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Hawaii and Headlines: Opportunities for Teachers and Students

Posted on May 14, 2019

Steam Vents near the Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii.
Steam vents near the Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii. By Nan Palmero, 2011.Creative Commons license.

The Japan-U.S. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Teacher Exchange Program provides the opportunity for U.S. grades 7-12 teachers to participate in a five-day conference in Hawaii in August 2019. Applications are due May 23rd

Do your students write poetry inspired by recent news events? If so, take a look at this student poetry contest and workshop from the Pulitzer Center: Fighting Words: Poetry in Response to Current Events. Submissions are due by May 20, 2019.

Thanks to our friends at the Global Education Conference Network for sharing these possibilities! 

Original-Language Texts in Spanish and Mandarin

Posted on May 09, 2019

Tang Dynasty copy of 新婦地黃湯帖 by Wang Xianzhi (344–386), currently in the Taito Ward Calligraphy Museum.

Do you teach Spanish or bilingual-Spanish classes? You'll find original-language versions of these pieces of literature: “A Failed Journey” (Un Viaje Fallido), the journalistic essay “Violence and Drug-Trafficking in Mexico” (“¡Qué manera de perder!”: Violencia y narcotráfico en México), and the poems “Sleepless Homeland” (La patria insomne), and “Notes on a Zombie Cataclysm” (Notas en torno a la catástrofe zombi), all in the Mexico Unit

In the collection of literature from China, the short story “The Old Cicada” and the autobiographical poem "Two or Three Things from the Past" are available in original-language versions. If you click on the Context tab for "Two or Three Things from the Past", you can hear the author reading the poem in Mandarin. In addition, the Context tabs for two poems from Tang Dynasty era include links to original-language versions: "Poems for Parting" and "Poem to the Tune "Pure Peace." 

For still more original-language literature, search this blog using the keyword "original language" and the language you are seeking. And for texts in other languages, such as Arabic, Japanese, Russian, or Farsi,  search the the "Find" page.

Teach in New York? Consider the Cullman Center's Summer Institute

Posted on May 03, 2019

"The Cullman Center Institute for Teachers provides opportunities for teachers to enrich their understanding of the humanities in The New York Public Library's landmark building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  Leading our seminars are scholars and writers who have won Cullman Center Fellowships and pursued their excellent work using the research collections of this Library."

The deadline has just been extended to Sunday, May 5! Find details and apply here

Just Published: Lives of Muslim Girls and Women

Posted on April 30, 2019

Author Jokha Alharthi, published in the May 2019 issue of WWB.

"Why don’t words come automatically with threads that we can yank to pull them back inside ourselves?" asks the young woman narrator of Booker finalist Jokha Alharthi's recent novel Bitter Orange. An excerpt, translated by Marilyn Booth, appears in the May issue of Words Without Borders.

The novel's protagonist, Zuhur, grew up in Oman and is now studying in the U.K. (a narrative path not unlike the author's own.) An interesting aspect of the novel is its portrayal of Muslim culture within a multicultural world, embodied in the dormitory where Zuhur lives with students from China, Niger, and Columbia, as well as her "svelte Pakistani friend," Sorour.

Alternating between the present day and Zuhur's childhood memories and regrets, the narrative's abrupt changes in time create a sense of dislocation:

Sorour didn’t wear any makeup; her tears were pure, clean drops, not darkened by kohl or tainted by face powder. They were large drops, glistening, and they looked perfect—my tears were thin lines edging down my dirty face—as she rubbed them off with her black-nailed thumb, handing me her walking stick and saying, “Go after them! Give them a good beating will you.” . . . She was still walking then, every late afternoon, between our house and the orchards, crossing through all of the narrow lanes where we played.

The "she" in the second part of the passage is not the narrator's university friend Sorour, but her grandmother, memories of whom Zuhur constantly revisits. She is racked with remorse: for not taking more time with grandmother, paying closer attention to her health, and for ultimately leaving her behind in Oman, where she later died.

The story "The Father’s Platter," in the second part of the excerpt, describes the young adulthood of the narrator's grandmother, after she and her brother were turned out of their home by their father. Her brother died soon afterwards; she always dreamed of farming her own plot of land, "but her dream never came true, nor did any other dreams she had." 

Below, you'll find specific resources and ideas for teaching these eye-opening stories

  • Country profile of Oman from
  • A photo essay and poetry about Oman, created in collaboration by two women, German photographer Anja Menzel and Omani author Lubna Al Balushi.
  • Shaykh: an Muslim honorific referring to a religious or community leader.
  • Tarha: a headscarf.
  • Lubna’s beloved Qays: Referring to a seventh-century poem by Qays ibn Al Mulawwah recounting his love for a woman named Layla, forcibly married to a different man. The story of Qay and Layla is sometimes called an Arabic Romeo and Juliet, which may be part of the reason Sorour, who disapproves of her sister's secret romance with a man from a different class, might balk at the narrator's quotations from the poem.
  • Mutaa marriage: in Shia Islam, a private, verbal temporary marriage contract; literally, a "pleasure marriage."
Pairs Well With…

On Words Without Borders:

  • "The Guest": Another story about a narrator's memories of a grandmother, from Egyptian Bedouin author Miral Al-Tahawy (translated by Samah Selim)
  • Other stories organized under the theme "Leaving Home" on WWB Campus
  • "Green Sour Orange," Iranian author Neda Kavoosifar's story of very different, but equally powerful, childhood memories, to be published on WWB Campus later this year (translated by Sara Khalili)


Potential Assignments:
  1. Memoir: Write about a far-off friend or relative.
  2. Short story: Write a short story in which memories of the past intrude on the present.
  3. Literary Essay: Analyze the relationship between present and past in this chapter. What do the narrator's thoughts about the present and the past suggest about her state of mind?
  4. Personal Essay: Interview an older friend or family member about his/her/their life dreams. Tell the story of how these dreams did or did not come true.
  5. Performance: Stage a scene in which Zuhur's memories of her grandmother intrude on her present-day life.

9 Virtual Exchanges to Take Your Classroom Global

Posted on April 24, 2019

#CSW63 - Scenes from UNHQ
UN Headquarters during the 63rd session of Commission on the Status of Women on 18 March 2019. By UN Women/Amanda Voisard.

Are you and your students interested in connecting to classrooms in other parts of the world---perhaps reading manga with peers in Japan, sharing stories of migration with peers in Mexico, or discussing human rights with peers in Russia? Below, you'll find an updated list of several organizations and tools that can help you set up virtual exchanges. 

The first section includes resources that are primarily platforms for educator-designed projects, such as global literature reading groups, and are all free. The next group includes those that allow the option of self-designed or pre-developed curricula; and the last section includes resources that offer chances to connect globally with pre-developed curricula.

Free resources to connect over self-designed projects 

The Global Education Conference hosts a virtual conference for global-minded educators, as well as an active online discussion forum where educators post and connect about projects. (free) 

Skype in the Classroom allows students to take virtual field trips, bring experts into the classroom, and connect with travelers, educators and authors. (free)

After signing up on ePals (Global Community), teachers and students can message each other; teachers can also choose from a library of "Experiences"—cultural exchange, subject-based learning, and language practice—for their classes. (free)

Resources to connect with self-designed projects or with curriculum provided

TakingITGlobal offers a variety of ways for teachers and students to connect globally, including finding or registering your own globally-collaborative project, and finding curriculum-based resources (try searching by subject, like English/Language Arts, or topic, like Culture. (free)

iEARN organizes project-based collaborations for classrooms around the world using online (emails, forums, and live chats) and face-to-face (video chats) interactions. On its Project Collaboration Center page, you can browse the many different projects underway; and, after creating an account, you can explore the different platforms for exchange, including a General Discussion SpaceProjects Space, and Learning Circle Space(fee-based)

Resources to connect with curriculum provided

NEW and free: NaTakallam (“we speak” in Arabic) has 50 fully-funded, Syrian refugee-led virtual sessions to give away before the end of the school year! Interested teachers can sign-up online and request a full scholarship to connect their students (any grade level) to a displaced Syrian for interactive virtual conversation about the refugee crisis, culture, and more. Sessions are scheduled at the teacher’s convenience and can be held as a one-off or a series of up to 10. Emails [email protected] with any questions!, an organization "Empowering young adults to engage with difference constructively," works with post-secondary youth and educators to facilitate meaningful conversations about social and political issues. (fee-based, sliding scale

The Global Nomads Group provides educators with several different options for education programs that foster dialogue and enhance understanding between students on all seven continents. GNG's Pulse programs are virtual town hall meetings: classrooms across the globe use live chat to discuss current questions and issues. (free and fee-based) 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on online collaborations, and about how any collaborative projects are going. Let us know what you are up to!

What's it like to translate children's books?

Posted on April 12, 2019

"Words and pictures talk to each other," notes Daniel Hahn, one of five translators of international children's books recently interviewed in the magazine Words Without Borders. Other featured translators include Ginny Tapley Takemori (far left above), who translated the wonderful short story "When My Wife Was a Shiitake" and other pieces in our collection of Japanese literature. Takemori comments: 

I translate the book the way it speaks to me, trying to capture its voice, and recreating its world . . . In the case of a picture book I have translated but which is not yet published, I found that because there are fewer words, the way those words are used are much more playful, so I also had to be playful in my translation . . . This was a lot of fun, and it made me want to do more picture books too!

For the entire interview, visit Words Without Borders.

Below, you'll find links to some of the child-friendly international literature on WWB Campus. 

  • Originally written in the indigenous Purépecha language, "Purépecha Mother" begins with the line, "She is not a queen." It would fit into a unit on indigenous cultures and could inspire students' poetry about important, "ordinary" people in their own lives.
  • "Do Not Tremble," a poem from Japan, was written in response to the 2011 earthquake, and gives the reader a sense of what it feels like to be in the midst of a natural disaster. It could complement a unit on the environment, and students could write their own poems responding to natural phenomena.
  • Had enough of haikus? Take a look at "Poem to the Tune 'Pure Peace'," which was written in the lesser-known jueju form; the word means "cut-off lines," and the unusual imagery in this poem will inspire students' own efforts. (See Teaching Idea #1.)
  • "It's a Chick, Not a Dog" is an Egyptian children's story. The main character is a young girl with a pet dog; she is having trouble understanding her mother's relationship with a pet chick.
  • Do your students draw comics? "A Drifting Life" is an excerpt from the memoir of one of Japan's most famous manga creators, describing a childhood encounter with a personal hero. 

Global Literature: Live in New York

Posted on April 03, 2019

Summer program leaders Zoia Choudhry and Ledwin Rodriguez at WWB Campus literacy workshop at the Partnership for Afterschool Education, March 22.

At several recent live events, Words Without Borders Campus connected with teachers, professors, and after-school program leaders to discuss such questions as:

  • What are the best ways introduce global literature to students?
  • What is the difference between literature about a culture and literature that is actually from that culture? What can we learn from voices within the cultures?
  • How can global literature affirm the cultures of immigrant students? . . . support student travel and exchange programs? . . . help create equitable schools and programs?

The first event, on March 14, featured noted Japanese translator Allison Markin Powell, who spoke about the impact of global literature on her life and work; the second event, on March 22, was part of the Literacy Series at the Partnership for Afterschool Education, and focused on global literature as a way to enrich summer reading programs. Below, you'll find photos from the events, including educators' posters of useful strategies. 

Afterschool leaders Jewel Berton and Melvin Loftin collaborate at PASE-WWB Campus workshop.
Posters listing PASE workshop participants' ideas for bringing global literature to youth.
Wil Lobko, Leighton Suen, Amy Lloyd, and Sonia Adams discuss goals for global literature at WWB Campus educators' workshop, March 14.
Poster summarizing goals of participants in March 14 WWB Campus workshop.

If you'd like to to hear about future events, please sign up for our mailing list!  

Also, please consider attending a free conference on teaching about translation at New York City's Hunter CollegeApril 6 & 7. Several WWB translators will be featured, including Julia Trubikhina, author of the introduction to our collection of Russian literature.

New from Mozambique: The Poetry of Punctuation, and More

Posted on March 31, 2019

The "Library"
An art installation: metallic quotation marks. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, 2010.

April's issue of Words Without Borders features a selection of poetry from Mozambique, including three playful, visual poems from the architect, artist, and author Hélder Rafael Faife.

In the introduction to the mini-collection, translator Sandra Tamele writes about coming across the book in which those poems first appeared:

I was intrigued by the title: De(s)igns, Childsplay for Grown-ups, and the brown textured cover with what seemed to be doodles on it [image – Ed.s]. It is a seemingly weightless book, composed of short poems and childish drawings that Hélder’s four daughters traced all over his walls, his work, his manuscripts and even his passport. I devoured the verses and couldn’t help but begin to translate the poems . . .

All three of the Faife poems featured in WWB would work well in the classroom: they are accessible and humorous, yet deeply poignant. The first, "De(s)igns," describes a girl drawing on a "bare skinned wall," as Faife's daughters did:

With every stroke of her pencil
the little girl unfurls dreams
and traces childhood’s uncertain roadmaps.

If you teach this poem, you might then invite students to write their own poetry inspired by children's drawings---pairing them with younger children at a nearby school, or having them look at collections of children's art, online, via an app or in print.

The second poem, entitled "Punctuation," explores the meanings of our marks as it narrates a conversation between a child and an adult. A little girl stares "Without commas in her gaze," and asks, “Is growing up for real or make-believe?” The adult narrator is lost for words: "Dot dot do, I gasped."

Students may immediately, intuitively grasp the metaphors in the poem, or they may need some need some time to delve into the lines and check their understandings. In the latter case, it might be helpful to assign individual punctuation marks discussed in the poem to small groups of students to discuss and share with the class. 

You might also have students discuss some of their own experiences with punctuation, asking them such questions as: 

  • Is punctuation different in other languages the students know? 
  • Do the marks seem to resemble any objects in the real world? (See the poem's comparison to ice-cream cones and fishing hooks.)
  • Has anyone ever had questions about how to use punctuation marks? 

Students can read "Punctuation" alongside work from Emily Dickinson, who uses non-standard punctuation to powerful effect.

As a culminating project, students can write poems inspired by the punctuation marks of their choosing, or poems depicting conversations with people either much younger or much older than themselves. (An interesting pairing for the second assignment might be J.D. Salinger's "For Esmé—with Love and Squalor," collected in Nine Stories.)

The third poem, "The End," has an elegiac tone, addressing an aging tree and a child at childhood's end. It would pair well with Gerald Manley Hopkins' "Spring and Fall", as well as with other contemporary poetry inspired by the natural world, such as the Japanese poems "Do Not Tremble" and "Riverwilt."

Sandra Tamele's introduction sketches the current literary landscape in Mozambique. For additional background on Faife and other poets from Mozambique, educators and advanced students might read a critical essay, "Literary Voices of Luanda and Maputo" A Struggle for the City," published in the Journal of Lusophone Studies and available as a free pdf.

Out of Our Comfort Zone: Global Lit on Twitter

Posted on March 27, 2019

A few weeks ago, WWB Campus collaborated with the Asia Society to host our first-ever live “Twitter chat” about global literature. The conversation was wide-ranging, with educators sharing strategies on everything from finding literature to providing context to supporting diverse students. Among the highlights:

  • Benjamin Evans, @thingsbehindsun, described the importance of global literature in our current climate: "it has perhaps never been more important to understand others nation's perspectives and cultures given the current narrative of shutting down borders, building walls and exiting the EU"
  • @TheBlackApple4ed tweeted: “When we read global literature, we get out of our comfort zone of our predetermined and often untold rules about things like gender, immigration, and things on the news become more realistic and contextualized. It broadens our viewpoint and open possibilities.”
  • Educator @Jennifer D. Klein wrote that global literature “builds deep empathy and understanding when we choose meaningful work and teach it well!”

Below, you’ll find four short works of global literature that can take students of their comfort zones, and foster meaningful engagement with the larger world.

  1. Slaves of Moscow: graphic reportage about modern human trafficking in Russia
  2. Hunger: a Persian memoir of immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager
  3. Sharing: Chinese graphic fiction about consumerism
  4. Riverwilt: a Japanese poem that mourns the destruction of the natural world.
  5. Sleepless Homeland: A Mexican poem about the drug wars

Interested in participating in another Twitter chat or other online event for educators? Help us plan future opportunities by answering this one-question survey.

You can follow Words Without Borders on Twitter @wwborders, and take part in the Asia Society's other chats with the hashtag 

Honors and Awards Round-Up

Posted on March 25, 2019

 A Kenyan teacher from a remote village who gave away most of his earnings to the poor won a $1 million prize on Sunday for his work teaching in a government-run school that has just one computer and shoddy Internet access.
On June 27-29, 2019, Re-imagining Migration will gather a selected group of leading teachers, scholars and professionals in education working in schools, museums, after-school spaces and policy at the National Gallery of Art and The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC. The purpose of this convening is to inspire a global network of educational innovators ready to re-imagine migration education in a way that fosters the academic, civic, social and emotional capacities of immigrant-origin children and youth and their peers.
The Education Department at the National Humanities Center works to provide leadership, training, resources, and partnerships that advance humanities education at the K–16 level. Our work focuses on the integration of strong scholarship and content, inquiry-based pedagogy, and emerging technology. We build bridges that put scholars and educators in conversation to support humanities classrooms at all levels.

