For centuries, dead white men have dominated high school English classes. Syllabuses and summer readings lists are chock-full of Shakespeares, Hemingways, Faulkners, and Fitzgeralds.
But this year, Joana Chacon, an English teacher at Newton South High School, is trying something new: Like many in her department, Chacon is teaching texts only by authors of color. Freshmen will read “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros and civil rights poetry by Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Maya Angelou. Juniors will dive into Sherman Alexie’s bildungsroman, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian,” Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel “American Born Chinese,” and one of Toni Morrison’s searing early works, “The Bluest Eye” or “Song of Solomon.”