Thursday, May 6, 2010

Books in Class

It's the end of another semester! Woo hoo!

This semester I've taught a political science class using movies and books. When I was in college, I took a Politics in Film and Literature class and loved it. I was really glad to have the opportunity to create my own such class and be able to teach something new.

The books:
  • Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  • The Help, Kathryn Stockett
  • Funny in Farsi, Firoozeh Dumas
  • Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell
  • The Invisible Man, HG Wells
  • Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich
The students' favorite was Funny in Farsi. Funny in Farsi is Dumas's memoir about immigrating to the United States from Iran. The book is hilarious while talking about serious issues relating to immigration and learning a new culture. It's an easy read that is really informative. You'll cringe for Dumas at times, but be cheering her along the whole way.

Another well-liked book was Down and Out in Paris and London. This one surprised me a bit. I love Orwell, but I didn't expect it to be so popular with my students. It is a semi-autobiographical story of someone living on the economic edge in Paris and London. In the Paris section, which was the best liked of the two, the narrator works at the bottom of the restaurant rung as a dishwasher. The kids, many of whom work very menial jobs, really identified with this lifestyle. The narrator talks about how food is thrown against the walls and dropped on the floor. Unfortunately, one of my students said this happened frequently at his job, but wouldn't tell us where he worked. Smart on his part, sad on mine. Not that I really kid myself about what happens in restaurant kitchens...

I will be teaching this course again next spring. If you've got any suggestions for other books, let me know. I'm looking for books that aren't inherently political, but cover political issues (immigration, economy, etc.) Overall it was really fun to do. The first semester with a new class is always the hardest, but think the students enjoyed it and next time will be better!


  1. I remember a couple of courses in college like that! I took a course where we explored politics in music, movies, and literature, but we only focused on Nabokov, Shastakovich, and Stanley Kubrick. It was awesome!

    Some thoughts. They might be more overtly "political" than you are looking for, but nonetheless...

    All the President's Men - Woodwoard / Bernstein
    Prince of Tides or South of Broad - Pat Conroy
    The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
    The Sorrow of War - Bao Ninh
    The Plot Against America - Philip Roth
    Bel Canto - Ann Patchett

    Good luck! I love the blog by the way...

  2. I don't have any suggestions, but I remember loving my social studies class in high school because the teacher used movies to teach us about the different forms of governments.