Supplementary Reading Report for Literature Seminars

In this assignment, the student investigates the wide range of reading material available (whether it be fiction, poetry, etc.) that is not being assigned in class.  After choosing a text, the student researches the publication and reception history, summarizes the plot, and writes a one-page report that is presented in paper form to each member of the class (these reports could also be posted on Toolkit).  The student is not meant to read this book (although she sometimes will), but instead provide enough information to allow her fellow students to decide whether they are interested in reading it after the end of the semester.  This exercise allows students to realize the breadth of material that cannot be covered in the short span of a semester, as well as provides a reading list for future enjoyment.

A Guide to the Research Report


Because the emphasis in this course is on reading a few texts well, rather than many texts quickly, we’re only sampling the wide range of fiction written by contemporary ethnic American women.  In order to remedy our limited point of view, each student will write a one page report on a novel or short story collection that we do not read in class.


In order to choose which book to report on, visit the Voices from the Gaps website:  This website allows you to search by name, ethnicity, date, etc.  Browse around and check out several authors and their works.  On Thursday, September 4th, you’ll turn in to me a list of four books and their authors in order of preference, and whether you’d like to present your report during the first half of the semester or the second half.  I’ll assign your book and due date on September 9th.  We’ll hear one report per class beginning on September 16th.  You’ll write a one page report that presents the following information:


* Title of book, author, and date of first publication.


* Author information:  a brief biography; list of other major works; significance of her work; major themes and notable stylistic details.


* Brief description of the book.  (Note:  you do not have to read the book!  Instead, read about the book from the website and other sources.)  Do not give away any major plot details!  Give us a general idea of the plot and any notable characters.


* Critical reception and significance.  Has the book won any awards?  Received any particularly high praise?  Been reprinted or made into a movie? 


To fit all of this information onto one page will be a challenge.  Thus, be brief but specific; don’t lapse into generalities that may take up valuable space.  The report may be single-spaced (as is this handout) but not in a font size smaller than 11 point.  Include citations of the sources you’ve used (websites and print sources).


You may choose to include authors on your list that we are reading in the class (especially those whose short stories we are reading).  However, try to look up some authors you are not familiar with.  I’m particularly interested in authors whose ethnicities are not represented in our class readings:  i.e., Native American, Filipina American, Caribbean American, etc.  Make sure the books on your list are fiction, not poetry or memoir, and were published since 1970!


On the day your report is due, you will present a copy to me and to all of your classmates -- thus you will need to have 23 copies made.  If you give me a copy of your report ahead of time (either during the class before or during my office hours the day before), I will make copies in the English department; otherwise, you will need to make the copies yourself.  You will also present your report to us in about two or three minutes at the beginning of the class.  You need not add new information to this oral presentation, but do not simply read from your written report.  Focus on what you found most interesting about the book or the author -- perhaps the critical reviews or the plot of the novel. 


By the end of the semester, you will have not only a long list of books for future pleasure reading, but a better understanding of the wide variety of literature being written by women of color in America today.