Dear Future Student,
Hello! And thank you for electing to take one of the most challenging and rewarding courses you will ever take—a course that will not only prepare you to be successful on the College Board Advanced Placement Language and Composition Exam, but also a course that will prepare to be an engaged, community minded citizen. I look forward to getting to know you and working with you in Advanced Placement Language and Composition. This class will require many things of you. You not only will have to do more reading and writing than you’ve probably ever done, but you will have to know stuff --stuff about the world, stuff about politics, stuff about current events, stuff about history. The more you know, the more successful you will be in creating effective arguments. Knowing about our world, our communities, and our selves it the only way to create really good, authentic writing.
This summer your assignment is to begin your quest for knowledge, your acquisition of “knowing stuff,” with our own state and region, and also with yourselves.
How much do you know about West Virginia? It’s history? The region of Appalachia? How do people outside and inside this place view it? How do YOU view it? What voice do you have as young person from West Virginia? Often, the conversation and the rhetoric around West Virginia is negative, and there is an inaccurate and incomplete single story of this place. There is so much more to our state than caricatures created by movies like Wrong Turn. Do you know that one of the oldest ballet companies in the United States is in Charleston, WV? Do you know about the “Affrilachian” poets? Do you know there are places in this state so breath-takingly beautiful that when you see them your eyes will fill with tears?
I believe that to be great writers, we have to know who were are, where we come from, and our place in the world. Place is where we will begin our study of rhetoric: looking at the language, literature, stereotypes, and conversations in and about our state and our people. I want you spend your summer learning about West Virginia and Appalachia, and exploring our state as well (either digitally or physically). Your summer assignments will be unified by a central idea: Appalachian Studies. And more importantly, these assignments will lead you to feel differently about this place that we call home.
Have a lovely summer. I look forward to seeing you in August, and in the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call me, tweet me or email me at:
email@example.com, (304) 669-3539, @jessica_salfia
Learn some stuff, but don’t forget to have some fun, too.
All Summer Assignments will be due the FIRST WEEK of school. (not the first day)
Disclaimer on reading, videos, and podcasts assigned in this class:
You’re not in Kansas anymore…You have elected to take a college level English course. Therefore, you will be assigned a curriculum similar to that assigned in an English 101 class. You will encounter both literature and videos that may contain some adult content and adult language. If I assign a work contains some profanity or adult situations, it is because the merit of the work or ideas presented in the work are important to our curriculum and preparing you for the AP Exam, English 12, college and beyond. In order for you to obtain college credit for this class, it must be a college level course. I will be happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have with assigned texts or videos. But remember, this is a course you have elected to take.
Assignment 1: The Book of the Dead by Muriel Rukeyser
The Hawk’s Nest tunnel disaster of 1931 is considered one of the worst industrial disasters in American history, and the deaths of the miners, specifically miners of color, in this disaster were covered up and scaled down by the mining company and the West Virginia state government until recent years. Hundreds (some scholars believe thousands) of miners were killed over the course of the project. These deaths disproportionately affected workers of color, and these black miners were often buried in unmarked, shallow graves on the mountain side nearby. The Book of the Dead was written in response to the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster and is an important part of West Virginia’s cultural heritage. The poems collected here investigate the roots of a tragedy that killed hundreds of workers, most of them African American. They are a rare engagement with the overlap between race and environment in Appalachia.
Step 1: Before you read this text, research the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster. Check out these links:
Step 2: Read about Muriel Rukeyser:
Step 3: Read The Book of the Dead, INCLUDING THE INTRODUCTION BY CATHERINE VENABLE MOORE. As you read, think about two things-
- Think about how this collection of poetry functions as a persuasive text or argument.
- Think about what this collection tells you about the history of extraction and oppression in Appalachia. How were the workers and the people taken advantage of in the Hawk’s Nest Disaster? How did people fight back against this oppression?
Assignment 2: Read Dopesick by Beth Macy
From the Little, Brown website:
Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America’s twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs; from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns; it’s a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched.
Beginning with a single dealer who lands in a small Virginia town and sets about turning high school football stars into heroin overdose statistics, Macy endeavors to answer a grieving mother’s question-why her only son died-and comes away with a harrowing story of greed and need. From the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, Macy parses how America embraced a medical culture where overtreatment with painkillers became the norm. In some of the same distressed communities featured in her bestselling book Factory Man, the unemployed use painkillers both to numb the pain of joblessness and pay their bills, while privileged teens trade pills in cul-de-sacs, and even high school standouts fall prey to prostitution, jail, and death.
Step 1: Read Dopesick.
Step 2: Watch this interview with Beth Macy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6SsFRJo9rY
Step 3: Think about the way pharmaceutical companies infiltrated Appalachia. Do you see any comparison or similarities between this epidemic and the Hawks Nest Disaster? How were people taken advantage of and oppressed? How did people fight back?
Both The Book of the Dead and Dopesick were written by female journalists. They both explore a crisis in Appalachia and how the communities affected responded to these disasters.
Write a 1 page essay in which you reflect on what you learned about the Hawk’s Nest mining disaster from The Book of the Dead and on what you learned about the opiate epidemic from Dopesick. How are these events similar? Different? How do these two texts both create and support arguments?
Assignment 4: Water Street by Crystal Wilkinson
On Water Street, every person has at least two stories to tell. One story that the light of day shines on and the other that lives only in the pitch black of night, the kind of story that a person carries beneath their breastbones for safekeeping. Water Street examines the secret lives of neighbors and friends who live on Water Street in a small town in Kentucky. Assured and intimate, Wilkinson weaves us in and out of the lives of Water Street's inhabitants, dealing with love, loss, truth and tragedy, as the narration switches from person to person and their remarkable, varied and authentic voices are revealed under Wilkinson's sure hand. This is a superb, cohesive work which marks Ms. Wilkinson's evolution as a gifted observer and writer.
Step 1: Explore the Affrilachian Writers: http://www.theaffrilachianpoets.com
Step 2: Explore the Shepherd University AHWIR website. Crystal Wilkinson is this year’s writer in residence at Shepherd and you will get to meet her this fall!
Step 3: Read Water Street
Step 4: Think about what this books tells you about diversity in Appalachia, voices of color in Appalachia, and identify about any connections you see in themes, story content, or characters to what you read in The Book of the Dead and Dopesick. How does this work of fiction connect to the two works of non-fiction you have already read?
Step 5: Write 15 Socratic seminar style discussion questions for this novel.
- Think about what YOU would like to discuss with your classmates.
- Think about what this book can teach us about Appalachia, family, culture, and each other.
- Have these questions written by the end of the first week of school.
Assignment 4: #AdventureInAppalachia
Summer is about resting, recharging, and of course, having an adventure. So for Assignment 4, I want to you to have an adventure!
But here’s the catch: I want you to have and adventure in Appalachia. I want you to discover/experience/enjoy something in our state or region or your own community.
Some examples of possible “adventures” you can have in your own backyard:
- visiting a park
- taking a hike
- going to a museum
- sitting under a tree to read a good book
- learning something new/trying a new activity
- cooking dinner for your family
- going to a concert
- going canoeing, camping, fishing… etc.
- visiting a historical site in WV or Appalachia
- going to a family reunion
- going to one of West Virginia’s many fairs, festivals, or craft shows
Then, after the adventure show me “evidence” of the adventure! (50 points)
Choose any of the following options for completing this assignment:
- If you have social media, you can tweet pictures of your adventure at me (@jessica_salfia) and use #AdventureInAppalachia.
- You can email me pictures of your #AdventureInAppalachia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You can make a poster about your adventure and bring it to class the first week of school.
- Be ready to write about your adventure on Day 1!
***The following #Adventure[s]InAppalachia are NOT required, but will earn you 10 bonus points on this assignment and some mad respect from me:
- Visit the Matewan or the WV Mine Wars Museum: http://www.wvminewars.com/
- Visit Blackwater Falls State Park
- Visit Seneca Rocks
- Visit The Palace of Gold in Moundsville
- Visit Helvetia, WV
- Visit the grave of Devil Anse Hatfield
- Visit Dolly Sods
- Visit New River Gorge
- Visit the Philippi Mummies
- Visit the Mothman Museum or the Mothman Statue
- Visit the “Mystery Hole”
- Visit the Greenbank Telescope
- Visit Arthurdale
- Visit the Upper Big Branch Miner’s Memorial
- Visit Hawks Nest State Park
- Find the Don Knotts statue in Morgantown and take a picture.
- Visit the Poky Dot Restaurant or eat a pizza or a pepperoni roll from Colasessano’s (Fairmont, WV)
Have fun, and have a Great Summer!