H4 Summer Reading Assignment

Dear H4 Students:

Reading and writing in the 21st century classroom is an interdisciplinary effort. You read and write in all disciplines, but you have particularly extended and frequent opportunities to do so in Humanities.

Over the course of this summer you will select from summer reading lists that encourage reading for enjoyment and education, while addressing one of the many “big questions” that we encounter throughout our lives.

The books selected for H4 represent a variety of interests and reading levels. Print copies are readily available locally or via online booksellers. In addition to local bookstores, the Boston Public Library system is a valuable (and free!) resource. If you need help in selecting books, do not hesitate to ask the librarian!

As you explore these opportunities and the “big question” for the summer, remember that summer reading is for pleasure and to address the learning gap that take place during the summer.  Please read the article by Jeff Smink, Vice President of Policy at the National Summer Learning Association, for further understanding of how this gap influences our skills.  We hope you find many enjoyable books and stories to be part of your summer.

 If you have any questions regarding the assignment, please contact Ms. Wright at jwright@urbansci.net

 Please post your responses to the assigned tasks throughout the summer to the following blog:


 In order to post, simply find the entry with the title of your text. All entries can be posted in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom. Be sure to leave your name at the beginning or end of your post.


Ms. Wright & Mrs. Chesnakas


 “This is Your Brain on Summer,” by Jeff Smink, published in The New York Times on July 27, 2011

All students in high-need schools should have at least six weeks of full-day summer school that is engaging…Americans cherish (dearly love) the notion of summer as a time of relaxation and fun, but it comes at a heavy cost to students and the schools that serve them. This fall, despite any progress made during the school year, millions of students will come back to school further behind than they were last spring. Until our nation addresses summer learning loss, efforts to improve achievement will continue to fall short.

 The Big Question (Essential Question):

 To what degree can one person make a difference?


Can one person change his community? The world? Another person?

 Tasks to Complete (A, B, C, D, E):

 Submit Online:    https://h4summerreading.wordpress.com

A.  Select one book from the choices on the handout. Read it.

B.  Complete the Note-Taking Chart for the H4 Big Question using the book you selected from the H4 list.

Evidence that one person

CAN make a big difference

Evidence that one person

CANNOT always make a

big difference

1. 1.
2. 2.
3. 3.
Using your evidence, answer the question:

To what degree can one person make a difference?

Be sure to respond to this question in at least two well-developed paragraphs. (We will use these for further assessment in September.)

C.  Complete the Note-Taking Questions (below)

  1. Select, from your book, five words that are new to you. Copy the words and the sentences or phrases in which they appear.  Define each word (using a dictionary, online resource, or your own knowledge of context and roots).
  1. List at least five important points, events, or facts from the book, and give a two-four sentence explanation of why each is important to the book.
  1. Copy (or print) this chart and complete it to demonstrate 3connections you’ve made using your choice reading book.


    How does a

    moment, character,

    or part of this book

    relate to your own




    How can you

    connect this book to another book or

    article you’ve




    How does this

    book connect to

    something that

    happened or is

    happening in the

    real world?

    1. 1. 1.
    2. 2. 2.
    3. 3. 3.

    D.  In your written work to me in September or email it to me throughout the summer (jwright@urbansci.net).

    E. Participate in the summer reading class activity and assessment in your Humanities 4 class.

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Reading List 2015-2016

Author Title & Description


Latifa My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban (nonfiction-Afghanistan)

Latifa was born into an educated middle-class Afghan family in Kabul in 1980. She dreamed of one day of becoming a journalist, she was interested in fashion, movies and friends. Her father was in the import/export business and her mother was a doctor.
Then in September 1996, Taliban soldiers seized power in Kabul. From that moment, Latifa, just 16 years old became a prisoner in her own home. Her school was closed. Her mother was banned from working. The simplest and most basic freedoms – walking down the street, looking out a window – were no longer hers. She was now forced to wear a chadri.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Purple Hibiscus (fiction-Africa)

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.
As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

In the Country of Men (fiction-Africa)

Libya, 1979. Nine-year-old Suleiman’s days are circumscribed by the narrow rituals of childhood: outings to the ruins surrounding Tripoli, games with friends played under the burning sun, exotic gifts from his father’s constant business trips abroad. But his nights have come to revolve around his mother’s increasingly disturbing bedside stories full of old family bitterness. And then one day Suleiman sees his father across the square of a busy marketplace, his face wrapped in a pair of dark sunglasses. Wasn’t he supposed to be away on business yet again? Why is he going into that strange building with the green shutters? Why did he lie?
Suleiman is soon caught up in a world he cannot hope to understand—where the sound of the telephone ringing becomes a portent of grave danger; where his mother frantically burns his father’s cherished books; where a stranger full of sinister questions sits outside in a parked car all day; where his best friend’s father can disappear overnight, next to be seen publicly interrogated on state television.


