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The Women in Literature and Life Assembly
of
The National Council of Teachers of English
Editor:  Patricia Kelly kellyp@vt.edu
Volume 9
Fall 2000


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Revisiting Gender Equity in the Classroom

Breaking the Cyde/ Gender, Literacy, and
Learning
Lynne Alvine and Linda Cullum
(Editors). Foreword by Maureen Barbieri.
Portsmouth, NH: Boynton!

Cook. Heinemann, 1999. 184 pp., $17.00.
ISBN 0-86709-490-7.

Reviewed by Carol Sullivan
Mullen High School
Denver CO

In the Seventies, as a young woman living and working in a small Western city, I joined not only the usual professional associations, but also a local women s consciousness-raising group. There I experienced the frisson of bonding with other women while launching projects that we thought would improve-indeed revolutionize-the status of women, the classroom, and the world. In the year 2000, reading Breaking the Cycle, I experienced that same frisson.

This collection of essays delineates ways teachers and adolescents can transform themselves as readers and writers who plumb stories, disrupt stereotypes, and expand notions of what it means to be female and male. In particular, these essays demonstrate "ways that gender role socialization limits the literacy learning of all students" and ways to recognize and disrupt such cultural imprinting.

I was particularly enchanted and informed by Lynn Spradlin's "Taking Black Girls Seriously: Addressing Discrimination's Double Bind" and two other chapters on adolescent zines as examined by Elizabeth Dutro, Jennifer Sinor, and Sara Rubinow in 'Who's at Risk? Entering the World of Adolescent Zines" and by high school student Kirnra McPherson in "Notes from the Zine Underground." Spradlin looks at "loud black girls" who reject the silent passivity of their white contemporaries and instead deploy "gender passing" -modeling their behavior after white males their age. The essays on adolescent zines describe the phenomena of these small-circulation underground publications written and self-published largely by marginalized young women who deem themselves "zinestresses." While not every reader will agree with Dutro et a! that zines should remain exclusively extra-curricular rather than be imported into the classroom, teachers will find an illuminating discussion of this powerful form of self-expression.

This slim, eloquent volume offers research and reflection on links between gender and literacy, ample teaching ideas, an annotated bibliography, and a rich conversation that culminates with a poem, "Song of Happiness," by Jessica Jopp-a poem, say the editors, "that reflects the potential for the spirit of an adolescent girl or adult woman to be both whole and integrated."

Reference Citation: Brabham, Edna, Pat Bloodgood, Maureen Dolan, Carol Sullivan. (2000) "Teachers Write: Report Card On Equity In The Schools." WILLA, Volume 9, p. 22-26.


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