Teaching intersectionality one book at a time

Young adult, graphic novels help prepare students for complex discussion, model states

JUSTIN WASHINGTON, Evergreen research editor

A WSU student researcher wants to incorporate intersectionality in ninth-grade classrooms with young adult literature. Bailey Inama presented her project at the 2022 Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Activities.

Intersectionality is the idea of multiple identities mingling together to create a framework on both an individual and societal level. Multiple aspects of a person’s identity overlap to create an understanding of power, privilege and oppression, said Inama, senior history, English and comparative ethnic studies triple major.

“The problem [I’m addressing] is underrepresentation for people in the classroom and making sure their voices are also incorporated into the required curriculum,” Inama said.

For her research, Inama said she read 30 books that contained discussions of underrepresented identities and made sure the literature represented the identities in a positive light. Twenty-five of these books were young adult literature novels while the rest were canonical literature, which consists of books traditionally read in English classes.

Inama said she chose young adult literature to make sure the literature was relevant and accessible to children’s lives.

In her model, Inama said she paired two young adult novels with one canonical literature novel to create a unit overview in a high school setting. She wanted to show that traditional literature can be taught in conjunction with young adult novels.

“This creates the building blocks to understanding identity,” she said. “It’s making them ready to go on to communicate with others … or handle discussions that might be extremely complex.”

During this research, Inama and her mentor, Ashley Boyd, reached out to almost 300 parents and received mostly positive feedback in regards to this outline, she said.

While the model has not been applied to an actual classroom, Inama said one of the future directions is to have this model included in secondary education. Additionally, she said she wants to include graphic novels in the model because the visuals provide an emotional learning aspect.