Author Title & Description


Sweetness in the Belly (fiction- Africa)

Lilly, a young white Muslim woman, is eight when her British parents are killed in Morocco, and she is placed in the care of a Muslim disciple, who fills her days with the teachings of Islam. She later moves to Ethiopia, where she becomes a nurse, teaches local girls to recite the Qur’an, and falls in love with Aziz, a medical student who supports the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie. Lilly’s tenuous ties to the monarchy force her to flee to London when Selassie is deposed, in 1974; there she immerses herself in a refugee support group and waits to be reunited with Aziz. Gibb adroitly flips back and forth between prerevolution Ethiopia, where Lilly, though a foreigner, is admired for her knowledge of Muslim teachings, and London in the 1990s, where she feels stronger ties to Muslim refugees than to the British, who feel increasingly threatened by the refugees’ presence. Gibbs’ novel is a gripping and provocative addition to the post-9/11 genre of fiction exploring the many facets of Islam.



In Darkness (fiction-Haiti)

Shorty, 15, is in a Haitian hospital with a bullet in his arm when the walls fall down during an earthquake. As he waits for help, drinking blood to try to quench his thirst, he remembers how he got to the hospital and the haunting gang violence he witnessed in the slums: his beloved twin sister was taken; his father was chopped to pieces. His mother loved freedom-fighter Aristide, but his father did not. Shorty’s present-day narrative switches back and forth with an historical plotline set in the eighteenth century, when Touissant l’Ouverture, a former slave, led Haiti in the fight for freedom, calling for justice, not vengeance, in the struggle to emancipate the slaves.

Anthony Swofford Jarhead: A Marines Chronicles of the Gulf War and Other Battles (nonfiction- Iraq)

When the marines — or “jarheads,” as they call themselves — were sent in 1990 to Saudi Arabia to fight the Iraqis, Swofford was there, with a hundred-pound pack on his shoulders and a sniper’s rifle in his hands. It was one misery upon another. He lived in sand for six months, his girlfriend back home betrayed him for a scrawny hotel clerk, he was punished by boredom and fear, he considered suicide, he pulled a gun on one of his fellow marines, and he was shot at by both Iraqis and Americans. At the end of the war, Swofford hiked for miles through a landscape of incinerated Iraqi soldiers and later was nearly killed in a booby-trapped Iraqi bunker. Swofford weaves this experience of war with vivid accounts of boot camp (which included physical abuse by his drill instructor), reflections on the mythos of the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family. As engagement with the Iraqis draws closer, he is forced to consider what it is to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man.

Author Title & Description


The Farming of Bones (fiction-Haiti)

It is 1937 and Amabelle Désir, a young Haitian woman living in the Dominican Republic, has built herself a life as the servant and companion of the wife of a wealthy colonel. She and Sebastian, a cane worker, are deeply in love and plan to marry. But Amabelle’s  world collapses when a wave of genocidal violence, driven by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, leads to the slaughter of Haitian workers. Amabelle and Sebastian are separated, and she desperately flees the tide of violence for a Haiti she barely remembers.

Already acknowledged as a classic, this harrowing story of love and survival—from one of the most important voices of her generation—is an unforgettable memorial to the victims of the Parsley Massacre and a testimony to the power of human memory.

Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns (fiction-Afghanistan)

A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love



Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (fiction-China)

At the height of Mao’s infamous Cultural Revolution, two boys are among hundreds of thousands exiled to the countryside for “re-education.” The narrator and his best friend, Luo, guilty of being the sons of doctors, find themselves in a remote village where, among the peasants of Phoenix mountain, they are made to cart buckets of excrement up and down precipitous winding paths. Their meager distractions include a violin—as well as, before long, the beautiful daughter of the local tailor. But it is when the two discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation that their re-education takes its most surprising turn. While ingeniously concealing their forbidden treasure, the boys find transit to worlds they had thought lost forever. And after listening to their dangerously seductive retellings of Balzac, even the Little Seamstress will be forever transformed.

Paulo Coelho The Alchemist (fiction- Spain)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho continues to change the lives of its readers forever.   Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.

Lopez Lamong Running for My Life (nonfiction-Africa)

Lopez Lomong chronicles his inspiring ascent from a barefoot lost boy of the Sudanese Civil War to a Nike sponsored athlete on the US Olympic Team. Though most of us fall somewhere between the catastrophic lows and dizzying highs of Lomong’s incredible life, every reader will find in his story the human spark to pursue dreams that might seem unthinkable, even from circumstances that might appear hopeless.

