This year, Saint Dominic Academy’s summer reading reflects not only women’s voices but also the moral, ethical, spiritual and societal issues that we want our young ladies to be able to discuss and analyze, as they grow into empowered leaders who can thrive in a global society.
With the exception of the 7th grade and the AP supplemental texts, the selected readings are non-fiction and address complex issues including bullying and harassment, the death penalty, U.S. interactions with the Middle East, ongoing environmental concerns, and genetics.
It is my hope that parents will choose to read their daughter’s assigned novel and engage in discussion over the summer. When we return in September, our English Department will work with students to create comprehensive, analytical essays while our Religion Department engages in frank and open discussion about the topics for each grade level.
7th- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
An American classic, dealing with the issues of rape and racial inequality, the novel is also remembered by beloved readers for its warmth and humor. Published in 1960, it skyrocketed to success and won the Pulitzer Prize. The plot and the character are loosely based on the author’s own experiences at age 10 in Monroeville, AL.
8th- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Ms. Angelou’s heartbreaking and heartwarming 1969 autobiography. Part of a seven volume series, this is the first of her stories, showcasing how at a young age she overcame racism and trauma. It begins when Maya is three and ends with her becoming a mother at age 16. Fans of her poetry will be moved by her open and honest retelling of her life’s hard beginnings and how she learned to respond to prejudice.
9th- Autobiography of a Face by Luce Greeley
With a strong focus on identity, this intense and sad memoir by Lucy Grealy tells her story of before and after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. Beginning at age 9 and following to adulthood, she shares with her readers how the removal of her jaw due to cancer had serious effects on her emotional life as well as her physical acceptance of herself. What makes the memoir more heartbreaking is that the author took her own life a short time after this was published.
10th- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Science and ethics are just two of the many topics covered in this work. Henrietta Lacks, treated for cervical cancer in 1951, had cells that led scientists to what we know as the HeLa, an immortal cell line. However, Ms. Lacks was the unknowing donor of these cells as the doctors who took them never received permission. The book, detailed in nature makes a strong argument about ethical issues and their links to race and class in medical research.
11th Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean
Those on both side of the death penalty debate cannot help but be moved by this compassionate work of non fiction by Sister Helen Prejean. Working in New Orleans, as spiritual advisor to two convicted murderers on Death Row, Sister gives readers an inside look at Angola, the Louisiana state penitentiary, the process of how the death penalty is carried out, and the moral issues stemming from both the use of the death penalty itself and the role of a spiritual advisor.
12th A Mighty Heart by Marianne Pearl
In 2002, Daniel Pearl, a Jewish American journalist for the Wall Street Journal was kidnapped, tortured and beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan. The beheading video was sent to U.S. officials and was viewed by his family as well. This work, penned by his wife Mariane Pearl, who was pregnant with their first and only child when he was killed, gives a vivid, detailed and frightening account of the days leading up to his death.
12th AP( in addition to above) : The Turn of the Screw– Henry James
Written in 1898 this short novella tells the haunting story of a governess, isolated with two children at a remote estate in England. Are the supernatural events real, or in her mind only? It’s been debated for over a century and this book is a favorite of The College Board for the open response essay.
Heart of Darkness– Joseph Conrad
Another short but weighty novella, this tells the story of a voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State by a group of British officers, searching for an ivory trader named Kurtz. At its heart, the work examines imperialism, racism and the darkness that comes, not from the beliefs of a people, but from the evil inside a man’s heart.
9th– 12th – Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Published in 1962, this book is still praised today for it’s in depth look into the environmental effects caused by pesticides. The book was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but, owing to public opinion, it brought about numerous changes. It spurred a reversal in the United States’ national pesticide policy, led to a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses, and helped to inspire an environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As part of the mission of the Sisters of Saint Dominic is ongoing commitment to the environment, Saint Dominic Academy asks all of its high school students to read this work over the summer.