Islam and Love: New Writing from Sweden

Posted on March 20, 2019

Poet and essayist Johannes Anyuru.
We are a problem.
An interruption. 
We don’t belong here… 

Johannes Anyuru's essay "Ahambra," written with Sara Nelson and translated from the Swedish by Kira Josefsson, recently appeared in the magazine Words Without Borders. In it, Anyuru tells the story of his deepening Muslim faith and its effects on his sense of belonging in Sweden. Born to Ugandan and Swedish parents, Anyuru began exploring Islam seriously during his early twenties, after experiencing a series of "[b]rief eruptions of meaning," including a bout of envy on a subway.

Anyuru's vision of Islam is both "archaic" and modern, poetical and mathematical:

I was particularly drawn to certain archaic images that I associated with events from my own life—a heavy rainfall devastating a garden, a star rising, hoofs stirring up dust against the sky. And that cosmology, which described our universe as a ring lost in the desert, and that desert as another ring lost in a larger desert, and on and on, to me became an illustration of quantum physics and string theory’s conception of the universe. . . .

But others do not share this understanding of Islam. After a terrorist attack perpetrated by a Muslim, Anyuru notices "the line that separates those who in that moment had their humanity questioned . . . from everyone else." He feels alienated from others in his country who can mourn the loss of lives without feeling as though they are personally under suspicion.

The essay is composed of passages separated by asterisks. Sections in italics are written not by Anyuru, but by his friend Sara Nelson, so that the essay takes the form of one of their "long, winding conversations." Sara, who seems also to be Muslim, and is caring for a sick mother, writes in one passage:

I am not a failure of evolution . . . I am a citizen . . . There is no need for anybody to take my veil off. I am part of the cosmos. I am a resource . . . I am not lost.

Thoughts of love, experienced "despite it all," weave through all of Anyuru's meditations:

That word, love, which recurs, might be all I can write about it without betraying myself. And when I write the word “love” I mean the love that knocks us to the ground and makes the body shake, only to lift us, helpless, up into the night, at once joyful and unhappy since through it, we see that we’ve found a path to our destiny. 

It seeks us when we seek it.

Teaching the Essay

The essay is quite long, and if you are strapped for time, you might assign only the first few passages to students, perhaps Sara's description of "ice-blue darkness.

Much of the essay reflects upon the author's trip to Alhambra, an ancient castle and fortress, located in what is now Granada. Alhambra is a UN World Heritage Site, and students might be interested in seeing a gallery of images. Or, you might place students into small groups, with each group taking a different "virtual tour" through the collections on Alhambra's website.

Once they have read the essay, you might have students discuss or write about their own values and beliefs: how they developed over time, questions they still have, etc.

Or, you might focus in on a rhetorical device that recurs throughout the essay: the opposition of "I am not/ I am"

I am not a cloud of floating whispers.  I am a core of silence surrounded by a deafening roar.

Have students write poems or essays exploring oppositions in their own lives. "I am not . . . / I am . . ."

Finally, it might be interesting for students to write a partnered essay, an essay that is the "long, winding conversation" in which Anyuru and Nelson are engaged here. Note that their stories and reflections sometimes intersect, but do not directly respond to each other.


Happy International Women's Day!

Posted on March 08, 2019

Panamanian author Cheri Lewis, whose "Open Hands" was featured on our blog.

What's International Women's Day?* It's a March 8th holiday with purported roots in both ancient Rome and Soviet Socialism, according to Russian Life

In its modern form, International Women's Day is understood differently by different people. For some, it's a time to give women flowers and "pleasant surprises of the breakfast-in-bed variety"(ibid.) For others, it celebrates women's art, activism, and contributions to public life. If you're interested in the latter form of the holiday, here's some writing by and about women from Words Without Borders

From the Blog
From Our Collections

To find many other texts, search "women authors" on the "Find" page, or see the blog post "7 Complex Female Characters in International Literature"

*This article is a re-post, with some new additions

Join us March 7th for a Global Lit Twitter Chat

Posted on March 01, 2019

What does the phrase "global literature" mean to you? 

Are conversations about global literature different from conversations about "traditional" literature?

How do students respond to this literature, and what are the best strategies for engaging them? 

We'll be discussing these questions, and many others, in a March 7th Twitter chat hosted by the Asia Society: #GlobalEdChat.  

WWB's Nadia Kalman and Jennifer Lauren will be facilitating the conversation. (Anything you definitely want to discuss? Let us know!)  Heather Singmaster, director at the Center for Global Education at Asia Society, organizes #GlobalEdChat and also curates the excellent Global Learning blog on Education Week

#GlobalEdChat has more than 7,000 followers, so we're looking forward to a lively discussion. Please join  and bring your global lit questions, experiences, and strategies!  

Event Details

A Snake on Social Media: New Literature from Iran

Posted on February 27, 2019

Aliyeh Ataei, author of "Galileo"

We're proud to announce the first English-language publication of Aliyeh Ataei's "Galileo," a story about an Afghan exotic-pet salesman in Tehran, as part of our new collection of literature from Iran. Plagued by loneliness and tired of living "on the margins" of Iranian society, the story's protagonist finds himself getting increasingly wrapped up in an online group of rich Iranians---but do they only like him for his python photos? 

This humorous and moving tale provides an excellent opportunity to help students understand both social media and migration as worldwide issues. Salar Abdoh, the story's translator (and himself a featured author in the unit), draws an intriguing parallel between migrants in Iran and in the U.S.: 

The Afghan experience in Iran is not unsimilar to the Mexican experience in the United States and an integral part of the culture and the country. Few writers of the Persian language have managed to convey that world in such an interesting way as this writer, especially as it pertains to the idea of home and leaving it.

Also, please don't miss scholar Amir Ahmadi Arian's essay introducing readers to modern Persian literature. Spanning the 1920s to the present era, it is entitled Gems under Debris: Repression, Revolution, and Reading in Modern Iran

Zombies and Love in the New Millennium: Novels from China

Posted on February 13, 2019

Yan Lianke, one of the authors featured in WWB Campus's China collection, has a new novel out. By Georges Seguin, 2010.

The online magazine Paper Republic recently published a list of newly translated Chinese novels, a diverse and exciting group. Among them are several works from authors on WWB Campus: 

  • Yan Lianke's new novel The Day the Sun Died "keeps up Yan’s relentless ex as villagers fall into a zombielike trance. For more on Yan Lianke's career, life story, and thoughts on censorship, you can read Chenxin Jiang's interview with the author. (The novel also sounds like an interesting potential pairing with Luis Felipe Fabre's poem Notes on a Zombie Cataclysm. )
  • Can Xue's Love in the New Millennium features a far-ranging foreword from American poet Eileen Myles, who confesses that she could not stop tweeting lines from the novel as she read it. For Myles, the novel is particularly notable for its sense of "humor and surprise," qualities also found in Can Xue's short story The Old Cicada.  

 For the entire list of new fiction, visit Paper Republic

New Graphic Literature from Korea, Brazil, and Elsewhere

Posted on February 01, 2019

This month, the magazine Words Without Borders is publishing its eighth annual collection of international graphic literature. Among the offerings is a true story of a harrowing girlhood in Korea and a depiction of a "A Love-Hate Relationship" with a Brazilian city.

From Korea, an Oral History of a Girl's Enslavement

Based on the account of a woman who was taken from her family as a girl, Keum Suk Gendry-Kim's Grass immediately engages the emotions through its powerful use of a first-person perspective (translated from the Korean by Janet Hong), as well as its evocative illustrations, at various times humorous, horrifying, and stunningly beautiful.

The chapter excerpted in this month's issue of WWB tells the story of a girl's sudden "adoption" into a new family. An elder daughter in a Korean farming family, hard-hit by Japanese occupation, Oksun dreams of going to school; the man who comes to take her from her family promises she will have that opportunity. "But I can still come home if I want, right?" Oksun asks. Her mother says yes; her father is silent.

The chapter ends with a sense of foreboding and the mother's plaintive words: "At least you won't go hungry now."

The entire graphic novel will be published by Drawn and Quarterly Press this coming June. The story it tells is harsh---after a several years of slave labor in a noodle shop, Oksun is forced to work as a "comfort woman" for Japanese soldiers---but never exploitative. There is no grand redemption, nor could there be, after such loss, but Oksun lives to eventually attend school and to tell her tale.

Weaving together history, personal narrative, and contemporary issues Grass can enrich the curriculum in a number of ways. A few potential approaches to teaching the chapter, or the entire book, are below.

  • Slavery as a historical and contemporary issue: Students may enter the classroom with a monolithic idea of slavery, seeing it as a distant problem that has already been "solved." Grass can help them expand this understanding, offering a window into a global story that continues, unfortunately, to the present day: a struggling family tricked into giving up a child. You might have them read it alongside such contemporary accounts as Victoria Lomasko's Slaves of Moscow (also a graphic narrative), or with some of the readings you might be including as a part of African-American History Month, such as Sojourner Truth's dictated Narrative, The Diary of Frederick Douglass, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, or Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. (There are many more book suggestions in this PDF from NCTE.) You can also have students review U.N. resources on abolishing contemporary slavery.
  • Oral History as a way of giving voice to marginalized people, telling stories which have been minimized or denied. Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, the creator of Grass, has written that her work deals "mostly with people who are outcasts or marginalized." Similarly, after being released from prison, the Tiananmen activist and author Liao Yiwu set out to write the stories of people previously denied a voice, several of which you can find on WWB Campus. Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich's work has followed a similar path; WWB Campus publishes her interview with the widow of a man who was sent to the gulag as a teenager. You'll find resources on oral history in the Context and Playlist tabs beside these works. Classic works of oral history include abolitionist Sojourner Truth's dictated Narrative (also mentioned above.) 
    If your class reads the entire novel Grass, you might look at the role of oral histories in telling the stories of former "comfort women," like Oksun Lee (who, we learn in the book, was abducted to a "comfort station" at age sixteen.) Comfort women's' accounts of sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese army are established history in most parts of the world, but continue to be disputed in Japan; few contemporary Japanese students have heard of the comfort women.

    We can also find these stories in contemporary history: in the U.S., the implementation of a "family separation policy," as well as a "zero tolerance policy" that prosecutes potential family sponsors for immigration violations, has put some children at risk of being adopted away from their families, and many thousands of others into detention centers. Resources for teaching and learning about these issues include children's first-person accounts gathered by the Atlantic and Think Progress (may be triggering for some students); an educators' guide from the Facing History organization; the recent book Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, by Valeria Luiselli; news stories from CNN, the BBC, and the New York Timesand well-sourced editorials.

    Loving and Hating a City

    In a different graphic story published in WWB this month, the narrator describes his relationship with the Brazilian city of city of São Paulo: "My love for São Paulo goes in cycles, first she's beautiful, then hideous…after that, she's hideous, but I love her." The lively, kinetic illustrations reflect these conflicting impulses, and give a sense of what it's like to be in the middle of the city.

After reading this four-page comic, students might be inspired to write about their own relationships with the places where they live. You can challenge them to select two emotion-words; and then expand on those words in a graphic narrative or personal essay.

For more graphic narratives from around the world, see the current issue of WWB, and a reading list of diverse graphic novels from the National Council of Teachers of English.

Love is International: Three Stories and a Poem

Posted on January 30, 2019

"Afternoon Kiss"
Young couple in Guanajuato, Mexico. By Bud Ellison, 2015.

With Valentine's Day approaching, we've assembled four of our favorite short, love-themed literary works:

  • Where Have All the Sundays Gone? a first love remembered, by the "J-pop singer turned writer" Mieko Kawakami; 
  • Hello? a short mediation on love, inspired by an overheard cell phone conversation on a Russian city bus. The Playlist tab features music videos of public-transportation-based songs (a surprisingly large sub-genre);  
  • Poem to the Tune 'Pure Peace,' a Tang-Dynasty era love poem, originally set to music;
  • The Gringo Champion: a tale of migration and young love, set on the U.S.-Mexico border (includes violence and profanity.)  

You'll find multimedia contextual resources and teaching ideas in the tabs beside the literature.

For more love stories, browse or search the site! 

Inspire Students with a Writing Competition from Korea

Posted on January 19, 2019


Yi Mun-yol, one of the authors featured in the competition. By Union Verlag.

Are you interested in introducing your students to Korea's rich cultural and literary traditions? An upcoming literary competition provides the perfect opportunity. 

The 2019 Sejong writing competition has four different age-based categories, (including a new under-30 section), each offering significant monetary prizes. Participants are asked to respond creatively to short literary works by the groundbreaking contemporary authors Pyun Hye-young and Yi Mun-yol (both of whom have been featured in the New Yorker), as well as to folktales and traditional poems. Full texts of all the literary works are available on the Sejong website. The deadline is March 31

This contest is the result of a collaboration between the Sejong Cultural Society, the Korea Institute, Harvard University, and the Korean Literary Translation Institute. If you decide to participate, please do let us know

NEA Grants: Travel and Study for Global Educators

Posted on January 04, 2019

Open passport, with stamps from Egypt and elsewhere. By Jonathan Khoo, 2008.

Interested in developing your global expertise? The National Education Association is awarding grants of $2,000 and $5,000 to educators and support professionals in public schools, colleges, and universities. The grants can support: 

  • Conferences & seminars
  • Travel and study abroad programs
  • Educators' study groups

The NEA will consider all professional learning proposals, but is especially in projects that build global competence or STEM. There are three deadlines throughout the year: on February 1, June 1, and October 15. For more information, visit Learning and Leadership Grants

Finding Authentic Asian Children's Literature (from Asia)

Posted on December 31, 2018

Can Xue, a Chinese author translated in English.
So you want to assign (or recommend) a book to your students about Asia—written by an Asian? Let me guess: You are having a hard time finding one, right?

On the Global Learning blog at EdWeek, David Jacobson, a board member of the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, suggests a number of high-quality children's books written in Asia, translated into English, and readily available in the States. His recommendations include: 

On WWB Campus, we have collections of literature from China and Japan, with graphic literature, stories, essays, and poems for student readers ranging from elementary to college-level. Our Asian literature for children and middle-schoolers includes: 

  • From China: "Poem to the Tune 'Pure Peace'," an ancient love poem in an easy-to-learn format (comparable to a haiku), that can inspire students' own efforts; "The Old Cicada," an unusual animal story. ("The Old Cicada" includes some high-level vocabulary, but there are definitions next to the story, in the "About" tab.)
  • From Japan: "Do Not Tremble," a poem about the 2011 earthquake, which could complement a unit on nature and/or the environment; "A Drifting Life," an excerpt from the graphic memoir of one of Japan's most famous manga creators, describing a childhood encounter with a personal hero; "Once Upon a Swing," a story that asks, "What's it like to be the older sister of a genius?" 

A Muslim Christmas: Transforming Pain into Empathy

Posted on December 24, 2018

Merrick & Bellmore Christmas lights 2018
Christmas lights on a Long Island house, 2018. By Terry Ballard.

Growing up Muslim on the North Shore of Long Island, Yaseen Eldik and his family faced ostracism and bullying, especially during the Christmas season. In his memoir of that time, published in today's New York Times, he describes seeing the neighbors' Christmas lights while scrubbing broken eggs from his own family's windows.

He also recounts his mother's wise advice during that difficult season: she quoted the Egyptian folk saying “Irmee wara dahrak,” or “Throw it behind your back," and reminded him that many people are bullied, for many different reasons. Eldik was able to draw on his own experiences to understand the experiences of others, emerging with more empathy and resilience than he had before.

He concludes:

Whatever your tradition, returning home for the holidays offers a chance to renew a sense of yourself. By stepping out of our daily routines and re-encountering our past we can decide who we want to be in the future.

The entire piece is available from the New York Times website. To find more literature from Muslim authors, see our Egypt unit and the Iran-in-progress. For a different story of bullying, you can take a look at "The Trapped Boy," from Japan.

For the Holidays: Global Children's Books

Posted on December 14, 2018

This week, in WWB's Dispatches blog, author Rivka Galchen posts a guide to children's books from around the world. Her top picks include Mexican journalist Juan Villoro's YA favorite The Wild Book and a series of tyrannosaurus stories from Japan: read more in A Holiday Gift Guide for Children’s Literature in Translation

For free international children's stories, take a look at our blog posts:

Just Published: Whose Man?

Posted on December 01, 2018

FLIV A poesia nacional de hoje com Ricardo Aleixo 27-04-11 (10)
Ricardo Aleixo performing at a national poetry festival in Brazil in 2011. By André Luiz D. Takahashi.
I am whatever you think a black man is. You almost never think about black men.

Ricardo Aleixo's prose poem "My Man" appears in this month's issue of the magazine Words Without Borders, dedicated to Afro-Brazilian writing. At once confrontational and deeply vulnerable, the poem can be an excellent starting point for a classroom conversation of race and identity.

The poem's subject is "the blackness that defines a black man in the eyes of someone who is not black:" what it feels like to be constantly under the gaze of a race-obsessed society.

I am your black man. I’ll never be only your black man. I am my black man before I am yours. Your black man.