Julia Alvarez How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent (fiction-Dominican Republic)

After fleeing the Dominican Republic with their family, the Garcia girls try to lose themselves–by forgetting their Spanish, by straightening their hair and wearing fringed bell bottoms. For them, it is at once liberating and excruciating being caught between the old world and the new, trying to live up to their father’s version of honor while accommodating the expectations of their American boyfriends

John Follan Zoya’s Story: An Afghan Woman’s Struggle for Freedom (nonfiction-Afghanistan)

After both her parents were killed by the predecessors of the Taliban, the Mujahideen, Zoya took up her mother’s work in RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan and, with her grandmother, journeyed to Pakistan, where she could receive an education at a school run by RAWA. A few years later, Zoya returned to Afghanistan to help her people and get firsthand accounts of the horrors of the Taliban reign. Zoya herself witnessed public executions and amputations, but she also witnessed heartening displays of courage–women defying the Taliban by holding secret classes and shopping in the marketplace. A stirring memoir by an uncompromisingly brave woman.

Katherine Boo Behind the Beautiful Forevers (nonfiction-India))

Katherine Boo spent three years with the residents of the Annawadi slum, a sprawling, cockeyed settlement of 300+ tin-roof huts and shacks in the shadow of Mumbai’s International Airport. From within this “sumpy plug of slum” Boo unearths stories both tragic and meaningful–about residents’ efforts to raise families, earn a living, or simply survive. These unforgettable people nurture dreams of a better life. As one boy says: “Everything around us is roses. And we’re like the s**t in between.”

Julia Alvarez In the Time of Butterflies

(fiction-Dominican Republic)

It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.” In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters—Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé—speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Americanah (fiction-Africa)

To the women in the hair-braiding salon, Ifemelu seems to have everything a Nigerian immigrant in America could desire, but the culture shock, hardships, and racism she’s endured have left her feeling like she has “cement in her soul.” Smart, irreverent, and outspoken, she reluctantly left Nigeria on a college scholarship. Her aunty Uju, the pampered mistress of a general in Lagos, is now struggling on her own in the U.S., trying to secure her medical license. Ifemelu’s discouraging job search brings on desperation and depression until a babysitting gig leads to a cashmere-and-champagne romance with a wealthy white man. Astonished at the labyrinthine racial strictures she’s confronted with, Ifemelu, defining herself as a “Non-American Black,” launches an audacious, provocative, and instantly popular blog in which she explores what she calls Racial Disorder Syndrome. Meanwhile, her abandoned true love, Obinze, is suffering his own cold miseries as an unwanted African in London.

Maxine Hong Kingston The Woman Warrior (nonfiction-China)

Maxine Hong Kingston grew up in two worlds. There was “solid America,” the place her parents emigrated to, and the China of her mother’s “talk-stories.” In talk-stories women were warriors and her mother was still a doctor in China who could cure the sick and scare away ghosts, not a harried and frustrated woman running a stifling laundromat in California. But what is story and what is truth? In China, a ghost is a supernatural being; in America it is anyone who is not Chinese. In addition, underlying even the most exciting talk-stories of Chinese women warriors is the real oppression of Chinese women: “There is a Chinese word for the female ‘I’ – which is ‘slave.’ ” In an attempt to figure out her world, Maxine Hong Kingston finds herself creating stories of her own, filling in the blanks her mother has not told her because her daughter is, after all, not true Chinese and thus cannot be completely trusted. Can these new stories explain why she had trouble speaking in the American schools? Can they help her understand the aunt who committed adultery and whose existence is denied?

John Burdett Bangkok Tattoo (fiction-Thailand)

Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is called in by his supervisor, hard-bitten Captain Vikorn, to investigate the murder of a CIA operative, Mitch Turner, found disemboweled and mutilated. The prime suspect is a beautiful bar girl, Chanya, with whom Sonchai believes himself to be in love. When Turner’s murder turns out to be far more complicated than originally thought, Sonchai must deal with his boss’s rages and Chanya’s gradually revealed secrets, along with CIA agents who have come to investigate the crime, a Thai army general with whom Vikorn has been feuding for years, Yakuza gangsters, Japanese tattooists, Muslim fundamentalists and more.

Alexander McCall Smith The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (fiction-Africa)

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

Isabel Allende Eva Luna (fiction-South America)

Conceived in an embrace designed to comfort a dying man, born to a servant and raised as a hired hand, Eva Luna learns quickly that she has a talent that belies her humble start: the gift of storytelling. As the years pass and her imprudent nature sends Eva from household to household—from the home of a doctor famed for mummifying the dead to a colorful whorehouse and the care of a beautiful transsexual—it is Eva’s magical imagination that keeps her alive and fuels her ardent encounters with lovers of all kinds. And as her South American homeland teeters on the brink of political chaos, and Eva’s fate is intertwined with guerrilla fighters and revolutionaries, she will find her life’s calling—and the soul mate who will envelop her in a love entirely beyond her mystical inventions.

