#OWNVOICES Defining Normal for Upper-Middle Class Readers

Laura Davis

Keller High School & Tarrant County College English Adjunct

Twitter: @MsDavisKHS2709


What Choice Do they make?

Essential Question

Where are the YA novels that speak to the upper-middle class readers? Affluent students? How can we use YA to begin discourse in the classroom?

WHere's the book about me?

Define "Normal"

What Normal looks like for Upper-middle class students?

What college will I get into? What if my scores aren't high enough?
Is this injury really going to be the end of eighteen years of playing? What am I going to do next?
I think I may be different... I don't find him attractive. I just date him because that's what my family wants. I really want to ask her out.
I got a 97 on the test... that's really not good enough.


What do you think:

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My Students' Responses:

What books impacted you the most?

"Books I felt emotionally connected to" - KHS Senior
"It's amazing when I can see myself in the book. Not everything relates to my life. I know books are meant for escape, but sometimes I need answers, so I turn to books. Why can't my students have the same opportunity?" - KHS Teacher

Literary Movements

"these movements fold together into a central goal—to have more diverse, authentic and intersectional representation across the industry" - Alaina Leary, Publishing
  • #WeNeedDiverseBooks
  • #1000BlackGirlBooks
  • #OwnVoices
"Right now books about power, relationships, and sexuality seem to be gaining currency. There is also a mind to include more diverse voices, a slight uptick for international writers, and the short story is making a mild comeback." - Jennifer Lyons, Literary Agent
"In both fiction and nonfiction, we’re seeing books that connect to current affairs capture readers’ attention [...] That doesn’t just go for the political titles that expand on our ceaseless news cycle. Readers want books that give them a broader perspective on the issues—racism, sexism, immigration, the list goes on—that we’re trying to come to grips with in the world today" - Peter Joseph, Hanover Square Press

Readers seeks literature that connects with them - a reflection of self. What happens when a reader doesn't find what they are looking for in a book? We end up with reluctant readers.

So, what's missing?

Novels in which middle-class students find solace: not a rags-to-riches story. While some upper-middle class students may be rags-to-riches, a majority of these students do not need inspiration for how they can build from nothing because they do not know what that feels like. Instead, they need a novel about a jock who injuries himself in the big game and can't play baseball again and has to decide what to do with his life. They need a novel about the smart girl who decides to cheat once and must pay for the consequences when her scholarship gets rescinded. These are their realities.

Their VOices

Books for Middle-Class Students

Life Choices

Governor's daughter and a wrongly accused criminal - what could go wrong?
Does Diana follow her heart or tradition?
What choices will she make to make her family life easier?


She's got a secret that she's run from before. Will this be the same?
Can she deny her true identity any longer?
Why should her weight define her?
All he's known is baseball. Now writing is an option. Who does he listen to?


They ran Lucy off because they did not believe her. It's time for a change.
Truth is painful when she straddles the low income world she lives in and the school she attends.
Internet culture? What could go wrong?

Mental Stability and Awareness

What's right and what's real may blur occasionally. Ironic, right?
He has a secret, so he's choosing to live vicariously through others.
Honesty is not always as easy to swallow as it seems.
He's got a unique perspective on living and life.


Rights are rights, right?
Two paths collide. Lives change.
What life really looks like?

Discourse LIterature

What is discourse literature?

Discourse literature invites and encourages discussion on sensitive topics.

According to Richard Beach, discourse begins with three components: "the influences of texts, context/student, and teacher"

The Text:

frame them as spaces that invite, evoke, or position readers to experience dialogic tensions between competing discourse perspectives.

The Student/Context:

the social contexts or spaces operating in text worlds, the social context or spaces of the classroom, and the larger social contexts or spaces to which students hold certain allegiances.

The Teacher:

teachers [Purpose]is to make students feel more at ease in discussing issues of race [and other topics] so that such discussions become a part of ordinary conversation in which all students share a sense of comfort.


Literature Circles - choose 7-10 books and break into groups

Individual and Pair Books Projects - Allow students to choose books to which they relate

Socratic Seminar - Topic Generated - Students choose books and come prepared to discuss

Beach, Richard. “Conducting Research on Teaching Literature: The Influence of Texts, Contexts, and Teacher on Responses to Multicultural Literature.” National Reading Conference, 5 Dec. 2005, Miami.


Created with images by Dieterich01 - "book dream travel" • David Kennedy - "Hallway Dweller" • Samantha Gades - "untitled image"

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