The poem's staccato rhythms, its sudden reversals and dislocations, echo the disorientation of double-consciousness. These rhythms are evident both in the original Portuguese, which students can experience in Aleixo's performance video below, and in the English translation from Dan Hanrahan.

(Watch on YouTube.)

Spanish-speaking students may be able to understand some of the original language of the poem, published online in Portuguese in the poetry magazine moda de usar & co.

Classroom Activities
  1. Show student the performance video. Ask them what they think the poem may be about, based on Aleixo's movements, intonations, and any words they recognize.
  2. Have students read the poem aloud to one another, with expression, in pairs. Have students discuss their initial responses: "What does it feel like to hear the poem? To speak the words of the poem?"
  3. Then, in small groups, have students discuss these questions:
  • Who is the "you" in this poem? What is that person doing and thinking?
  • Who is the poem's narrator? What are the narrator's emotions as the poem moves forward? What do you know for sure about the narrator? What are some inferences you could make? How confident are you in those inferences? (The poem plays with readers' perceptions of what a "black man" is.)

Finally, bring the class back together to discuss the poem's ending:

Those times that I am not just black, I am as adrift as the most lost white person. I am not just what you think I am.

Ask students:

  • If we look only at a person's race, what are we missing?
  • What does the narrator want "you" to understand? Is that kind of understanding possible? Likely? Why or why not?
Contextual Resources

For more on Aleixo, an article in Jacket 2 discusses the performative elements of Aleixo's poetry---his experiments  with visuals, sound and video in performance, including the black cloth that appears in the video above, as well DJ-ing, guitarplaying, and animation. 

Related reading on Afro-Brazilian identity includes "The Women of Black Lives Matter in Brazil," published in Afropunk; and a article about police violence against Afro-Brazilians, the subject of a different Aleixo poem, "Night of Calunga in the Bairro Cabula," which appears beneath "My Man" in this month's issue of WWB.

Pairs Well with…

Like many works about culture, race, and stereotypes, "My Man" is at once specific and universal. In their introduction to the December issue of WWB, Eric Becker and John Keene draw a parallel between Aleixo and James Baldwin. Another WWB author, a recent immigrant to the United States from Peru, also drew a connection to Baldwin in his essay "I am not your Cholo." Other WWB literature on similar themes includes: 

The Japanese story The Trapped Boy, from the point of a view of a bullied teenager, is another work of literature that places readers inside a fragmented perspective, intentionally creating a sense of disorientation

Potential Assignments
  1. Write a poem addressed to someone who sees you in a certain way – perhaps an authority figure, a family member, or a peer. The "you" of the poem can be an individual person, or a member of group. What does the person get wrong about you? What do you want the person to know? The poem can be in prose form, like this one.
  2. (Optional/ Challenge) Prepare to perform your poem in class or record it as a video. Make thoughtful choices around expression, movement, and visual elements, and explain those choices in a short paper.

Fulbright Fellowships for Globally-Minded Educators

Posted on November 27, 2018

"The Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program (Fulbright TGC) is a year-long professional development opportunity for U.S. elementary, middle, and high school teachers to develop skills for preparing students for a competitive global economy. Fulbright TGC equips teachers to bring an international perspective to their schools through targeted training, experience abroad, and global collaboration." 

For more information and to receive updates, visit the application page

Piloting WWB Campus in New York City

Posted on November 13, 2018

Students at Baruch College, CUNY, studying an Egyptian short story on WWB Campus.

Students in NYC schools speak 176 different languages, and nearly half speak home languages other than English. For these reasons, and many others, we are excited to be launching a set of pilots in New York City this spring, supported by a grant from the Sumner Foundation.  

Piloting will involve: 

  1. Teaching one or more poems, stories or essays from our collection of Mexican, Chinese, Egyptian, Russian, and Japanese literature (Iranian literature TBA in 2019.)
  2. Administering two short surveys to students, and taking a short educators' survey.
  3. Participating in a private blog where piloting educators can share ideas and get support.

The schedule is flexible, and WWB Campus staff will be available to support teachers in planning and implementation.

If you're a New York City middle school teacher, high school teacher, or professor, we'd love to hear from you. You can reach us on the Contact page or write to [email protected].

Thank you for your consideration! And if you teach in a different city, but would still like to give us feedback on the site, just let us know with the links above.

Just Published: Empty Chairs in Vietnam and Mexico

Posted on October 26, 2018

5 chairs and a cat
5 chairs and a cat. By Vassilis, 2013.

In the November 2018 issue of the magazine Words Without Borders, "A velvet chair/ standing by itself/ on a highway" gives an unnamed narrator pause. The chair's "life is over," and yet, the careful way someone placed it on the highway suggests a sort of love. Is it possible that some "wandering soul" is sitting in the chair even now? the narrator asks himself. Even as he replies in the negative, he seeks some way "to give the chair/ a little consolation."

The author and translator of "A Chair on a Highway on a Rainy Afternoon" is the young poet P.K., who was once part of the Mở Miệng (Open Mouth) underground poetry group. In the issue introduction, the editors write that, "Silence, among Vietnamese authors, seems to have become a compelling tradition," as they vie to see "who can stay silent the longest?" In this poem, there seems to be a tension between what is said and unsaid, between the closed and open mouth.

An American poem with similar tensions, and a similar interest in the objects of the everyday world, is William Carlos Williams' famous The Red Wheelbarrow, available on The same website also publishes Edward Hirsch's essay on Williams' poem, which is definitely worth a look, as Hirsch asks similar questions of Williams' poem as students might ask of P.K.'s; for example, why the lack of end punctuation? If the essay seems too long and involved to assign to students, an educator might follow Hirsch's general approach, which is to solicit and affirm readers' immediate responses before going into analyses of form or meaning:

What are the first things you notice about the poem? Begin with what you know, or what you think you know.

As an assignment, students might take Hirsch's challenge to:

[C]ontinue writing the poem yourself. Double the length, either by repeating the theme or by adding a new riff about the images...This is an experiential way of discovering what is noticeable about the poem.

Then they might write a short reflection on how this exercise helped them to better understand "A Chair on a Highway on a Rainy Afternoon":

  • What did your lines look like?
  • How, if at all, did you use punctuation?
  • How did it feel to write in this way? What kind of mood did it put you in?

Related poems on WWB Campus include the equally meditative and imagistic "Soul, you are a street," from Russia, and "Riverwilt," from Japan. 

Remains of a Party in Condesa
Downtown at night (Mexico City.)
Downtown Mexico City. By Tristan Higbee, 2012.

In this story from Ariel Urquiza, translated by Samantha Schnee and also appearing in this month's issue of WWB, a young Peruvian man named Jonathan delivers drugs to a wealthy Mexico City home. Like P.K.'s poem, this story focuses on a lone figure in the center of a teeming scene. Isolated from the guests by his youth and poverty, Jonathan watches their antics, and his keen observations are likely to resonate with student readers: 

  • "He felt like he was in a museum despite the fact he had never been to one, but something told him they were just as opulent and sad."
  • "The fact was, none of this was of interest to anyone since it happened to a guy wearing a tight yellow shirt, cowboy boots, and red trousers."

The final passages reveal the toll of the drug wars with sickening immediacy. (The story includes descriptions of drug use and violence, and a homophobic slur.)

To help students understand the context, you might share a Public Radio International story on Mexican cartels in Peru, as well as some of the literature and resources in the Drug Wars module of the Mexico unit on WWB Campus.

If you are interested in a literary pairing, Jonathan's sense of isolation is similar to what Salar Abdoh describes in his memoir of immigrating to the U.S. from Iran, "Hunger." Jonathan watches the wealthy party-goers "as if through a window; just as just as Salar Abdoh's younger self sees America as a "glass display where I could not reach what was on the other side." 

There are also many other literary loners comparable to Jonathan, from J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to the narrator of Regina Derieva's poem "Unity of Form," who has given up all ties to "'valuable and essential' items." 

Some of your students may be familiar with reggaeton, the music Jonathan hears at the party – if so, you might ask them to share an example or two with the class.

Potential assignments might include:

  • Stage or film one of the conversations in the story. Be ready to explain your choices around voice, gesture, and other elements of performance with references to the text.
  • Write a short story about a character trying not to think about something.
  • Write an essay comparing Jonathan to a different literary loner.

If you decide to teach "Remains of a Party in Condesa" or "A Chair on a Highway on a Rainy Afternoon," or we'd love to hear how it went

Grants for Educators Promoting Empathy, Students Learning Languages, and More

Posted on October 24, 2018

Students responding to the Egyptian short story "The Guest" in Professor Cheryl Smith's world literature class at Baruch College, CUNY, 2016. 

The Teaching Tolerance project offers nationwide, rolling grants ranging from $500-$10,000 to help teachers, schools, and districts promote empathy, kindness and critical thinking about injustice. These grants might be used to give teachers time to plan a unit that helps students find a sense of purpose, or ask critical questions around stereotypes and identityGet in touch with us if you'd like assistance with an application. 

Also, if you teach K-12 in California, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Georgia, Minnesota or Washington, D.C., consider applying for a $1,000 grant from City National Bank, funding projects that "foster creativity and critical thinking in students." Perhaps a staged play, or a global book club? Find more details on their website

Teach Any Globally-Minded Students?

Students interested in studying less-common languages should consider applying to the NSLIY (National Security Language Initiative for Youth), sponsored by the U.S. State Department. "Selected students study a less commonly taught language overseas for a summer, semester, or school year. . . Arabic in Jordan or Morocco, Persian/Tajik in Tajikistan, and Turkish in Turkey. . . among other languages/locations." The application deadline is soon: October 30, 2018 at 4 PM.

Or, if students are interested in Muslim cultures, they might consider the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Abroad program, which matches young adult "youth ambassadors" with Muslim host families to promote mutual understanding. Applications are due on December 4, 2018 at 11:59PM PST.

(Thanks to our friends at the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies for sharing these opportunities.)

10 International Tales of the Uncanny

Posted on October 15, 2018

An origami ghost made on gold and white origami paper with a face drawn in permanent marker.
Gold origami ghost. By Douglas P. Perkins.

Looking for something unusual to introduce to students this Halloween? How about a no-face ghost, a grandmother-golem, or a murderous pack of Mexican zombies? Below, you'll find stories and poems featuring the ghosts of Japan, the all-too-real human monsters of Stalin-era Russia, and many other uncanny characters.

Japanese ghost stories and thrillers:

  • In “The Kiso Wayfarer," a young boy senses a ghost tagging alongside a mysterious traveler
  • In “Spirit Summoning,” a teenage girl who is a “fake medium” surprises herself when she seems to have actually called on a real spirit
  • "The Memory" is a story about a fashion model with a horrifying secret---but can she trust her own memory of events? And who is telling her story? 
  • Set at a river's edge, "The Farside" is another story with a mysterious, gradually menacing narrator.
  • Compos Mentis” tells a modern version of the Japanese "Noppera-bo"—faceless ghost—story, asking readers to decide which of three narrators is telling the truth (Note: this story is quite long---we suggest assigning it over several nights or classes.)    

From Russia, two tales of the darker side of caretaking:

  • "The Golem in the Mirror," in which the lines between fantasy and reality blur for a grandmother and granddaughter
  • "Grandmother's Little Hut," in which monstrous adults bully and neglect two children, leading them to strike out on their own (echoes of Grimm's Hansel and Gretel)

From Mexico, Luis Felipe Fabre's "Notes from a Zombie Cataclysm" is a mash-up of Day of the Dead mythology, pop music, and zombie movie. This poem satirizes Mexico's drug culture, while also underlining the deadly toll of the drug wars.

In China, a man visits a seeming utopia concealing a dark secret: "Death Fugue."

From Egypt, a work of graphic fiction offers an eerily quiet prelude to a murder: "The Apartment in Bab el-Louk."

And, from our Iran unit-in-progress, we have an oddly heartwarming tale of Hitchcock films and inter-generational friendship. "Hitchcock and Agha Baji" is currently available in the magazine WWB---we will publish it alongside educational resources (including film clips!) on WWB Campus in the coming year. In the meantime, we recommend editorial director Susan Harris's commentary on the story.

As always, we'd love to hear about how you're using global literature to inspire and possibly unnerve your students. Get in touch on the Contact page or Facebook.

Just Published: Questions of Identity and Humanity

Posted on October 01, 2018

2.5 Million Dalit Women to file Land Claims
Boy at protest during the 2013 Dalit Land Rights Campaign in India. By ActionAid India.

"Do you have to erase your cultural identity in order to succeed?" So wonders the narrator of Suraj Badtiya’s masterful short story “Gujji,” translated by John Vater and just published in this month's issue of Words Without Borders. The issue is decided to literature from members of India's Dalit caste, sometimes pejoratively referred to as "untouchables."

Despite some progress, the continuing discrimination against Dalits in India constitutes what Human Rights Watch has called "a hidden apartheid;" a 2014 study found that 35% of state schools required Dalit children to sit separately from others at lunch. It is no surprise, then, the question of what it means to be a human among humans permeates this literature.

Gujji” tells the story of a young Dalit man's rise to middle-class success, and of the sacrifices that entails. The main character, Ramdas, comes from a family of pork sellers; his nickname, "Gujji," is a slur word for the sausage they make (with great difficulty) and sell (for pennies.) The narrator comments:

Before he was even aware of it, it was as if his ears had absorbed this slur on his identity. First given to him in school, the name had already cooked through by the time he was a boy in the alleys of the neighborhood, much like the sausages boiled and hung from his family’s shop. When we’re raw, we’re free to trim our identities—their shape and size—to our liking. But what do we know then? Meaning, it takes time for rawness to give way to maturity. And how mature was Gujji at that age?

Such a nickname---and all the ostracism it implies---could hamper a person for life, but Gujji succeeds in school, re-assumes his given name of Ramdas, attains an MBA, and, in one of the story's ironies, seeks an executive position at perhaps the world's most famous purveyor of cheap meats: McDonald's Corporation.

Yet, a feeling of deep shame, compounded by the covert prejudice he senses from potential colleagues, continues to haunt him. After an interview in which Ramdas answers all their questions with "deep confidence and enthusiasm," he goes home to a sleepless night spent wondering, "Even after I’ve gotten so many degrees, why won’t they look at me like another human being?”

Educators might introduce the themes in this story by having students respond to the question "Do you have to erase your cultural identity in order to succeed?"---which remains relevant in many places besides India.

When they are finished reading, students might discuss their responses to a different question from the narrator:

[D]oes society torture all Ramdases this way? Not everyone is lucky enough to study and become a manager.

What happens to young adults who face the same harsh circumstances and stigma as Ramdas, but lack the combination of factors that can smooth a pathway into an easier life? (As an extension, students might research "Ramdases" in their own parts of the world.) 

Many others stories on WWB Campus could make interesting pairs with "Gujji," including,

  • The Stone Guest, from Russia, another look at what it means to "trim our identities," via the metaphor of sculpture, rather than sausages
  • A Dream in a Polar Fog, from Siberia, an inside look at the way racism clouds perceptions
  • A Failed Journey, set in Mexico, this story also features a character's journey to McDonald's 

With its organizing metaphor of sausage, harrowing scenes of animal slaughter, and implicit critique of big business, "Gujji" could also make an excellent companion text to Upton's Sinclair's The Jungle.

As a culminating assignment, students might speculate about it might be like for Ramdas to work at the McDonald's corporation, with colleagues who may share some of the prejudices of the man who quit rather than work alongside him.

For students interested in learning more about Dalit life, Vasant Moon’s Growing Up Untouchable in India: A Dalit Autobiography provides an "eye-opening" perspective on growing up poor and Dalit, according to the New York Review of Books.

Mongolian author Ölziitögs Luvsandorj.

Also in the October issue, a story from Mongolia takes the question of humanity into the realm of fantastical. Inspired in part by Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," Ölziitögs Luvsandorj's "Aquarium" describes the daily life---and surprising choice---of a woman who suddenly finds herself transformed into a goldfish. (Translated by Sainbayar Gundsambuu and by KG Hutchins, the story is also available in the original Mongolian.) 

You might teach the story alongside other works about transformation also available on this website, such as "When My Wife Was a Shiitake," from Japan, and "Fragments from the Dollmaker's Life," from Russia; Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," the title story in graphic novelist Gabrielle Bell's Cecil and Jordan in New York (or the short film it inspired), or one of the many folk and fairy tales that take this kind of transformation as a premise. After reading "Aquarium," students can write their own creative fiction about a human's transformation into an object or animal.

WWB Partners with to Bring Eye-Opening Work to New Readers!

Posted on September 28, 2018

Yellow mustard flowers
Yellow mustard flowers. By Andrew Rollinger.

A few weeks ago, WWB launched an exciting new partnership with the American Academy of Poets, sharing contemporary world poetry  on the website This week, the site's award-winning "Teach This Poem" blog features suggestions for introducing a poem from Punjabi author Ajmer Rode poem to students. Entitled "Mustard Flowers," the poem begins: 

If you see an old man sitting alone
at the bus stop and wonder who he is 
I can tell you. 
He is my father.

You might "Teach This Poem" alongside other works about fathers from a different country, China (Scroll down the right-hand side for the "Fathers" theme.) 

