LIE for the
Common Core English Language Arts Grades 8-12
LIE is a novel for the today’s student reader – bringing
with it a complex world view, of teenagers – and adults—making key,
life-changing decisions to tell the truth or lie about a hate crime. I
have attempted to outline key questions, which are culled from the Common Core standards for
English language instruction in New York for grades 8-12. In some cases, I have added author's notes, which are hopefully insightful
and directional, but certainly not the
final word on the text I am sure
that there are close readers out there who will interpret the text in a more
rigorous way than even the author.
Summary: As the novel opens, seventeen year-old Skylar Thompson is being questioned by the police. Her boyfriend Jimmy stands accused of brutally assaulting two Latino brothers from a neighboring town, and she's the prime witness. Skylar is keeping quiet about what she's seen, but how long can she keep quiet? Since her mother died before the start of her senior year in high school, Jimmy has been everything to her. She never had a boyfriend before Jimmy. And everyone in the school wanted to be his friend. He was the star of the football and baseball teams. He was a Scholar-Athlete. It was Jimmy's idea to go "beaner-hopping" and beat up random Latinos from the neighboring town. Everybody in school wanted to be part of it. Now, as her best friend Lisa Marie instructs, "everybody knows, nobody's talking."
But Skylar is realizing the enormity of what has happened -- and what she has been involved with over this past school year. She struggles with whether to protect him or to do as her best friend Lisa Marie says -- to say nothing. Jimmy's accomplice on that fateful night, Sean, is facing his own moral dilemma. He must also decide whether or not to turn on his friend in order to save himself. Eight other characters, four teens and four adults, weigh in on why this hate crime happened in this Long Island town and what should happen next. Most importantly, both Sean and Skylar, as the central characters, must figure out why they followed someone like Jimmy in the first place.
This novel is inspired by real events, notably the murder of Marcelo Lucero of Patchogue, New York in November, 2008, a murder perpetrated by young people who were out "beaner-hopping." One of the central themes of LIE is a multi-layered exploration of why people follow those who are acting without regard to consequences, without regard to the law, without regard to other human beings. Another central theme is the internal psychological struggle of the characters, primarily Skylar and Sean, to understand their own motivations, to come to terms with their personal moral dilemma about their participation in this crime. Ultimately, LIE is realistic contemporary fiction, setting out the story of a two young people facing the choice of whether to tell the truth -- or lie. Setting and Geography Lesson for LIE: Time: Present Day. Location: An unnamed suburban town on Long Island in New York. Long Island is east of New York City and has one main expressway that runs west to east-- the Long Island Expressway, locally called the L.I.E. Yes, the title can be interpreted as a play on words. Please note in several instances that the teen characters want to escape their suburban town. However, when they do drive off -- they drive east. Here's the geography lesson: Long Island is an island -- and if one drives east one can never leave the island -- one only hits the Atlantic Ocean. Conversely, several characters struggle with the idea of driving west, which is towards New York City. Metaphorically, the characters do not give themselves permission to leave and expand their view on the world. One question for students could be to explore how geography affects their decisions and impact the plot of the novel?
Determine a theme or central idea of
the text and analyze its development over the course of the text,
including its relationship to the characters, setting and plot
Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents propel the action, reveal aspects of character, or provoke a decision?
Analyze how difference in points of view and the audience or
reader (e.g. created through the use of dramatic irony) creates suspense?
Author's note: Ten distinct points of view comprise LIE --all of which contribute information about the community and the inciting incident -- the assault masterminded by Jimmy on two brothers, Arturo, the undocumented older brother born in El Salvador, and Carlos, younger and American-born. However, one point of view is missing -- Jimmy's. One of the central themes of the story is how someone like Jimmy, a popular Scholar-Athlete on one hand, a controlling bully and biased individual on the other, influence those around him? Why do people follow people like Jimmy? Ultimately, what does it take to stand up to him? And how is dramatic irony and suspense developed by knowing Jimmy only through the eyes of others, particularly his girlfriend Skylar and his best friend Sean? How do Skylar and Sean's responses vastly differ?
More complex questions for grades 9 and above:
Analyze how complex characters (e.g. those with multiple or
conflicting motivations) develop over the course of the text, interact with
other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme?
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure
a text, order events within it (e.g. parallel plots) and manipulate time (e.g.
pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as tension or surprise?
What other texts or eras does LIE connect to?
Note: LIE is set on Long Island, home to original post
World War II suburban communities. An exploration on the growth of
suburbia and its historical
texts that may be used to contrast and compare with LIE could include
Sherman Alexis' The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, which explores about the divisions between American
Indians and whites in his northwestern community. In addition, novels
such as Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man, which reflect the horrific lynching
experience of African Americans in the early-mid 20th century can
certainly serve to contrast with LIE and its exploration of a modern-day
hate crime. In particular, the prologue and/or chapter 1 "Battle Royale" scene could focus students on the impact of bias and prejudice on an individual and a community.
Author Workshops/Talks to Libraries/Schools/Groups:
I am available for workshops and talks.
"You truly engaged our students through your workshop, and it was fascinating to listen to students add their characters and perspectives to your novel. Many of them reported that they felt they were looking not only at the situation your book portrayed from a different point of view, but they were also looking at writing from a new perspective. I am delighted that your workshop and your interaction with the students went so well." - Stephen Collier, Wheatley High School, Curriculum Associate for English and Language Arts (K-12), in East Williston, New York after a two-hour Caroline Bock creative writing workshop for ninth and tenth graders on "Character Building" in January of 2012.
Additional Thoughts For Educators:
Lastly, If you are interested in more information or if you or your students have questions regarding BEFORE MY EYES or LIE, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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