The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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Guiding questions for student reading (Junior Accelerated):
1. What is the relevance of family structure to our relationships?
2. What is the effect of the role of consumerism and capitalism on society?
3. How is the preservation/evolution of cultural values displayed?
4. What are the effects of tolerance and indifference on individuals?
Why summer reading?
Students, please use these questions as a guide for your annotation of the summer reading.
Your teachers encourage the practice of annotation in all your assigned reading at Stevenson, as a way to prepare for classroom activities and assessments and to reinforce the habit of active reading.
The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of fourteen-year-old Lily Owens, a motherless girl raised by a cold and often cruel father. Set in 1964 in South Carolina, amidst the Civil Rights Movement, this novel juxtaposes Lily’s personal growth with a growing national understanding of the role of race in America. This intertwining of Lily’s life and the racial tensions that surround her manifests itself when Rosaleen, Lily’s black "stand-in mother," boldly confronts three racists in town and lands in jail. Lily decides she must free Rosaleen, hatches a plan of escape for her, and then flees with Rosaleen. They find their way to the home of the Boatwright sisters—three female beekeepers whose home may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of Lily’s mother’s life. Lily and Rosaleen find refuge in this world of bees, honey, and divine female power, but the fear of getting caught creates a constant feeling of suspense which eventually reaches a climactic confrontation.
Students who choose this novel will be rewarded with a story about independence and establishing identity in the face of both internal and external conflicts. The reader will reflect on the definition of the American family, rethinking its boundaries to include an atypical family within which Lily ultimately finds her home. Infused with metaphor and imagery, The Secret Life of Bees will inspire readers and offer them insight into how "family" can affect our personal sense of identity.
What is the purpose of the summer reading assignment?
Students will have a choice of five books, increasing their educational autonomy and providing the opportunity to find and read books that are appealing to their interests. While all the books are at appropriate reading levels for entering junior accelerated students, each student should be able to find one that meets his/her specific reading needs. The selection of texts offers a thematic focus of the American Experience to provoke self-generated inquiry at the beginning of the year. As students read the novels, they should pay attention to the overall thematic focus of the American Experience.
This novel and the other options for Junior Accelerated students reflect a strong narrative voice, an artful use of rhetorical strategies, as well as stylistic choices, imagery, and consistent character development. Therefore, any of these four novels will provide students with a strong model for their writing and a sound beginning point for their studies in Junior Accelerated English.
What can you expect in your English class at the beginning of the school year?
After having read the novel and returned to school, the students can expect a short answer, diagnostic writing assignment on the second day of instruction in which they will be asked to respond to a quotation that highlights a view of the American Experience. This response will set a benchmark and aid in guiding the writing instruction throughout the year. Students can expect to engage in a similar experience near the end of first semester. This assignment will inform students/teachers to the growth in written expression displayed by the Junior Accelerated English student.