For more WWB poets on, take a look at this sampler of poems, with work from Amarjit ChandanNavtej BharatiYao FengAgnes Lam, and Nhã Thuyên

Deadline Extended: NYC-Based Outreach Coordinator

Posted on September 26, 2018

Thanks to a small grant from the Summer Scholarship Endowment Foundation, we are able to do some outreach in New York City schools this fall! 

We are seeking an outreach coordinator with teaching experience, contacts in schools, and knowledge of international literature. A full description is below; please do share with friends and colleagues, and get in touch if there are any questions. 

School Outreach Coordinator

Words Without Borders (WWB) seeks an organized, outgoing, results-oriented individual with a deep network of contacts in New York City public secondary schools to help us connect local classrooms to the offerings on Words Without Borders Campus, an online collection of contemporary world literature and tools for teaching and learning.

The outreach coordinator will be responsible for recruiting, enrolling, and retaining 10-15 New York high schools during the 2018-2019 school year. This short-term, contract position will entail on-site meetings at NYC public schools as well as remote work from the coordinator's personal computer. The editor of WWB Campus will be available to support the coordinator's work: consulting on lists of schools to be contacted, participating in meetings and conversations with schools, and assisting with follow-up and retention.


  • In consultation with WWB staff, conduct research on target schools and key teachers, administrators, and librarians at those schools (Target schools will include those with high proportions of underserved students and English-language learners.)
  • Make initial contacts and organize meetings with schools, school leaders, teachers, and librarians. Conduct presentations and meetings along with the WWB Campus editor and executive director
  • Provide follow-up and support for school and educator integration of WWB Campus materials into teaching
  • Provide follow-up and support for educators' and students' completion of pre- and post-implementation surveys.
  • Deliverables will include: 10-15 schools in NYC registered and consistently engaging with WWB Campus.
  • Hours: 5+ week, depending on schedule to be negotiated with successful applicant. 


  • 3-5 years secondary English, social studies, or history teaching experience in New York City, with several years of experience using technology in the classroom

  • Strong network of current contacts in NYC public secondary schools

  • 1-3 years experience with outreach to public schools

  • Knowledge of and interest in contemporary international literature

  • M.A. or higher in English, English/Social Studies/History Education, Instructional Technology and Media, or a related field.

  • Excellent organizational and interpersonal skills

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

  • Demonstrated ability to meet deadlines and goals

  • Ability to work independently and make improvements in response to feedback.

To apply, please send a cover letter and résumé to [email protected] with “School Outreach” in the subject line.

Deadline: October 25, 2018

About Words Without Borders Campus

Words Without Borders was founded in 2003 to build cultural understanding through the translation, publication, and promotion of contemporary international literature. Since then, our monthly online magazine has published writers from 134 countries, translated from 113 languages. In 2014, following a strategic planning process, we began work on WWB Campus, a free, flexible online platform to bring the best of new international writing into high school and college classrooms.

Drawing from the Words Without Borders archive of international stories, essays, and poems, WWB Campus connects students and educators to eye-opening literature from across the globe. We present this literature alongside multimedia contextual materials, teaching ideas and lesson plans, and resources for further exploration. Our goal is to create a virtual learning space without borders, fostering meaningful cross-cultural understandings and inspiring a lifelong interest in international literature. The online resource is available to educators and students at no cost.

Educators' Voices: Reading Night in Trump-era Chicago

Posted on September 19, 2018

#daca #protest #chicago.
Pro-immigration protesters hold up a sign: "White House: Deport Nazis Not Dreamers." Chicago, September 2017. By Christian Werthschulte.

While reading Night with high school freshmen on Chicago’s largely Latino Southwest Side, I often had to explain new vocabulary like “invective” and “anti-Semitism.” But one term the students never had any trouble understanding was “deportation.”

So writes Carolyn Alessio, an author and an English teacher at Chicago's Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, in her moving essay "Sanctuary, City." The essay was published in the journal Scoundrel Time more than a year ago, but still, sadly, continues to be relevant.

Alessio writes about her students, mostly of Latinx origin, the new fears with which they now live, and the connections they make to literature about authoritarianism and resistance. In addition to Elie Wiesel's Night, Alessio discusses Orwell's Animal Farm and Homer's Odyssey, with its broad affirmation of hospitality: "Everyone in the poem, from prince to swineherd, must welcome the most ragged strangers into their homes."

To read the entire essay, visit Scoundrel Time. For contemporary literature on immigration and deportation, available on this website, try The Gringo Champion, The Bed, or Pears from Gudauty. You can also search for other works by using the "Leaving Home" filter on the Find page.  

And let us know: what connections between literature and "real life" are your students making this year?

In the Magazine: Japanese-Georgian Poems That Caused an Internet Sensation

Posted on September 02, 2018

Who is Iaki Kabe?  

A. A previously unknown Japanese poet, who became an unlikely Internet phenomenon after being translated into Georgian

B. The Georgian poet Irakli Kakabadze

C. Some combination of the above 

A post shared by IAKI KABE (@iakikabe) on

A poem from Kabe/Kakabadze, posted on Instagram.


Words Without Border's introduction to Kabe/Kakabadze's Japanese-influenced Georgian poetry, now translated into English, summarizes its unusual back-story:

Irakli Kakabadze uploaded a number of short poems to various social media sites over the course of several years under the pseudonym Iaki Kabe, fooling many into believing they were the work of an unknown Japanese poet translated into Georgian. His poetry became so popular on the Internet that when they were published in book form, the book topped national bestseller lists.

Kabe/Kakabadze's visually striking, emotionally moving poems are influenced by the classical Japanese tanka or "short song" form, which calls for five brief lines and a central image with personal meaning for the poet:

It was May, loved
By my beloved,
But now from her young,
Open chest,
A peach tree is flowering in the Nagasaki cemetery . . .

Teachers might focus on this form, which, interestingly, was employed by many  women poets in Japan. The American Academy of Poets provides a clear definition and links to both classical and modern examples of the tanka; after reading, students might write their own "short songs." 

Or, teachers might use Kabe/Kakabadze's poetry to explore questions around cultural appropriation and representation, especially as it relates to ways in which the poetry was promoted: a poem appeared on a NipponLovers Tumblr thread; the book launch and television appearances featured women in kimono. 

  • What is a poet's responsibility to the cultures from which he borrows? 
  • Is it possible to draw a line between tribute and appropriation, between poetic inspiration and Orientalism?  

(Watch on YouTube.)

  • Are experiences like love and war universal across cultures? (See the poem beginning, "Soldiers marched")  
  • Must a poem be autobiographical to be considered authentic?
  • Why might the author have given himself a Japanese name? (Students can try this choice out for themselves, using this tool.) 

To explore these questions in greater depth, classrooms can draw upon the introduction to the collection of Japanese writing on this website, as well as some of the resources from the Context tab of "The Stone Guest" and the Playlist for the novel excerpt "A Dream in Polar Fog." For another work influenced by Japanese culture, students might read Mexican author Guadalupe Nettel's short story "Bonsai," also published in WWB

Students might also be interested in two contrasting opinion pieces about cultural appropriation, both referencing Kendrick Lamar's ninja-heavy performance at the 2017 VMAs: Olivia Truffaut-Wong, writing in Bustle, and Bari Weiss, in the New York Times.   

 Potential essay questions might include: 
What image of Japan comes across in these poems?  How do online images and handwritten drafts the author posted alongside the poems contribute to this image? How does this image compare to that in contemporary poems translated from Japanese, on WWB Campus WWB and elsewhere?  
Why do you think these poems resonated with so many contemporary readers, most of whom who are not from Japan?  (Students might look at a series of artworks inspired by the poems, posted on

To read a selection of poems from Kabe/Kakabadze, visit this month's issue of WWB

We're looking for a NYC-based Outreach Coordinator

Posted on August 27, 2018

Thanks to a small grant from the Summer Scholarship Endowment Foundation, we are able to do some outreach in New York City schools this fall! 

We are seeking an outreach coordinator with teaching experience, contacts in schools, and knowledge of international literature. A full description is below; please do share with friends and colleagues, and get in touch if there are any questions. 

School Outreach Coordinator

Words Without Borders (WWB) seeks an organized, outgoing, results-oriented individual with a deep network of contacts in New York City public secondary schools to help us connect local classrooms to the offerings on Words Without Borders Campus, an online collection of contemporary world literature and tools for teaching and learning.

The outreach coordinator will be responsible for recruiting, enrolling, and retaining 10-15 New York high schools during the 2018-2019 school year. This short-term, contract position will entail on-site meetings at NYC public schools as well as remote work from the coordinator's personal computer. The editor of WWB Campus will be available to support the coordinator's work: consulting on lists of schools to be contacted, participating in meetings and conversations with schools, and assisting with follow-up and retention.


  • In consultation with WWB staff, conduct research on target schools and key teachers, administrators, and librarians at those schools (Target schools will include those with high proportions of underserved students and English-language learners.)
  • Make initial contacts and organize meetings with schools, school leaders, teachers, and librarians. Conduct presentations and meetings along with the WWB Campus editor and executive director
  • Provide follow-up and support for school and educator integration of WWB Campus materials into teaching
  • Provide follow-up and support for educators' and students' completion of pre- and post-implementation surveys.
  • Deliverables will include: 10-15 schools in NYC registered and consistently engaging with WWB Campus.
  • Hours: 5+ week, depending on schedule to be negotiated with successful applicant. 


  • 3-5 years secondary English, social studies, or history teaching experience in New York City, with several years of experience using technology in the classroom

  • Strong network of current contacts in NYC public secondary schools

  • 1-3 years experience with outreach to public schools

  • Knowledge of and interest in contemporary international literature

  • M.A. or higher in English, English/Social Studies/History Education, Instructional Technology and Media, or a related field.

  • Excellent organizational and interpersonal skills

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

  • Demonstrated ability to meet deadlines and goals

  • Ability to work independently and make improvements in response to feedback.

To apply, please send a cover letter and résumé to [email protected] with “School Outreach” in the subject line.

Deadline: October 25, 2018

Hours: 10/ week, negotiable

About Words Without Borders Campus

Words Without Borders was founded in 2003 to build cultural understanding through the translation, publication, and promotion of contemporary international literature. Since then, our monthly online magazine has published writers from 134 countries, translated from 113 languages. In 2014, following a strategic planning process, we began work on WWB Campus, a free, flexible online platform to bring the best of new international writing into high school and college classrooms.

Drawing from the Words Without Borders archive of international stories, essays, and poems, WWB Campus connects students and educators to eye-opening literature from across the globe. We present this literature alongside multimedia contextual materials, teaching ideas and lesson plans, and resources for further exploration. Our goal is to create a virtual learning space without borders, fostering meaningful cross-cultural understandings and inspiring a lifelong interest in international literature. The online resource is available to educators and students at no cost.

11 Poems and Stories of Global Cities

Posted on August 24, 2018

A coffee cup on a diner counter in Tokyo. By Osamu Kaneko.

Ian Ross Singleton, a New York City author and English professor, was looking for literature to inspire students in their explorations of the city. Around the same time, our friends at were seeking literature to help students engage with the U.N.'s new global goals, including #11, "Sustainable Cities and Communities."

In response to these excellent questions, we sought out stories and poems that open windows into global cities and issues. One of our favorites is "The Old Cicada," a Chinese story in which the natural world co-exists and sometimes clashes with an urban setting. After reading, students might look other examples of the natural world within their own cities; and, perhaps, reflect on ways to preserve nature within urban settings.

Some of our other favorites are below.

The City as Literary Inspiration
  1. A Failed Journey: In Mexico City, a young girl tries to return to the area's first McDonalds restaurant. Students might use this story (available in both Spanish and English), as inspiration to return to and reflect upon remembered places in their cities.
  2. Things Elude Me: In this Cairo-set poem, a woman stands outside her former apartment, remembering a heartbreak.
  3. Tetsu of the Yamanote Line: Japanese manga that portrays a pickpocket as a sort of urban artist.
  4. Soul, You Are a Street: A beautiful Russian poem about a soul within a city.
  5. Hello? A Russian bus rider contemplates love as he eavesdrop on a cell-phone conversation.
The City as Inspiration to Action
  1. Dreams and Memories of a Common Man: Migrant workers in Mexico City try to build news lives amidst environmental degradation; this story reads like a prose poem.
  2. Sharing: This Chinese work of graphic fiction takes on the desire for inclusion and the pressures of consumerism.
  3. The Slaves of Moscow: Illustrated reportage on a recent case of human trafficking.
  4. On the Moscow Metro and Being Gay: What do closing subway doors have to do with the LGBTQ experience in Russia? Quite a bit, as this essay illustrates.
  5. Memories of Chernobyl: An Egyptian doctor in Ukraine observes a city in the wake of an environmental disaster.
  6. Hunger: From our upcoming Iran unit, a memoir of life as a teenage immigrant in L.A. and New York City. (For ideas about teaching this memoir, see our last newsletter).

To find more world literature set in the city, just search for the keyword "city" on the "Find" page.

In the Magazine: "Open Hands"

Posted on August 14, 2018

Panamian author Cheri Lewis, published in this month's issue of WWB.

I remember the first one so well. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when, in the mirror, I spotted the reflection of a shadow making its way down the hall.

That sinister, shadowy creature: a baby.

This month, in the magazine Words Without Borders, Panamanian author Cheri Lewis depicts "a household inexplicably deluged with infants" in her short story "Open Hands," translated from Spanish by Pamela Carmell. This darkly humorous tale borrows from several genres, including detective fiction:

The house wasn’t in disarray, but judging by the way the drawers hung open, it was clear the babies had searched through them.

Students can read it in Spanish as well as English, and teachers of students with Spanish skills might ask them to compare the two versions, beginning with the title. (In Spanish: "Abrir Las Manos.")

Students might also discuss the story's larger meaning: 

  • What happens to the women in the story, and why? 
  • How much choice do the women seem to have
  • Why might the author have chosen to make the "home invaders" babies?  
  • What does the last line suggest about the characters? About people's attitudes towards newcomers? 

Educators can teach "Open Hands" alongside other stories that introduce fantastical elements into the everyday, such as these works from Japan, also available on WWB Campus: "Once Upon a Swing" and "When My Wife Was a Shiitake." The Russian novel The Master and Margarita, in which the Devil comes to Stalin-era Moscow, would also make for an interesting pairing. 

After reading, students might write their own stories combing realism and fantasy. A few sample prompts are below. 

  • Select one detail of the everyday world, and change it. (For example, a family gains the power of flight; the Atlantic Ocean disappears.) Set a story in that suddenly transformed world.
  • Take an ordinary object or person, and tell a story that makes the object or person seem threatening, using descriptive details and events.

Students may be interested to learn that Cheri Lewis is also a creative director for animated series and online comic books. They can see examples of her work on FlickR.

A Second Summer of Second Chances: Update on Program for Deportees in Mexico

Posted on August 09, 2018

Students and teachers in the course classroom. Clockwise: Andrea (pink shirt), Maggie, Tyler, Professor Víctor Amaro, Prof. Adriana Ortega. By Celia Guerrero.

Last fall, this blog reported on a course that helped deported young adults in Mexico City. Having arrived in Mexico with little memory of the country, its language, or its culture, these young adults were highly vulnerable to criminals and gangs, and faced tremendous challenges in re-building their lives. The program ---Curso de estilo y comunicación profesional en español ---helped them acquire the Spanish-language skills they needed to find work and complete their educations. We were glad to recently learn that the curso is now entering its second program year, led by Tec de Monterreyprofessors Adriana Ortega, Víctor Amaro, and María Cristina Hall.

This year, students are reading the following literature from WWB Campus: 

They are also studying Fabre's recent Spanish-language adaptation of Zoe Leonard's poetic manifesto "I want a president", which was collectively read aloud as part of activists' efforts around Mexico's recent presidential election. Students will be attempting their own translations later in the course.

In their applications to the course, students underlined its importance for them:

“I'd love to take this course because I feel like even though I speak Spanish, I have some difficulty writing it. There are many words in Spanish that sound the same but are spelled different (just like in English), those are the ones that are the most difficult to me and TILDES [The tilde(~) is an accent mark used in Spanish ---editors], I hate those. I feel that this course will be very beneficial for our community in many ways.” Lalo, 30, deported from Utah

si me interesa mucho por varias razones. ahora de haber entrado a nuevo campo de trabajo. sera necesario ya que estoy entrando al mercado de technologia de mexico. tambien no me gusta pensar que no se escribir en espanol mi idioma natal. [I'm interested in the course for several reasons. Now that I have entered a new career field, it will be necessary to learn about Mexico's tech market. Also, I don't like to think that I don't know how to write in Spanish, my birth language. ---editors] ABIMAEL, 25, deported from Florida

A number of current and former students are also working to help other deportees, through the organization Otros Dreams en Acción (Other Dreams in Action), which provides a range of services for people returning to Mexico, including classroom space for the courses. Lalo (quoted above) works on ODA’s website and social media content, and teaches English. Another student, Santiago, from L.A., is making murals for the ODA space. Maggie Loredo, who is taking the course for a second year, co-leads the organization; and Rocío Antúnez, whose essay about her mother was published on WWB Campus last year, is a staffer.

Others are not themselves deportees, but have been personally affected by the issue. Tyler, an exchange student from Duke University, views this course as a way to resist the current administration's immigration policies. He grew up in North Carolina, where his parents were friends with Christian, also a student in the course. After living in North Carolina for seventeen years, Christian was deported to Mexico three weeks ago.

Although the course is available to students for free, the actual cost of running it is several thousand dollars. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Ximena Ortiz or Maggie Loredo, using the email address [email protected]. Donations cover teaching materials as well as meals and transportation for the professors.

"World Literature is Personal:" A Writing Professor's Perspective

Posted on August 02, 2018

Dr. Rita S. Nezami, a professor of writing and rhetoric at the State University of New York, recently made the case for world literature in the pages of the Dhaka Tribune, arguing that "it’s our moral obligation to encourage [students] to engage with people whose lives are turned upside down by global transformation."

Below, she writes about her first awareness of the urgency of bringing global perspectives to students:

It was the beginning of the 2012 spring semester. A frigid January day, a short time after Mohamed Bouazizi took his life in Tunisia…

I walked into my Stony Brook University writing classroom that dark January morning and asked my students what they thought about the young Tunisian man’s self-immolation. They looked at me with blank eyes. They had no idea what I was talking about.

(She was, of course, talking about the Arab Spring. For literature from that fateful era, see the "Revolutions" theme in our Egypt unit.)

Later in the essay, Nezami writes about the impact of the Global Literacies course she eventually created:

I offer students a personal journey across continents, cultures, landscapes, and other ways of being and valuing. They realize, perhaps for the first time, that the American way is not the only way. They realize that there is beauty and wisdom in other cultures, which they finally begin to understand, appreciate, respect, and learn from. Only such an education can foster greater understanding, harmony, and tolerance in the modern world.

As part of the course, Nezami's students write about experiences of their own that resonated with the texts:

At the end of the day, I want my students to see that world literature is personal; it’s about the wounds visited on all of us, about the marginal and powerless finding a voice that needs to be heard loud.

You can find the entire article here: "Bringing the world into the classroom through world literature."

Do you agree with Dr. Nezami's viewpoint? If so, when did you first realize the importance of teaching world literature? Let us know via the Contact page. 

Meet Our New Intern: Mandana Naviafar

Posted on July 09, 2018

This month, the WWB blog interviews Mandana Naviafar, the new intern at Words Without Borders Campus.  What drew her to the internship? 

In high school I studied English in a professional language institution and once I became somewhat fluent in English, I took an English literature class. In the beginning of that class, I wasn’t able to get past the first ten pages of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, but I was fascinated by the new and unknown world of English literature and eager to explore it further. By the end of the course, I was able to read and enjoy Shakespeare’s Othello. That experience was transformative and influential enough that I changed my major from Farsi to English literature and came to the US to learn more. I am very eager to help others experience what I experienced in that class and to encourage others to broaden their views by immersing themselves in a new literature, a new culture, and a new world. Working with Words Without Borders Campus gives me the opportunity to do so.

For the entire interview, and to find out what, exactly a minor in phronesis entails, visit the WWB blog

A winner of Iran's National Literature Olympiad, Mandana has already been instrumental in our initial work on the upcoming collection of literature from Iran. WWB is grateful to have her on board! 

If you or one of your students is interested in a future internship with WWB Campus, resumes can be sent to [email protected] 

Words without Borders Wins Whiting Magazine Prize!

Posted on June 27, 2018

We're delighted to announce that Words without Borders has just been awarded the first-ever Whiting Literary Magazine Prize! 

“For a magazine devoted to literature in translation to win this groundbreaking prize makes a clear statement about the importance of international narratives within the US literary landscape today,” said WWB executive director Karen M. Phillips. “We are deeply honored and will use this opportunity to keep expanding the space for stories that break through boundaries and connect us to the world.”

The Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes were launched to acknowledge, reward, and encourage organizations that are actively nurturing the writers who tell us, through their art, what is important. Five expert judges looked for publications that embody the best of what magazines do: edit and publish extraordinary writing, support talented writers on the page and in the world, connect with readers, and advance the literary community. WWB, which won for the digital category, will receive $10,000 in 2018 and a matching grant of $10,000 in 2019 and 2020.

In their citation, the judges praised the magazine’s “robust, insightful array of otherwise unavailable international literature,” calling it “a monument to international collaboration and a shared belief in artistic possibility.”

Read the full citation on the Whiting Foundation’s website.

As readers of this website may already know, the literature published here is culled from the rich and diverse archives of Words without Borders. We couldn't be prouder to be part of WWB, and congratulate our colleagues at the magazine on this recognition! 

In the Magazine: Mortada Gzar's "While He Was Sitting There"

Posted on June 27, 2018

Mortada Gzar.

This month's issue of Words Without Borders celebrates Pride month with a selection of Queer literature that, in the words of Editorial Director Susan Harris, "elude[s] facile compartmentalization." One such story is author and animator Mortada Gzar's "While He Was Sitting There," set at a gay bar where a Iraqi student enjoys casual encounters with American soldiers.

The narration rolls along casually, like something overheard at a bar, peppered with jokes and goofy references to the narrator's "Arab beast." Yet, this apparent off-handedness conceals the story's sharp plotting, which culminates in a surprising final twist; and the sunny tone is occasionally, deliberately pierced with allusions to recent history.

The soldiers in the bar, recent veterans of the war in Iraq, buy the narrator drinks "to assuage their guilty consciences…their affection taking the edge off their regret." So many of these soldiers have PTSD that the narrator is surprised to encounter one who seems to show no side effects. As the two men joke and spar, the phrase "side effects" briefly becomes a flirtatious double entendre ---until the story's final lines, which reveal that no one escapes a war zone unscathed.

To get to know author Mortada Gzar, students might watch a ten-minute video interview from the On the Map series, produced by The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. In the interview, Gzar reflects on gay life in Iraq, on writers he admires, and on the "genderless" nature of writing. He also mentions that his name is often difficult for Americans to pronounce, something the narrator of "While…" also experiences (and addresses with a string of false, purposely exoticized names.)

After students watch the interview, you might ask them to consider Gzar's comment that writing is genderless, but we can't run away from our gender while we write. (At about 4:43.) Do they agree? What might be the differences between "genderless" and gendered writing? Does students' own writing reflect a particular gender(s)?

Then, as students read the story, you might have them pause midway through, at the point when the narrator is wondering why the other soldiers are avoiding looking at "the giant." Ask students to speculate on the possible reasons, and on what might happen next.

Students may need help understanding the term ammiya, which refers to a dialect of Arabic: Mashriqi (or Eastern) Arabic, spoken in Iraq, Egypt, and other countries located between Iran and the Mediterranean Sea. That region is known as the Mashriq, "the place of the sunrise." Students can listen to the dialect during Gzar's reading at the beginning of the video interview above. 

To learn some of the history of the U.S. in Iraq, and find out why the U.S. soldiers might feel guilty, students might view the images in "Looking Back at the War in Iraq, 15 Years After the U.S. Invaded", from The Atlantic. An NPR interview with the author of a recent memoir about the Iraq war can provide further insight.

For context on gay life in the U.S., students might look through the Library of Congress's online audio-visual collection, which also includes a link to stories from gay veterans who served in Iraq.

If you are interested in having students compare this story to other texts, you might try reading it alongside a Chinese story about the after-effects of war, also published on WWB Campus: "Appointment in K City." (If you are looking for modern, book-length war stories, try book critic Michiko Kakutani's recommendations.)

Or, you might pair "While…" with the Russian oral history, "The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt," which describes a love affair between a woman and a gulag survivor. Like Gazr's story, Alexeivich's oral history seems to be asking about the possibility of recovering human emotions, such as love, in the wake of trauma.

Other stories of Queer life on WWB Campus include: 

For more from the author, students can browse his short animated films on YouTube, or read his story in an anthology of work about post-U.S. invasion Iraq, Iraq + 100, from commapress.

A potential assignment might ask students to create work inspired by the story:

Of the "Tuesday bar," the story's narrator writes: Jeffrey is a regular at this bar, one of its features, part of its scent. Reread the passages in which the narrator describes the bar, and then…

  1. Describe a place you often visit, the people you usually see there, and what usually happens. Use several senses (smell, hearing, etc.)

  2. Describe something out of the ordinary happening in that place – it can be something that really happened, or something you imagine might happen. Either way, try to make sure it feels true to the place and the characters.

Comics and Comix in Egypt: An Interview on Teaching With Arabic Literature

Posted on June 18, 2018

Martyr Essam Ata الشهيد عصام عطا
Essam Ata, victim of police torture, in a mural on the wall of the old AUC library, Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

I can trace my interest in graphic literature directly to my experience at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) in Cairo. During my 2011-2012 fellowship, I watched as the iconic graffiti in and around Tahrir Square came to life: the Mohammed Mahmoud Wall of Martyrs, the Sheikh Rehan Street optical illusion, the hydra-headed Mubarak-Tantawi-Morsi monster. . . My first and forever impressions of Cairo are in fact tied to the visual poetics that I saw emerging during that turbulent and artistically effervescent time.

Michal Raizen, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Ohio Wesleyan University, recently spoke with M. Lynx Qualey of the website Arabic Literature (in English) about understanding and teaching Arabic literature through graphic art. Raizen was surprised to find that many of her students already had a rich vocabulary for discussing work that combined text and visuals, including "what was innovative (or not innovative)" about them.

However, students may not yet have all the language they need ---they often begin the class by asking Raizen to explain the difference between comics and comix. (A Time magazine article offers a simple definition: comix are a "subgenre of black-and-white, adult-oriented, 'underground' comic books," which first appeared in the 1960's T ---Ed.s).

To help students gain additional vocabulary and background, Raizen highly recommends Scott McCloud's classic Understanding Comics. To understand Arabic graphic literature, in particular, students might explore the resources on Khallina, a site that aims to help teachers of Arabic at the high school and college levels incorporate teaching materials built around aspects of Arab culture, in their curriculum.

Raizen's course, “Graphic and Experimental Novels of the Contemporary Middle East,” connects street art, graphic literature, Internet memes, and novels that depict "the iconography of protest and resistance," such as Radwa Ashour’s The Woman from Tantoura. To contextualize this diverse content, Raizen includes some traditional lectures, PowerPoints with maps, photographs, and images of recurring symbols. Then, she has students compare informational images with graphic depictions: 

[P]hotographs of the wall [between the Palestinian territories and Israel] give students an idea of scale, landscape, and checkpoints, but Abdelrazaq’s “The Occupation,” an image of the wall as a gaping maw with teeth, gives students a sense of the despair and insurmountable nature of the situation… The most impactful learning definitely happens in the comparison.

In tackling work from Egypt, Raizen uses Jonathan Gruyer's short essay, "CairoComix: Excavating the political", which is available for free online. She also connects contemporary Egyptian comix to American youth counterculture, beginning with the 1960's and Zap magazine. In the first weeks of class, she encourages students to explore the texts on their own terms, and to reflect on their responses:

I open our discussions by asking how they read. Do they look at the images first? Do their eyes move from panel to panel or skip around? Do they focus on the text boxes and then look at the images? What are the challenges? What is enjoyable or relatable about a certain work?

Interested in getting started? WWB has published a graphic pamphlet used by protesters in Egypt's 2011 revolution, as well as a range of graphic fiction from Egypt, all complete with contextual materials and teaching ideas.

In the Magazine: Writing by Instinct

Posted on May 22, 2018

Author Can Xue.

I finally got rid of my cat. I thought this would enable me to start a new life. So begins Can Xue's funny, disturbing story, "The Bane of My Existence,"* published this month in the 15th anniversary issue of Words without Borders. The issue's title, "Great Explorations," comes from an essay of Can Xue's, in which she comments:

An advanced modern reader acts like a detective. In the forest of books, he can follow the clues and discover the enormous treasures underlying them. Those books give him messages: his inner concentrated essence receives the messages and immediately produces new ones. These blended messages lead him to enter a tunnel of the spirit, and in that place he begins a great exploration.

In her own writerly explorations, Can Xue follows instinct rather than reason, and "The Bane" is an example of just how far instinct--- both literary and animal--- can take us. As students read about the narrator's attempts to tame a stray cat, they can use this line from the story as a guiding question: Where did it all go wrong?

Or, you might pause their reading at several key moments, and ask what they would have done in the narrator's place. Most likely, some of them will reply that they would give up the cat, which is a logical response. Ask them why the narrator doesn't do that. What is happening to her, on an emotional (rather than logical) level?

This story also offers a window into ancient Chinese and Japanese culture with its mention of the "fox spirit." In Myths and Legends of China, a 1922 book, Edward T.C. Werner writes:

Generally, the fox is a creature of ill omen, long-lived (living to eight hundred or even a thousand years), with a peculiar virtue in every part of his body, able to produce fire by striking the ground with his tail, cunning, cautious, sceptical, able to see into the future, to transform himself (usually into old men, or scholars, or pretty young maidens), and fond of playing pranks and tormenting mankind. You might ask students whether they notice any similarities between descriptions of the fox spirit and of the cat in this story.

Blacksmith Munechika, helped by a fox spirit, forging the blade Ko-Gitsune Maru, by Ogata Gekkō
Pairs Well with…
  • "The Old Cicada," also by Can Xue, also about fauna, but with a very different mood
  • "It's a Chick, Not a Dog," from Egypt, another story that asks whether certain animals can ever be tamed
  • "The Hole in the Garden," from Japan, a story about a mysterious mail-order pig that grows to "your heart's desire"
  • "Bartelby, the Scrivener," about another attempt to control the uncontrollable
  • Shakespeare and Dante, among the classical Western authors Can Xue cites as influences. 
  • "Cat Person," from the December 2017 New Yorker, also about an ill-matched couple: "Before he got out of the car, he said, darkly, like a warning, “Just so you know, I have cats.” (sexual references) 
Potential Assignments:
  1. Fiction: Write your own story, beginning with one character's seemingly small decision. As you write about the consequences of that decision, follow your instincts rather than your reason. What might happen?
  2. Essay: Take one of the narrator's broad statements: ---Nothing is intolerable if you've made up your mind that you have to put up with it, There were always solutions ,or a different one ---and write about whether it seems true to you, given the events of the story.
  3. Essay 2: What does the narrator mean when she writes, All I knew was that I couldn't bear to even imagine everything the future would bring? What has happened to her over the course of the story? What do you imagine for her future?

* Note to secondary teachers: the story includes some off-color language, and a cat is harmed.

If you use this story in classroom, do let us know how it goes! 

WWB Honored for Efforts to Inspire Student Readers

Posted on May 10, 2018

We’re delighted to share the news that WWB Campus has received an honorable mention for the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize, an annual award for projects that create and sustain a lifelong love of reading.

“This honor from the National Book Foundation is a tremendous affirmation of the goals of WWB Campus. It is a wonderful way of broadcasting the resources the program offers educators, students, and readers to get to know the world—and themselves—through literature.” —Alane Salierno Mason, founder and president of Words Without Borders

WWB Campus will present at the NBF’s annual Why Reading Matters conference featuring the honorees on June 7 in Brooklyn, New York. We hope to see some of you let us know if you're planning on attending.

Thank you to all the educators, students, authors, translators, and donors who have made WWB Campus’s first public year a success! We look forward to continuing to work together to connect students with eye-opening international literature ---and, ultimately, to build understanding and empathy across cultures. 

In the Magazine: "Angry Young Woman" Sveta Grigorjeva

Posted on April 28, 2018

Kharkov 1981 Kassy kinoteatra Ukraina
A line outside a cinema in Kharkov, the Ukraine, USSR, 1981. By Л.П. Джепко

All around the world, perhaps at this very moment, young adults are being subjected to some version of the "When I was your age…" lecture. In the April issue of Words without Borders, an Estonian poem offers a savage précis of an elder's account of how difficult life used to be in the former Eastern bloc:

you’ve no idea
what it means to stand in a sausage line!
a bread line! a milk line! an egg line!

The poem's narrator then muses:

it makes you wonder what the hell
those women fought so hard for then
was it so that in the future they could
rub it in young people’s faces

Did her elders battle Communism only in order to wax sanctimonious about the struggle? Why else would they go on and on about the past? Of course, some members of the older generation also like to wax nostalgic for the Soviet era, like the saleslady who once told the narrator she misses the days when everyone wore the same uniform (Vladimir Putin apparently feels the same way, according to this article on a state-sponsored website.) The poem skewers this sentimentality, too:

in a childhood of identical pioneer* uniforms
somebody’s always more equal
even if you paint them all red

These lines allude to George Orwell's Animal Farm, with its famous revised precept, "Some animals are more equal than others." Grigorjeva's poem would pair well with that novel, as well as with other work set during or after the Soviet era, such as Ludmilla Petrushevskaya 's "Milgrom", which also discusses clothing, and Natalia Klyuchareva's "None of Your Business," which portrays a young's man's defiance of sanctimonious elders. 

To introduce Grigorjeva's poem, you might ask students to talk or write in response to the question: "What do people in the older generation say about you and your peers? About how life used to be?"  Or, you might show them Schuyler Holland's recent animation of Al Yankovic's "When I was your age," featuring the line, "We were hungry, broke, and miserable, and we liked it fine that way."

