American black community are woven into her story. A clear emphasis on the significant power of education is key to the author's story. That this belief is ingrained in her by a feminist father (the author's words), who himself was a product of patriarchy, is in stark contrast to the apathy illustrated by some American students observed by Uwiringiyimana as a public school student here in America. Consistent with her articulated goal in sharing her story, the author clearly hopes to spark conversation among young people regarding these issues and others.

I look forward to discussing How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana with Abigail Pesta upon returning to class in September. My hope is that even those students and staff who had not previously signed up to read this title will do so in addition to the others: Highly recommended.

No comments: