Is there value in assigning a “bad book”?, Teaching African American History, Update #3

Alisha’s blog post and general conversations with every one in class regarding The Wind Done Gone brought up an interesting question: Is there value in assigning a “bad book”? More specifically, can a “bad book” or a book that isn’t enjoyable or isn’t readily understood provide meaningful learning opportunities?

When I assigned the book, I did not expect the class to fall in love with the book or to even particularly enjoy the book. It was disliked more than I predicted. I think Alisha is the only one who suggested it did open the way for important conversations we wouldn’t have had otherwise. But I am still really wondering if the benefits of reading and discussing The Wind Done Gone might come later or if they are things that aren’t as readily tangible or if it really didn’t serve a purpose. 

For the future, I am wondering if I should assign The Wind Done Gone again or if it would be better to assign another book that helps cover the Old South in the form of fictional writing. Gone with the Wind is too long, and is not Black History.

Reasons for assigning The Wind Done Gone would include that it is such an unusual book and takes on Gone with the Wind. Reasons for not doing so would include that it doesn’t have a memorable message and doesn’t convey that much information tied to History. 

What are your thoughts? If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a least a quick skim. 

Also, last week we also had important conversations about causes of the Civil War, why the Civil War was fought, the secession papers, and the Cornerstone Speech. John Tompkins of ACC did a news story about the class with several quotations from the students that was in The Alvin Sun-Advertiser on Saturday! Will include a link when it’s online. Email if you would like a copy of it. 

See also: Teaching African American History, Update #2 and Teaching African American History, Update #1