As an assignment, you might have students write their own poems, addressed to the adults or authority figures of their choice, and beginning, as the poem does, with the line, "you're right."  To spark or feed an interest in Estonian culture, you might screen the film "Revolution of Pigs," about a group of rebellions teens; the Guardian calls it, "crackling, bawdy fun." 

In addition to being one of Estonia's “young angry women” of poetry, Sveta Grigorjeva is also something of an anti-choreographer; below, you'll find her one-minute "non-dance performance," "Carmina Trash."

(Watch on YouTube.)


* The Pioneers were members of a Soviet youth scouting organization; the distinctive uniform included a red tie. For a video of children at Pioneer camp, visit Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.  

Confronting the Past: Russian literature webinar now available on demand

Posted on April 21, 2018

Julia Trubkihina. By Vladimir Efroimson. 

We are pleased to announce that last week's Russian literature webinar is now online! 

Led by scholar and poet Julia Trubikhina, the webinar delves into some of the work on this website, including the oral history “The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt,” the short stories "Milgrom" and "None of Your Business," the novel excerpt "Arm Wrestling in Chebachinsk," the essay “On the Moscow Metro and Being Gay,” and a work of graphic reportage, "Slaves of Moscow." 

(Watch on YouTube.) 

We would like to thank our partners at the National Humanities Center for this collaboration. The webinar is part of the NHC's Humanities in Class webinar series, which provides free, interactive professional development from leading scholars on compelling topics. If you're interested in getting more involved with the NHC, applications to the Teacher Advisory Council are now open: "Chosen to represent multiple disciplines in the humanities, these teacher leaders accept an active role in the development, evaluation, and promotion of NHC materials and projects:"

Are there other webinars you'd like to see from us in the future? Let us know on Facebook or via the Contact page. 

"You are Everyone and You are You:" International Children's Literature

Posted on April 16, 2018

Books published by Les Mots Libres on display at the Bologna Book Fair. Photo courtesy of Denise Muir.

This month, the magazine Words Without Borders publishes translator Denise Muir's dispatches from the 2018 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. This year, China was the guest of honor; Muir writes that "it was interesting to see the importance of cultural authenticity in the many titles on display, and the desire by Chinese publishers to . . . give English-language readers a richer, truer picture of their country." (For a culturally rich Chinese story published on WWB Campus, try "The Old Cicada," appropriate for secondary to college students. To see our entire collection of Chinese stories, poems, interviews, and essays, visit the China page.)

Muir also discusses the increasingly popular metaphor of "mirrors and windows," used to describe literature for children and young adults. "Mirror" books reflect readers' own lives, whereas "windows" open readers' eyes to "other cultures, other places, other times, and other worlds." Of course, the best literature often serves as both mirror and window. In his talk at the conference, poet and author Bruno Tognolini put it this way: “Tu sei tutti e tu sei tu,” or, “You are everyone and you are you.” 

A window with open shutters and reflections of houses in the glass. By Nikhil Sachdeva.

Below, you'll find links to literature that reflects universal experiences, while also offering new perspectives into people and cultures:

  • "It's a Chick, Not a Dog," a children's story about a mother, a daughter, and their pets, from Egypt
  • "The Guest," a short story about a Bedouin girl and her grandmother
  • "A Dream in a Polar Fog," a story about a Canadian explorer's encounter with Chukchi people in Siberia
  • "The Gringo Champion," a first-person account of a young Mexican migrant's life on the border

College students and other advanced learners may also enjoy:

  • "Metamorphosis," which takes readers into the intimate lives of Kabuki actors
  • "Proud Beggars," a graphic novelization set in Cairo's underworld

In selecting literature for your students, do you look for mirrors, windows, both at once, or something else altogether? Let us know on Facebook or via the Contact page.

Read Denise Muir's entire dispatch from Bologna in the magazine Words without Borders.

Join our free Russian lit webinar

Posted on April 04, 2018

Update: Thanks to all who attended! It was exciting to meet such a committed and passionate group of educators. We will be posting the video of the webinar as soon as we receive it from the NHC. 

The evening of April 10th, scholar Julia Trubikhina will be leading a webinar on teaching the  Russian texts on WWB Campus. We are very excited to be co-sponsoring this free webinar with the National Humanities Center, and hope you'll consider joining it. There are limited spots available; a description and registration link is below: 

Confronting the Past: Russian Fiction in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries Tuesday, April 10, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Russian fiction of the late Soviet and post-Soviet period is deeply rooted in trauma and memory, both collective and personal; characters search for ways to transcend, or even to understand, a complex and contended history. Drawing mostly on the texts collected online on World Without Borders Campus (, this webinar will present strategies for contextualizing  cultural traditions and histories while still attending closely to specific texts. While the West, during the Cold War, often saw Russia “monolithically,” the view from  inside the former Soviet Union provides a different perspective that extends both backward, into the past, and—through a better understanding of Russia’s present—forward, into the future.
Leader: Julia Trubikhina, Adjunct Associate Professor, Division of Russian and Slavic Languages, Hunter College, City University of New York
Teacher Leader: Nadia Kalman, Editor and Curriculum Designer, Words Without Borders Campus
Register now

If you have any questions about the webinar (or suggestions for future ones) please don't hesitate to get in touch on Facebook or the Contact page. We hope to see you there! 

In the Magazine: A Trial and a Tongue

Posted on March 23, 2018

Northern lights
Northern lights cast a green glow in Siberia.

This month's issue of the magazine Words Without Borders, entitled Charged With Humanity, features women's writing from Hungary and tales of displacement from Lithuania. The stories below---of a rigged trial and a misunderstood meal--- seem particularly likely to spark classroom conversation. Though vastly different in setting, mood, and style, both stories immediately engage the reader in dramatic and fateful questions.

The Trial

"Stealing is going to be tough tonight," thinks the teenage girl narrating "The Trial," but what choice does she have? Her mother is dying of thirst; they need wood to melt ice into water.

This story, an extract from a memoir by Dalia Grinkevičiūtė*, describes her trial for stealing logs in a Siberian prison camp, to which she and her family were deported from Lithuania. As part of a discussion of the story, you might ask students:

  • Would they have done the same?
  • Would they have admitted to the "crime"?

The memoir juxtaposes the harsh, eternal beauty of Siberia against the prisoners' desperate struggles to survive:

We are surrounded by grandeur: the immense tundra, as ruthless and infinite as the sea; the vast Lena estuary backed up with ice; the colossal, hundred-meter pillar caves on the shores of Stolby; and the Aurora Borealis. Against a background of such majesty, we are the pitiful things here—starved and infested like dogs and nearly done rotting in our befouled and stinking ice caves..

Have students try their own juxtapositions of nature and humanity, perhaps sharing an example or two from the visual arts, such as Breugel's Massacre of the Innocents; the calm landscape in the background of that painting throws the human's horrifying acts into even greater relief. 

There are many resources on Soviet prison camps, and the innocent people sent there, in the Context and Playlist tabs for The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt, an oral history of a teenage boy's experiences in the gulag, from Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexeivich.

For a different side of Siberia, students might read Yuri Rytkheu's A Dream in Polar Fog, set during an earlier time, and depicting an encounter between ethnic Chukchi people and an injured Canadian explorer. Or, you might have students compare this vividly remembered trial to Kafka's parable

A Tongue's Story

From Krisztina Tóth**, one of Hungary's foremost authors, comes this tale of culture clash between Greek refugees and their Hungarian hosts. In addition to publishing the story, WWB also provides audio of the author reading it in the original. Before students begin reading, you might have them listen to a bit of the recording and speculate about the story's mood.

A few months ago, also in Words Without Borders, Peruvian immigrant Marco Avilés wrote about "the friendly vibes that food never fails to generate." With "The Tongue's Story," we see that food sometimes generates very different vibes indeed, as Hungarian villagers serve a misunderstood meal to a group of Greek refugees. Ground poppy seeds, traditionally sprinkled on pasta in Hungary, look like dirt and ashes to the tired and frightened Greeks. Imagining an insult is intended, the men angrily pour the seeds into the dining hall's sink.

As students read the story, you might stop them at a few key points to ask:

  • What do you think is happening?
  • What do you think the men should do?

Writing in the issue introduction, Erika Mihálycsa comments on the story's deeper implications:

“The Tongue’s Story,” having at its core the organ of speech and of taste, recounts a failed encounter between people from different cultures—a group of refugees from the Greek civil war around 1950, and the inhabitants of a rural Hungarian area where these are taken for shelter. Tóth’s sparse, economic prose presents small vignettes of banality, beneath which lurks the symptomatology of a history never fully confronted, a choice bound to reproduce old biases at every step. Her mapping of contemporary Hungarian paralysis shows the inevitable interconnectedness of private and public self-delusions.

After reading and analyzing the story, students might rewrite it from the point of view of one of the Hungarian women serving the refugees.

Some students may also be interested in making the dish that causes the trouble; they can find a recipe on Hungarian Tidbits, a food and culture website. For other stories of food, which can be read alongside this one, see the blog post "Chapatas and McDonald’s".

Or, students may wish to learn more about why the refugees were fleeing Greece. The Origins online history project has published a brief overview of the Greek Civil War, beginning with the stark sentence, "The years 1940–1949 were ones of continuous horror for the Greek people." Another, more in-depth resource is the online multimedia book Dangerous Citizens, from Columbia University ethnographer Neni Panourgiá. This book has a definite slant (and a few expletives), but includes rich, authentic materials.

* Pronounced, to the best of our knowledge, "Grin-kev-i-chi-oo-eh"  

** Pronounced "Tut"

Celebrate International Women's Day with International Literature by Women

Posted on March 07, 2018

What's International Women's Day? It's a March 8th holiday with purported roots in both ancient Rome and Soviet Socialism, according a recent article in Russian Life

In its modern form, International Women's Day is understood differently by different people. For some, it's a time to give women flowers and "pleasant surprises of the breakfast-in-bed variety"(ibid.) For others, it celebrates women's art, activism, and contributions to public life (See the March 8th bread riots that launched the Russian revolution and the current Twitter feed.) If you're interested in the latter form of the holiday, here's some writing by and about women from Words Without Borders

To find many other texts, search "women authors" on the "Find" page, or see the blog post "7 Complex Female Characters in International Literature"

Share Your Expertise at the NBF's "Reading Without Boundaries" Conference

Posted on March 02, 2018

How can literature help us to "bridge divides, create new connections, and deepen understandings"? This year, the National Book Foundation's "Why Reading Matters" conference brings together educators, librarians, writers, and scholars to seek answers to that question. The conference, entitled "Reading Without Boundaries," seems like a particularly good fit for readers of this website.

The deadline for presenters' applications is March 14, and the conference takes place in New York City on June 7th

If you're interested in using materials from WWB Campus in a breakout session, we're happy to assist! (Embedding web pages into PowerPoint is something no one should have to face alone.) You can get in touch at [email protected], on the Contact page, or on Facebook

In the Magazine: Cat-girl in a Scandinavian Dystopia (and more!)

Posted on February 26, 2018

"It's almost impossible to get in, but getting kicked out is easy." So begins "Scandorama", excerpted in this month's graphic literature-themed issue of the magazine Words Without Borders. Written by a Finnish author and illustrated by a Kenyan-Swedish artist, the story centers around a "homo felinus," the result of a medical experiment, a self-described "misfit" turned resistance fighter.

Students might resonate with passages like:

They made me. I was other people's dreams. Before I could have a say, they made me.

Graphic literature published in WWB is short, and easy to integrate with other new or classic work. You could teach "Scandorama" alongside "Sharing," another dystopian graphic story with a strong sense of place, also created by an author-artist team.

In comparing the stories, you might discuss the ways in which the authors exaggerated elements within existing culture to create their dystopias. (Plastic surgery in "Scandorama," consumer culture in "Sharing.") As a culminating assignment, students might create their own dystopian stories based on existing cultural trends in your country or region.

Other pairing possibilities include the Chinese story "Death Fugue," in which a man wakes up in an apparent utopia. For young students reading the classic novel The Outsiders, "Scandorama" presents an alternate vision of two worlds colliding. Older students reading Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" might compare "misfits" across the two stories.

Other stories of interest in this month's graphic issue include "The Hundred-hour War"," a nonfiction account of the first U.S.-Iraq War, which could be taught alongside other war writing, or as part of a World History course. The story is illustrated by Eisner nominee David B.

"Spit Three Times," an imaginatively illustrated, empathetic account of a Roma family in Italy, provides a window into ethnic stereotypes and could be taught alongside the graphic story "The Pharaohs of Egypt". (Both of these stories include some explicit language.) It could also be paired with the Russian short story "Pears from Gudauty" or other literature that takes on bigotry.

Do you use graphic literature in your classes? If so, how? Let us know on Facebook or via the Contact page. To read the entire new issue, visit International Graphic Novels: Volume XII.

Love and Anti-Love Stories

Posted on February 11, 2018

Panel from "Sharing"

This Valentine's Day, you can take students beyond the usual hearts and flowers with the dystopian graphic fable "Sharing," from China.

You'll also find many other stories of love---spanning cultures, ages, and even several species---on our website. Just go to the Find page and select "Love Stories" under "Themes" on the right-hand side, or follow this link.

You might have students read several different stories, and then discuss which of the stories seems to represent love the most "truthfully."

Which love stories do you teach in your classrooms? Let us know on Facebook, or via the Contact page.  

Awards for Teachers and Students

Posted on February 09, 2018

  • Are your students interested in human rights issues? They might take a look at an essay and poster contest celebrating the life of Abdelkader, a humanitarian who "was such a worldwide inspiration that a town in Iowa was named after him!" The deadline is May 15.

  • Could your classroom library use more books? Consider applying to receive up to three classroom sets of books recognized by the MEOC Annual Book Awards "The MEOC Book Awards recognize outstanding books that contribute to a more meaningful understanding of the Middle East on an annual basis, and includes picture books, youth literature and youth nonfiction titles." Accepted on a rolling basis. To download the grant guidelines (in Word), click here. For any questions regarding the application or program, please contact [email protected]

  • Interested in world travel? Take a look at the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program. The deadline is March 13

These opportunities came to our attention thanks to the excellent newsletter of the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. You'll find many useful materials on their website---from resources to professional development opportunities to grants and awards like these.

Would you like to hear about more opportunities like these? Let us know on Facebook or our Contact page. 

In the Magazine: Thunder grandmas

Posted on January 24, 2018

This month, the magazine Words Without Borders features writing by Kazakh women, including Zira Naurzbayeva's essay "The Beskempir," a meditation on the lives of Kakakh grandmothers who were brought from "auls," or villages, to live with their urbanized children in cities like Almaty. The adjustment was not always easy: the essay begins with an overheard scream.

Despite their struggles and confusion, there is a fierceness to the grandmothers, perhaps rooted in cultural traditions that emphasize strength. Towards the end of the essay, Naurzbayeva, an expert in Central Asian culture and mythology, notes that:

Indo-Europeans have their male thunder gods, like Zeus or Thor, but the Turkic peoples have a kempir, what we might call a “thunder grandma” today.

Teaching "The Beskempir" 

This essay rewards close reading, with complex and resonant passages such as this one: 

It’s only now that I understand how hard it was for our grandmothers to settle in this strange city of stone, where a completely different set of morals is in force, where you needed to stand in a suffocating line of people for hours on end to receive a five-pound bundle of bones wrapped in cellophane, where your grandchildren might not know a single word of your native tongue.

To get a sense of the culture shock the grandmothers in the essay experienced, students might contrast images of the city of Almaty with those of traditional auls, published in National Geographic. (The auls in the story are in Georgia, not Kazakhstan, but have typical Caucasian features.)

Students might also be interested in hearing Naurzbayeva read the first four paragraphs of the essay, in Russian.

(Listen on SoundCloud)

For background information on Kazakh culture and history, students can look at a country profile on, or a short overview from the Reconsidering Russia blog. (For a full set of resources, visit another story set in Kazakhstan, Alexandr Chudakov's "Arm Wrestling in Chebachinsk".)

If you teach Russian-speaking students, ask them to note and discuss any differences between the original language and the translation by Shelley Fairweather-Vega. Why might the translator have made the choices she made?

For a culminating assignment, students might interview an older relative or family friend, focusing on the themes that appear in Naurzbayeva's essay: moves, life changes, names, and traditions. They can then put their interviews into an essay that reflects on their relationship with the person they describe.

Helping All Students Raise Their Voices in the New Year

Posted on January 10, 2018

CL Society 430: Chilean student protest, by Francisco Osorio.
A young Chilean student raises a red banner.

"I was nobody, like a piece of sesame in a big pot of soup."

So says Wu Wenjian, describing his feelings as a nineteen-year-old cafeteria worker, watching the beginning of the student protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Intimidated by the students, many of whom hailed from China's elite, but also terrified of what the government might do to them, he felt small and powerless.

Yet, when government troops began shooting at protesters, Wu Wenjian climbed atop a scaffold and gave an impromptu speech denouncing the violence. For this, he was sentenced to seven years in prison, but neither this imprisonment nor the government's whitewashing of the history of Tiananmen could silence his voice: he now creates paintings memorializing the protests.

