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  • Sam Meyer

English 10 Books

The 10th grade English classes study a wide variety of books, including a mix of novels regarded as “classics” and more modern and potentially more topical ones. However, all of the books are united under one acronym: P.A.I.L. which stands for power, agency, identity, and legacy. The books we’ve read thus far in English 10 Honors (Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Just Mercy, The Grapes of Wrath, The Scarlet Letter, Things Fall Apart, and 1984) all fit under the rubric of PAIL in the characters, storylines, and themes, which allows students to see these works in a different, powerful light.

Ms. Schutt has been teaching English 10 honors for over 20 years and currently teaches both the regular and honors courses. She said that “with PAIL, there was recognition of those issues coming up in the curriculum already, and we wanted to focus in on them because they are such big issues in the world today. We also wanted to connect the literature to what students were working on in both AP Euro and Global.” She then went on to say that she wanted students to understand how PAIL influences people and societies but also wanted students to be “developing [their] skills as readers and as close readers. Also, so [they] can see different writing styles and use those to experiment more with [their] own writing.”

Summer Reading Books for 10H: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and Just Mercy

Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo, takes place in the slums of Mumbai, following each character on their journey trying to escape the hold of extreme poverty. Boo captures the brutal difficulties and injustice that the slum dwellers have to go through, not only to get out of poverty but also to attain things as simple as an education or rights under the law. The book captures a unique perspective on a side of humanity that’s hard for many of us to imagine.

My Rating: 8/10

For the other summer reading book, students had a choice of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, or Just Mercy. Just Mercy, which I read, is a first-person non-fiction book by Bryan Stevenson, a black civil-rights attorney who takes on tough cases, fighting the racial prejudices in America at the time. He sheds light onto the issues brilliantly and through powerful storytelling helps readers to understand the full nature of the injustice at hand.

My Rating: 10/10

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a 19th-century novel, and one of Mrs. Schutt’s favorites because of the, as she describes it, “deeply human situations that it considers, and the ways PAIL are so integral in the novel.” The story takes place in colonial-time America and tells the story of Hester Prynne, who lives in her town’s limelight because of the sin of adultery, which she committed. The story is incredibly touching, but also difficult to understand. Lindsey Jaffe (‘25), didn’t have such a reaction and said, “I really enjoyed reading the book because of the female protagonist who is on her own journey.”

My Rating: 6.5/10

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe captures not only the upsetting impact of British imperialism on tribal Nigeria but also the story of Okonkwo, a fierce warrior in his village, Umuofia, who is determined to defend it from invasion. Achebe is a skillful writer who masterfully uses proverbs to get messages across, while at the same time telling a story that will not only hold your attention but engage your emotions as well.

My Rating: 8.5/10

1984 is one of Orwell’s classic works that never loses relevance. Displaying the dangers of losing individuality in the face of an oppressive government, the story of Winston Smith is one that has spoken to millions. Orwell, an enemy of all authoritarian governments, wrote 1984 as a cautionary tale, showing why we need to defend our basic rights and culture, such as language and identity.

My Rating: 10/10

Overall, I think that what I have learned from this year’s English class has helped me improve as a reader and writer more than ever before. While some better than others, the books all spread important values, and the year as a whole is fundamental in developing one’s skill at reading and writing.


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