Great Stories Club


Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide

Developed by Laura Bates, Professor of English at Indiana State University

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Applications: November 1 – December 30, 2016
Library programs: March – July 2017
Available awards: 100

Violence among teens is a growing concern, as educators face increasingly common incidents of school shootings, bullying, and other acts of violence perpetrated by students. Such acts are often rooted in feelings of depression, insecurity, or self-loathing. These feelings can lead to teen suicide, as well. While these very serious issues are often difficult to address directly, appropriate works of literature present adolescent readers with an opportunity to examine the choices that sympathetic fictional characters make and, at the same time, allow these readers to examine their own choices in an introspective and non-threatening way. Considering the various causes that drive these fictional characters to suicide—such as peer pressure, unrequited love, and the stresses of academic success—readers will also explore alternative responses to such causes. This activity could end up literally saving young lives.

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels), illustrated by Matt Weigle

The Art of Change: Creation, Growth and Transformation

Developed by Laura Rogers, Director, Writing Center and Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, NY

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Applications: February 15 – April 15, 2016
Library programs: August – December 2016
Available awards: 75

Change may be chosen or involuntary, accepted or resisted, and is the foundational issue of both our temporal human existence and literature. The three books chosen for this series are memoirs and semi-autobiographical works in which the young adult narrators make decisions about how to respond to the great personal, social, and cultural forces they encounter. Each protagonist moves forward towards positive change by, among other factors, their involvement in the creative arts. Each books raises important questions about we how respond to the very essence of human existence. How do we, as individuals and societies, respond to change? How can we use change as a transformative instead of a destructive force? What are the conditions that help us to use change to grow and thrive? How can we use the arts to create conditions for positive change?

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Buck: A Memoir by M.K. Asante

Hack the Feed: Media, Resistance, Revolution

Developed by Maria Sachiko Cecire, Director of Experimental Humanities and Assistant Professor of Literature, Bard College, NY

(View full essay, sample discussion questions, and related resources)

Applications: July 1 – September 15, 2015
Library programs: January 1 – May 31, 2016
Available awards: 50

As long as there have been new communications technologies, people have worried about how media can control our thinking, and even alter the nature of how we experience being human. Today some researchers and journalists warn that our Internet culture may be making us less thoughtful, lonelier people, even as governments push for greater technological literacy and universal connectivity. How do media shape individuals and influence whole societies? The three books in this series focus on the stories of young people who learn to see the structures of power that underlie the mass entertainment and information industries in their worlds, and who use this knowledge to resist unjust and oppressive systems.

  • FEED by M. T. Anderson
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • MARCH: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

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