Wu Wenjian was not a public figure, not highly educated, not deeply confident – however, when he witnessed injustice, he raised his voice. His story can provide students with a relateable model of speaking out, to go alongside the more familiar tales of giants like Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. Social movements for equity and justice are driven by the voices of ordinary and imperfect people.

Wu Wenjian and other world voices demonstrate that there are many ways of speaking one's truth, from comics that circulated during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, to the novelistic oral histories of Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexeivich, to translations of banned authors into other languages, to poetry protesting and satirizing Mexico's drug wars. In these texts, students will find both "mirrors and windows," with some authors who share their cultural backgrounds, and others who introduce them to new cultures and modes of expression.

It is also powerful for students to hear local stories of voice, from teachers, family members, or people in the community. You might tell your own story of speaking out and facing obstacles, or have students conduct oral history interviews on the topic. (For tips on teaching oral history, see the Playlist of the Wu Wenjian interview.)  

As students hear these stories, help them move from awareness to understanding to action. For example, a student might first encounter a social issue through a text on WWB Campus, learn more about the issue from contextual materials, and, finally, explore ways in which to make a difference in a class discussion, or by using a website such as

How do you help students raise their voices? Who inspires you to speak out? Let us know on Facebook or the Contact page.

In the magazine: Amina Saïd's Border-Defying Poetry

Posted on December 10, 2017

Amina Saïd's poems take on essential questions about life and fate, vision and blindness, death and memory. Marilyn Hecker's lucid translation will help students connect with these universal elements, as well as with the vivid sensory details, in Saïd's series “Clairvoyant in the City of the Blind.” The series appears in the December 2017 issue of the magazine Words without Borders, featuring women authors from Tunisia.

In her introduction to the issue, Cécile Oumhani writes:

Amina Saïd's poetry embraces past and present. Beyond a specific sense of place, it questions our passage on earth. It erases borders between sounds and silence, colors and darkness, the diurnal and the nocturnal, highlighting timeless, hidden currents, underlying our selves, as well as the memory of trees.

Any one of the stanzas published in the magazine could be the basis of a class discussion and a model for students' work. For example, the first stanza, a meditation on fate, begins, "I did not choose to be born / but I must accept life accept death". To introduce the stanza, or after an initial reading, a teacher might ask:

  • Which parts of our lives do we get to choose?
  • Which parts have already been determined?

After recounting the choices the narrator could not make for herself, the stanza takes a poignantly brief detour into what she wanted from life ("to predict the future," which raises the question, were all her hopes as impossible to realize as this one?) The stanza ends, however, in a mood of resolution, a commitment to one choice that remains: to continue to speak, despite doubt and despair:

it is painful not to be heard
and yet my speech is not deceitful 
it is part of the world’s grief

I must keep a lucid vision
speak the language of the soul
which is light and wisdom

or stupor and confusion
will silence me forever

I was born a woman my speech
is part of the world’s grief 

Her speech conveys truth, "is part of the world's grief," and, so, she must speak.

Once they have read and discussed the poem, students might write their own poems, perhaps using a prompt like this one:

Write a poem about the parts of your life you did not choose. If you like, begin the poem with the line, "I did not choose…" As a challenge, consider and write about a choice you do have, using the middle and concluding lines of the stanza as a model.

In its invocation of the purpose of poetry, and in its use of clear, familiar imagery, this series is comparable to Juan Gregorio Regino's "Nothing Remains Empty," available in our collection of literature from Mexico. Or, for another woman poet whose work fights through confusion to reach clarity, students might look at Iman Mersal, from Egypt, beginning with "Things Elude Me." Lastly, students might compare the narrator's sense of vocation to that in Anna Akhmatova's "Requiem," paying particular attention to the section "Instead of a Preface." 

For background on Tunisia, students might look at the country profile from the British Broadcasting Service. The "Arab Spring" of 2011 began in Tunisia, toppling a totalitarian regime which Amnesty International had called one of the most repressive in the world. (There's also literature from Egypt's Arab Spring in the "Revolution" section of that collection on WWB Campus.) After reading this history, students might return to Stanza V, and discuss:

  • Do we all have the same amount of choice in our lives? If not, what are the factors that determine our freedom to choose?

They might consider these questions as they relate to life in Tunisia under dictatorship (culminating in Mohamed Bouazizi's desperate protest), during the upheavals of 2011, and today. Extending these questions beyond Tunisia, students might compare the choices available to them to those available to their global peers in other parts of the world.

"A lot more connected, a lot less hopeless": Innovative class helps deportees in Mexico

Posted on November 28, 2017

Students and friends in Mexico City. (Photo by Ernesto Méndez.)

"I always knew that I was Mexican. What I didn't know is that I wasn't legal." Pablo*, one of the speakers on a panel discussion of exile in Mexico City last March, spoke for many other young people who live with the fear of deportation—or, as in his case, have already experienced it. Pablo arrived in the U.S. as a toddler, and was deported when he was in his twenties.

Once in Mexico, deportees face many challenges in finding employment or pursuing an education, and are easy, highly visible targets for criminals and gangs, professor María Cristina Hall explained in an interview this fall. Hall was also a speaker on the panel, and, afterwards, she and her colleagues at the Tecnológico de Monterrey wondered how they might be able to help deportees begin to rebuild their lives.

Deportees' written Spanish often lags far behind their verbal ability; they may also struggle with feelings of isolation and cultural difference. To address these issues, Hall and her colleagues Adriana Ortega and Víctor Amaro planned a curriculum that would help deportees become better acquainted with the formal aspects of the Spanish language; get to know a culture they had left behind years ago, often in early childhood; and connect with others like themselves.

Seeking texts with a cross-border focus and compelling subject matter, Hall selected contemporary Mexican literature published on this website. Students read journalism by Fabrizio Mejía Madrid and Juan Villoro, poetry by Luis Felipe Fabre, and an essay on mothers in Mexican culture by Liza Bakewell, among other works.

Classes began in a borrowed music room, and emphasized discussion, reflection, and a sense of openness. Teachers hoped to create an atmosphere in which students were unembarrassed to ask questions and make mistakes, in which they realized that, as Hall put it, "We're all struggling with the same things." As they read literature in many varieties of Spanish, from the formal to the colloquial, students could see that "their language is also considered literary," and that their experiences were worthy of memorializing in literature.

Graduates of the courses reported feeling "a lot more connected, a lot less hopeless," in Hall's words. Students left with enhanced academic and cultural knowledge, a certificate from a prestigious Mexican institution, and a close-knit peer group that has begun to come together around helping other deportees. Many graduates are now active in a not-for-profit organization called Otros Dreams en Acción, where they offer help and support to recent deportees, as well as refugees from Central America.

Graduates have also been able to improve their professional status, moving into managerial roles in their current organizations or finding new work in programming and the education sector. As Hall points out, to have built such productive lives after having experienced a forced break from their homes, languages, and families, "They deserve a lot of credit." So do their instructors.

For more on the sociopolitical context of the classes, read the article "Gangs, Deportation, and Something of a Second Chance," by María Cristina Hall and Alina Bitran. For an example of student work from the class, read Rocío Martínez Antúnez's essay about her mother (in Spanish.)  

  • Name changed to protect privacy.

In the Magazine: I Am Not Your Cholo

Posted on November 15, 2017

According to his biography, Peruvian author Marco Avilés is currently working on a memoir about being "a Latino immigrant in a not very nice time for Latino immigrants." The same witty understatement and sense of perspective is evident in his essay "I Am Not Your Cholo,"  published this month as part of Words Without Borders' issue of literature in translation, written by authors living in the United States.

What does cholo mean? Avilés writes:

Trump has made it easy for me. A cholo in Peru, I told them, is like a Latino in the US: someone with dark skin who has come from far away, from the south, from the mountains.

His essay is notable for the way it weaves together Avilés' personal experiences with a far-reaching discussion of racial history in Peru and the U.S, beginning with the provocative question, "What are two gringos doing serving up hamburgers in the Mecca of Latin American cuisine?" and continuing on to encompass the battles for school integration in the U.S., the author's decision to become a journalist, and much more. It ends with these inspiring lines:

We cholos, Latinos, and immigrants have come a long way and carry a complex history with us. The story of where we come from isn’t our disadvantage, as we’re told, and as we tell ourselves. On the contrary, it is our strength.

In teaching this essay, to offer some context on the U.S. civil rights history to which Avilés alludes, you might show a clip from a film he mentions in the essay, the James Baldwin documentary "I am not your Negro."

(Watch on YouTube

This statement from Baldwin is of particular relevance: "It is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face and deal with and embrace this stranger whom they've maligned for so long." (Beginning at 0:58, Baldwin addresses a racial slur, and repeats the slur in making his point.)

Students interested in learning more might watch a short film about Dorothy Counts, who integrated a high school in North Carolina and was viciously harassed; Counts appeared in the Baldwin documentary, and Avilés describes filmgoers' experience of watching her walk to school through jeering crowds.

To help students begin to learn about Peru, and what it means to be called a "cholo" there, you might have students read the "History and Ethnic Relations" section of the country profile on If students are interested in further exploration, they can also take a look at the page on the Quechua (KECH-wah) culture, which descends from the Inca civilization; Avilés mentions speaking Quechua with his family.

In a class discussion, you might solicit students' thoughts and opinions on the ideas in thought-provoking passages from Avilés' essay, such as this one:

Is it so hard to see the privilege when you’re the privileged one? Is it so hard to see that if you’re born with white skin, with a “good surname” and with money, things will be easier for you than for the rest? For starters, if you enjoy those privileges, you don’t have that constant voice in your head telling you: You’re cholo, you won’t get the job because you’re cholo, you can’t come into the club because you’re cholo, they’re working you harder than the rest because you’re cholo.

Potential assignments might include personal, written responses to "I am not your cholo," or a more formal essay modeled on Avilés': Write about a social issue you have personally experienced or witnessed, weaving together personal experiences and reflections on relevant history. Challenge: include some thought-provoking questions, like those in Avilés' essay. Or, in a fictional vein, students might try to describe Avilés' classroom visit from the perspective of one of the students in the class.

Other literature on WWB Campus that addresses issues of racism and stereotyping includes the story "A Dream in Polar Fog", set among the indigenous Chukchi people of Siberia; and "Marías Mazahuas", a poem about indigenous migrants in Mexico. Or, you might teach the essay alongside the Langston Hughes poem "Theme for English B", Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Richard Wright's Native Son, or Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man.

What role do issues of race and class play in your students' lives? How, if at all, do you try to expand their understanding of those issues? Let us know on Facebook or via the Contact form.

In the Magazine: Love and Friendship in Turkey

Posted on October 20, 2017

"Cutting last period was my idea." So begins Yalçin Tosun's short story, "Muzaffer and Bananas," which was translated from Turkish by the former associate editor of WWB Campus, Abby Comstock-Gay, and appears in this month's issue of the magazine Words Without Borders

The introduction to the story explains, Yalçin Tosun's chubby, despairing Turkish teenagers find solace in visits to the zoo. But an unexpected change to their routine abruptly alters their lives and their relationship. Students will probably be able to identify with the boys' goofy humor and speculations about first kisses, as well as with the uncertainty that underlies their banter, perfectly rendered in lines such as: "I wasn’t sure if he really knew more about women than me or not, but he liked it to look that way, so I believed him."

Contextual resources

To learn about Turkish culture, students might visit the Culturetalk page of the Five College Alliance, featuring video interviews with Turkish speakers on a number of topics, including kissing.

And, for a photo gallery of a famous zoo in Istanbul, possibly similar to the one the boys visit, they can visit its page on Trip Advisor, where they'll also see a negative review mentioning balding primates (like the story's Muzaffer.)

Potential Discussions and assignments

After reading the story, students could talk or write about what might happen after the surprising ending.

  • What might the boys say to each other when they next meet?
  • How will their friendship change?

They might also look back at the story to look for clues to the narrator's feelings. You might ask them: Do you think he surprised himself, too?

As a culminating assignment, students might compare this story to a different one about an evolving friendship, such as Ryu Murakami's "The Last Picture Show," or the novel A Separate Peace. Or, students might write their own stories of a friendship that suddenly changes.

"Flipping" World Literature: Four Texts to Try

Posted on October 09, 2017

Like many other educational terms, "flipped instruction" if often tossed (or flipped) around, but rarely discussed in depth. Even more rarely is it considered for use in the English and literature classroom. Yet, any student who's ever drowsed through an hour-long lecture, or educator who's searched for ways to help students understand complex texts, will intuitively grasp the benefits of using class time for challenging, collaborative work.

Below, you'll find Julie Schell's one-minute explanation of what, exactly, flipping is.

(Watch on YouTube.)

The essence of this educational model is:

  1. Before class, students are introduced to the content via a video or other learning tool
  2. During class, students deepen their understanding through work and collaboration, receiving guidance and feedback.

In a flipped world literature classroom, students might arrive in class with a basic understanding of the cultural influences at play in a poem, and then use class time to expand their understanding of those influences as they closely read the poem, write responses, or collaborate on a project around it. As students work, the teacher circulates, sharing expertise and providing guidance.

Below, you'll find links to some of the most "flippable" poems, stories and essays on WWB Campus. There are video profiles of the authors and translators in the Context tab to the right of the literature, and these profiles can serve as an introduction to the work, opening up class time for close reading, collaborative analysis, and student writing (you'll find suggestions in the Teaching Ideas tab.)

  • "Sleepless Homeland": from Mexico, a poem about the human costs of the drug wars.
  • "The Guest": from Egypt, an autobiographical short story about a grandmother who married "The Chief of Bedouins."
  • "An Interview with Wu Wenjian," from China, an oral history of a young man's participation in the Tiananmen Square protests. (The translator also took part in the protests.)
  • "Sentimental Education," from Japan, a psychologically rich story of a young girl's early childhood.

Once you and the students get comfortable with flipping, you might try:

  • Giving students choice within a collection of introductory materials. WWB Campus posts a selection of multimedia materials (maps, images, audio, video, etc.) alongside the literature; so a teacher might say, "Choose one resource from the Context tab to look at before class tomorrow; be ready to describe and discuss what you've seen."
  • Creating your own video introductions to new works of literature, or assigning that task to a rotating roster of students (See resources below for examples and guidance.)

Does "flipping" sound like something you might want to try? Let us know what you think, here or on Facebook.

  1. PBS footage from a Detroit high school that's entirely "flipped." 
  2. Watch-Summarize-Question, a quick strategy for assessing students' comprehension of a video.  
  3. An AP English teacher on how flipping can add choice and rigor to a classroom: Start a Reading Revolution: Flip Your Class With Blogs (The students' comments also make a good case for adding diverse, contemporary literature to syllabi.)
  4. An example of an educator-created flipped learning video: Mr. Osborne - British Literature Unit Preview 4 - The Romantic Period.
  5. A guide to available, often free, tools and resources: 12 Ways to Create Flipped Learning Content.  
  6. Technologies to support students' at-home reading: Flip reading assignments and make them interactive.  

(This post was republished in a slightly different form on the Flipped Learning Network.) 

New Writing from Colombia

Posted on September 25, 2017

"For you to remember, my star, that some things do still shine.” In an excerpt from the novel An Orphan World, Giuseppe Caputo depicts a father and son's loving relationship amidst poverty and violence. If you teach students from South or Central America, or if your students are wondering about immigration from that region, this story will be of particular interest.

The excerpt is quite long, but students can get a sense of the novel from the first section alone if the class is pressed for time. To launch the story, you might have students brainstorm their associations with the title. After reading, students might discuss or write in response to the question, "What are the things that still shine?"

For literary and political context, take a look at editor Eric Becker's essay, "A Different Solitude," also in the September issue. Among other issues, the essay discusses the country's decades-long war, and attempts to make peace, with the FARC, Columbia's largest guerrilla group.

To discuss this story, or other literature in the September issue, like the wonderfully titled, humorous and insightful "I Never Wanted to Sock You in the Face, Javier," visit us on Facebook.

Global Icebreakers: International Literature to Spark Conversations

Posted on September 02, 2017

Wondering how to get students thinking globally starting on the first day of class? Consider one of these activities:  

  • After reading “Nothing Remains Empty,” an invocation poem from Mexico, students might describe their hopes for their own writing.
  • Sharing,” a Chinese graphic story about a character's search for connection in a new city, can be a springboard for students to talk about their past or current experiences of arrival in a new environment (a city, a school or university, a country…): “How did it feel? What did you notice right away? What took longer to understand?”
  • Amina,” a poem from Egypt, about the “perfect friend,” could launch a class discussion about friendship: “What is a 'perfect friend'? Does such a person exist? What do we hope for in our friendships?”

(These suggestions first appeared in our September newsletter. To sign up for future issues, just visit the Subscribe page.)

Using WWB Campus as a Tool for Intercultural Learning

Posted on August 16, 2017

(Originally posted in November 2016; now updated with new literature--Eds.) 

Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups…

-from UNESCO, Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

Intercultural education fosters understanding, respect and friendship among nations and between racial, religious, and ethnic groups. We know there are lots of teachers out there looking for ways to incorporate intercultural education in their classrooms, and Melissa Liles, Chief Education Officer of AFS Intercultural Programs, wrote a guest blog post on the topic for Education Week's Global Learning blog.