Laura Esquivel Like Water for Chocolate (fiction-Mexico)

Like Water For Chocolate, a poignant love story told from a woman’s point of view, takes place on the De la Garza ranch in turn-of-the-century Mexico. Cooking and eating play a central role in the tale. The heroine, Tita, a master chef, was literally born in the kitchen. Following tradition, her tyrannical mother decrees that Tita as the youngest must not marry but must instead care for her mother in old age. Unable to communicate freely, Tita concocts recipes so magically potent as to convey her emotions to all who eat her creations- even the chickens-with often hilarious results.

Alejandro Zambra My Documents (fiction-short stories-Chile)

Zambra gives us eleven stories of liars and ghosts, armed bandits and young lovers—brilliant portraits of life in Chile before and after Pinochet. The author conveys the feelings at the heart of parent-child relationships, from the points of view of both, while political revolution and trauma lurk in the background. The opening story establishes the time, place, characters, and atmosphere by introducing the main character at age five, when, in 1980, the speaker sees a computer for the first time, an enormous machine used by his father, quite different from the typewriter his mother uses. He continues describing his childhood, from playing at the computer trying to imitate drumrolls, and local competitions in kite-flying. When he is eleven, he learns of Augusto Pinochet’s human rights abuses of citizens who were arrested, tortured, murdered, or disappeared, a trauma which echoes throughout all the stories.

Fernando Morais The Last Soldiers of the Cold War: The Story of the Cuban Five (nonfiction-Cuba)

Through the 1980s and 1990s, violent anti-Castro groups based in Florida carried out hundreds of military attacks on Cuba, bombing hotels and shooting up Cuban beaches with machine guns. The Last Soldiers of the Cold War tells the story of those unlikely Cuban spies and their eventual unmasking and prosecution by US authorities. Five of the Cubans received long or life prison terms on charges of espionage and murder. The book delves into the decades-long conflict between Cuba and the US, the growth of the powerful Cuban exile community in Florida, and a trial that was condemned as a travesty of justice.

Ernesto Che Guevara The Motorcycle Diaries (nonfiction-South America)

The hooks are obvious: charismatic revolutionary Che Guevara on a continent spanning motorcycle trip of South America. However, this book is by Ernesto Guevera, a 23 year old middle-class medical student looking for a break from his studies, and the motorcycle doesn’t last through two countries. It is a rare glimpse into the young mind of a major cultural revolutionary. The book is also a unique look into the everyday life of South America in the middle of the 20th century. The point of view is of sons of privilege wandering the countryside and living off the land. Sometimes they are encountering the workers and experiencing their simple hospitality and honest struggles.

Troy Blacklaws Karoo Boy (fiction-South Africa)

When his twin brother dies in a freak accident, Douglas’s life begins to unravel. His mother leaves his father, taking Douglas with her to live in the Karoo region, a harsh desert landscape that is a far cry from Cape Town and the seaside life Douglas has always known. In this small village that is wary of outsiders, he makes two friends who change his life forever: a beautiful girl named Marika and an old man named Moses. Immersed in rich language and vivid detail, and set against the backdrop of 1970s South Africa, Karoo Boy is the story of a young man finding his way in the midst of chaos and loss.

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Karoo Boy

Please post all assignments for the H4 Summer Reading text Karoo Boy in this section.  All entries can be posted in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom.  Be sure to leave your name at the beginning or end of your post.  Thanks, Ms. Wright

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The Motorcycle Diaries

Please post all assignments for the H4 Summer Reading text The Motorcycle Diaries in this section.  All entries can be posted in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom.  Be sure to leave your name at the beginning or end of your post.  Thanks, Ms. Wright

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The Last Soldiers of the Cold War: The Story of the Cuban Five

Please post all assignments for the H4 Summer Reading text The Last Soldiers of the Cold War:  The Story of the Cuban Five in this section.  All entries can be posted in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom.  Be sure to leave your name at the beginning or end of your post.  Thanks, Ms. Wright

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My Documents

Please post all assignments for the H4 Summer Reading text My Documents in this section.  All entries can be posted in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom.  Be sure to leave your name at the beginning or end of your post.  Thanks, Ms. Wright

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Like Water for Chocolate

Please post all assignments for the H4 Summer Reading text Like Water for Chocolate in this section.  All entries can be posted in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom.  Be sure to leave your name at the beginning or end of your post.  Thanks, Ms. Wright

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