Following Liles’ suggestions, we’ve outlined how you can use WWB Campus to introduce intercultural learning to your classroom:

1. Start small and build safe spaces.

Liles recommends beginning with warm-up exercises that allow everyone—including the teacher and the students—to get to know each other on a personal level before moving to the cultural level.

You can start with some of these resources from WWB Campus:

  • The poem “Amina,” from Egypt, is addressed to the “perfect friend,” and the first teaching idea suggests that students discuss their own experiences of friendship and ideas about the “perfect friend;”
  • The Last of the Bunch,” a graphic story about a man hoping to reconnect with an old friend, also includes teaching ideas that suggest conversations around friendship, generational divides, and parents and children;
  • The first teaching idea for “It’s a Chick, Not a Dog” includes a conversation about childhood pets.
2. Distinguish between personal, situational, and cultural differences.

When dealing with conflicts and differences of opinion between students, you might ask: “What kind of difference is this—personal, situational, or cultural? Why?” You can also use this framework when responding to students’ responses to literature and analysis of characters' relationships. “Do you like or agree with this character? Why, or why not? Why are these characters in conflict? Would you say that their differences are mostly personal, situational, or cultural?"

Literature from WWB Campus that deals with conflicts, differing perspectives and viewpoints, includes:

3. Build up activities and discussions to deepen learning.

Liles suggests that teachers connect local issues that are influenced by cultural differences to issues in the larger world. Begin with local issues, and then connect them with literature on WWB Campus. Learn about the context of that literature, and then return to the local issue. When reading fiction, remind your students that it is, of course, a fictional portrayal of an issue, but one that nevertheless provides a window into an individual perspective and may reveal larger truths.

Some ideas:

  • When there are protests in your community or on the news, open up a discussion about protest happening at the local level, then look at protests in Egypt, with the graphic journal “Two Million People in the Square,” or experiences in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests in an excerpt from Wang Dan's Prison Memoirsor "An Interview with Wu Wenjian."  
  • After a discussion of immigration issues in your community, read "The Gringo Champion," about a young Mexican migrant worker, or "The Bed," about a Russian teenager on Brighton Beach; you might also have students work with the videos, interviews, essays and articles on immigration in the Context and Playlist tabs for these stories.    
  • Consider local environmental issues, then read “Do Not Tremble,” and the accompanying contextual material related to the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 in Japan and their disastrous environmental effects.
  • You can also talk about income disparities in your community, and compare those with the depiction of poverty in mid-century Egypt in the graphic novel of “Proud Beggars.” 
  • Pair a discussion of child abuse and neglect with Natalia Klyuchareva's story "None of Your Business," or an excerpt from Kaho Nakayama’s Sentimental Education, from Japan.  
  • Discuss local instances and cultural implications of bullying, then look at what happens in “The Trapped Boy,” a Japanese short story by Keiichiro Hirano. 
  • Take a closer look at imprisonment and its effects with the oral history "The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt," from Russia.   
4. Recognize and encourage healthy conflict or sharing of different, or even dissenting views.

Read the pieces that deal with conflict (listed above)—whether social, cultural, or political—and have students choose a certain viewpoint. Or, more simply, have students think about whether they like a piece of literature or not, then have those with differing opinions discuss how they feel.

5. Recognize and redirect conflict that is not productive.

As Liles writes: “defuse [overheated situations] by using historical or literary references to take a step back and provide a more comfortable way to tackle bias or stereotypes.” Use WWB Campus’ many contextual materials, or ask students to use references to the literary text when conflict might get unproductive.

6. Help learners process through a three-step debriefing.
  1. Open up space and structure for students to reflect on and discuss what they learned.
  2. Help students imagine how they can apply the lessons they learned to their daily lives.
  3. Work on coming to a shared understanding about why these intercultural activities were conducted. As Liles writes, “Global competence is necessary in our communities, and our world shouldn’t be kept a secret!”

We want WWB Campus to be a useful resource for teachers who integrate intercultural learning in their classrooms and schools. Our team looks forward to learning more about how teachers use international literature to foster intercultural competence—if you have a moment, let us know here or on Facebookhow you do this work!

Suggested reading: UNESCO Intercultural Education guidelines (pdf)

Get Kids Reading Great Global Literature

Posted on August 07, 2017

Can children understand great world literature, including literature not written specifically for children? Based on our own experiences, and on feedback from teachers using WWB Campus, the answer seems to be yes.

As some readers may know, this website draws on literature from the magazine Words Without Borders, which seeks to publish the "finest contemporary international literature." Although the magazine has published some special issues devoted to children's and young adult literature, most of the work is for a general audience. So, when we started this website, we assumed that it would mainly be used in high school and college classrooms. However, over the past few years, we have heard from a number of elementary and middle school teachers who are successfully using the literature with their students. We've also heard from other teachers of younger students who are interested in doing the same.

As Kenneth Koch, Ken Ludwig, and others have argued, giving children emotionally gripping, complex literature can help their reading and writing grow by leaps and bounds. To help children engage with these works, Koch suggests: 

  1. Selecting literature with vivid, dramatic language, imagery, and characters
  2. Giving children the chance to make the literature their own, using the texts as inspirations for their writing

When it comes to great world literature, we would also add: 

3. Building children's understanding of the particular cultures within which the works were written. 

Below, we've provided suggestions of poems, stories, and graphic literature that work with a wide range of ages, from children to adults. When you click on a piece of literature, you'll find definitions of culturally specific words and other relevant information in the "About," "Context," and "Playlist" tabs. For creative writing suggestions modeled on the literature, just click the "Teaching Ideas" tab on the far right.

  • Originally written in the indigenous Purépecha language, "Purépecha Mother" begins with the line, "She is not a queen." It would fit into a unit on indigenous cultures and could inspire students' poetry about important, "ordinary" people in their own lives.

  • "Do Not Tremble," a poem from Japan, was written in response to the 2011 earthquake, and gives the reader a sense of what it feels like to be in the midst of a natural disaster. It could complement a unit on the environment, and students could write their own poems responding to natural phenomena.

  • Had enough of haikus? Take a look at "Poem to the Tune 'Pure Peace'," which was written in the lesser-known jueju form; the word means "cut-off lines," and the unusual imagery in this poem will inspire students' own efforts. (See Teaching Idea #1.)

  • "It's a Chick, Not a Dog" is an Egyptian children's story. The main character is a young girl with a pet dog; she is having trouble understanding her mother's relationship with a pet chick.

  • Do your students draw comics? "A Drifting Life" is an excerpt from the memoir of one of Japan's most famous manga creators, describing a childhood encounter with a personal hero.

For upper elementary to middle school students:

  • "Once Upon a Swing," from Japan, asks, "What's it like to be the older sister of a genius?" (You might teach it alongside Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, which addresses a similar theme.) It includes the brother's fanciful, fairy-tale-influenced stories, which blend fantasy and reality, and which will help inspire students' work.  
  • From Mexico, "A Failed Journey" features a lovable, relatable main character, a girl who steals her classmate's pencil and sneaks away to McDonald's after school.

If you are also looking for global literature written specifically for children, there are some very good resources that can help you find the books that are right for your classroom. The list below is based on a handout Kathy G. Short distributed at this year's NCTE Whole Language Institute conference; Dr. Short is herself the head of the World of Words program at the University of Arizona.

And finally, to read Kenneth Koch on teaching great poetry to children, take a look at an excerpt from his book Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? 

Have you ever tried teaching "great" world literature to children? What does "great" mean to you? Let us know on the Facebook or Contact page.

We Have a Winner!

Posted on July 19, 2017

Thanks to everyone who registered on the site and was automatically entered into our summer raffle! The winner is Rebecca Berg, of Denver, Colorado, who selected the WWB anthology Tablet and Pen as her prize.

Rebecca Berg teaches writing and literature at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. Her fiction has appeared in the Five Fingers Review, the Four Way Review, the Still Point Arts Quarterly, the Water~Stone Review, and Word Riot. She also has three novels in the drawer. The first was a finalist in the James Jones First Novel Contest in 2001, the second won the 2008 Dana Award, and the third was the runner-up for the 2016 Juniper Prize. She has a PhD in English Literature, and has adjuncted and worked as a freelance editor for many years. These days, she also moonlights as a cello teacher.

She found WWB Campus while researching W.G. Sebald's influence on contemporary fiction writing in the magazine WWB, for a course she's currently teaching on Sebald's Austerlitz. (If you happen to be teaching The Emigrants, also by Sebald, the Russian short story "The Bed" could be an interesting companion text; see links and suggestions in the Teaching Ideas.) 

"I often have a sense," she writes, "that I'm reading, writing, teaching, and striving in a U.S. bubble. The walls that limit my work stylistically and morally can be hard to spot. If I want to step through, which way do I turn? I expect WWB Campus will inspire many reading and teaching ideas in the years to come."

We will be holding other raffles in the future; in the meantime, check out Carmen Boullosa's poem "Sleepless Homeland," which begins, "Did we lose you in a game of dice?" (Nadia Kalman will be presenting the poem and teaching tools at the National Council of Teachers of English's Whole Language Institute in Tucson this Saturday.)

New “Transformations”-themed Russian Literature!

Posted on July 07, 2017

We are excited to share two new pieces of literature on the site: “Milgrom,” by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya and translated by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers, and “The Golem in the Mirror,” by Nadezhda Gorlova, translated by Deborah Hoffman.

Of “Milgrom,” Julia Trubikhina, who wrote the introduction to our collection of Russian literature, comments:

The personal transformation of a Soviet Cinderella, a nameless eighteen-year-old girl, into a young woman in a beautiful new dress is, in Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s “Milgrom,” ultimately a way to tell a story of very different transformations, but also of transcendental permanence. . . . 

In “The Golem in the Mirror” writes Trubikhina:

. . . the features of a demented and eventually dead Jewish grandmother merge with those of her granddaughter: it’s a Golem that keeps returning, threatening to get out of control. The mechanism of time is broken: a “murky Venetian mirror . . . cracked in two in the fall of 1917,” and as a result, “any face bears a scar and the clocks run backward.”

Let us know what you think!

Enter our anthology raffle before July 7

Posted on June 30, 2017

As you may already know, registering on WWB Campus gives you immediate access to teaching ideas, assignments, classroom activities, and all the resources on the "For Educators" page.

Until July 7th, registration also enters you into a raffle to win a contemporary world literature anthology featuring the very best of the magazine; titles include: The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry; Tablet & Pen: Literature from the Modern Middle East; and Literature from the "Axis of Evil”, featuring work from Iran, North Korea, and other frequently demonized nations. (For a complete list, see the anthology page on the main WWB website.)

So, we hope you'll join our community today! And thank you to the hundreds of educators who have already signed up—we're so glad to have you on board!

Wrap up the school year with global literature

Posted on June 20, 2017

Looking for an end-of-year lesson that incorporates world literature? We're happy to announce that Words Without Borders now has a sample lesson plan for every collection of literature on the site! (High school teachers: the lesson plans include correlations to standards, and, in several cases, suggestions for extending lessons and using them to support English Language Learning, or ELL.)


The Siberian adventure story "A Dream in a Polar Fog" includes frozen imagery which students might find refreshing at this time of year! The lesson plan for it addresses the stereotypes at play between a Canadian explorer and his Chukchi guides, and includes several ELL strategies.


In "Sleepless Homeland," Carmen Boullosa asks "Quo vadis?", or, "Where are you going?" to the country of Mexico. The lesson plan includes a creative writing activity in which students write their own poems asking "Quo Vadis?" of a person or place. (Includes ELL strategies.)


The short and intriguing story "The Trapped Boy," puts readers inside the mind of a teenage boy being bullied; the lesson plan includes a potential comparison with William Blake's well-known poem "The Tyger." (NYS teachers, we also provide links to the revised standards here.)


"The Guest," one of the most popular works in the Egypt collection, tells the story of a grandmother who married into a Bedouin family. The lesson plan includes a discussion of the power of labels, as students examine what it might mean for a person to be referred to only as "The Guest." (Includes ELL strategies.)


Yu Jian's stunning poem "Two or Three Things from the Past" begins with a description of a summer day during the Cultural Revolution:

So hot then
red trucks loaded with burning tongues

The lesson plan for the poem helps students distinguish truth from government propaganda—a skill which is, perhaps, especially relevant in today's political climate. 

We hope these plans are helpful, and if you end up using one, we'd love to hear about it!

In the Magazine: The Queer Issue!

Posted on June 07, 2017

This month, the magazine Words Without Borders has published its 8th queer issue, and WWB Campus is featuring two stories with suggested pairings from our site and resources:

From Turkey, we have a piece of graphic literature named after the battle-cry of the LGBTI (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex) movement in Turkey: “Where are you my love? Here I am, my love!” Editor Susan Harris writes:

Turkish artist and writer Beldan Sezen, now living in New York, returns to her native Istanbul in the "fearful, despondent" early months of 2016. On top of the threat of war and increased suicide bombings, her friends worry about the Erdogan government's association of the queer community with the opposition party and the loss of their majority, and the resulting escalation of anti-gay police action. They meet the cancellation of the annual pride parade with defiance and ingenuity to remain visible both in Istanbul and around the world.

For more background information about what’s going on in the LGBTI movement in Turkey, check out LGBTI News Turkey, where you can find English-language translations of relevant Turkish news stories.

Read this graphic literature alongside “The Story of a Homosexual: An Interview with Ni Dongxue,” from China. In the interview, Ni Dongxue tells his story as a queer person in China to oral historian Liao Yiwu, who tries (awkwardly at times) to learn and be open. There are videos, photos, and articles about LGBTI people and Pride movements in China in the Context and Playlist tabs, including some news and perspectives about the ways in which the Chinese state interacts with the LGBTI movement. The first Teaching Idea, “An Unusual Interview,” gives students a chance to imagine how they would have conducted the interview and discuss these issues.

Another story in WWB’s Queer Issue is “Miss Eddy,” from Mexico, in which young transgender characters leave home and have to make decisions about love and trust, fear and suspicion. Editor Susan Harris writes:

Another sort of danger informs the transgender world of "Miss Eddy," Mexican writer Milena Solot's English-language debut. The title character and her friend Úrsula fall in with the seductive sex trafficker Tommy. As they work their way toward the border, Eddy's initial infatuation turns to suspicion and then fear; when Tommy announces a change of itinerary, she stays behind in Tijuana, but cannot persuade the lovestruck Úrsula to do the same. The result is no less tragic for its inevitability.  

For a story of a young cis-gender man's border crossing from Mexico, read an excerpt from the newly published The Gringo Champion by Aura Xilonen. Like the narrator of “Miss Eddy,” Liborio also has a run-in with brutal law enforcement officers, and you can find resources about border-crossing in the Context and Playlist for The Gringo Champion.

We hope you and your students enjoy this exciting collection of literature. Please be in touch with ways that you have taught international literature about LGBTI issues!

Out of the Pilot Phase and into the World!

Posted on May 30, 2017

With the online collection of global literature and teaching tools on WWB Campus, we hope to engage students as readers of international literature and informed, active citizens of the world. Today, we take a step further towards that goal as we publicly launch the site, begin a new phase of outreach and community-building, and unveil some exciting technical improvements.

If you're new to WWB Campus, you might want to take a look at this short video, which shows the site in action in a classroom.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

New on the Site: Special Access for Educators and More

We're delighted to launch an updated and improved version of WWB Campus, which includes better navigation; new content, such as sample lesson plans and more literature from Russia and Mexico, Recommended Reading lists, and other new features.

We've also added an educator login for teaching-related sections of the site. Registration takes just a minute, and registered users will receive early access to new features as they are added, such as commenting capability.

Create your account today and be entered to win a WWB anthology of international literature!

Help Us Build the WWB Campus Community

Today we're also unveiling a WWB Campus Facebook page to make it easier for you to stay up-to-date about new content on the site and to help new users discover the program.

We hope that Facebook will eventually become a space where globally-minded educators and librarians can meet and share resources and ideas for teaching international literature. Please join us by liking and following the page and inviting your educator friends to do the same. Then, come back to the page and join the conversation!

Thank You!

We couldn't have reached this point without the participation, ideas, and feedback of piloting educators and early users of the site: thank you for helping us to shape WWB Campus into the resource we’re proud to launch today.

Please feel free to be in touch with any feedback or suggestions. We look forward to continuing to grow WWB Campus together!

International Literature to Inspire Student Filmmakers

Posted on May 15, 2017

Have you ever explored filmmaking with your students? Projects that adapt literature to the screen can help students actively engage with and imagine settings, characters, and plots in stories. This blog post from Edutopia shares an extensive list of resources for creating “5-Minute Film Festivals” in classrooms. 

A great example of student films based on literature from WWB Campus is Alona Guevarra’s students’ film of “Sleepless Homeland.” Guevvara teaches in the English Department at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, Philippines, and she had assigned students in her Introduction to Poetry and Drama class to work in groups to create their own reinterpretations of the poem, which deals with Mexico’s drug wars.

Although it would be possible to adapt any of the literature on WWB Campus to film, some literature that seems particularly well-suited to student filmmaking includes:

"The Memory"—This story, inspired by Felix Vallaton’s painting The Ball, describes the same scene from several different perspectives. Students could make films incorporating the painting, and representing the characters' varying perspectives.

The Trapped Boy”—The cinematic imagery and unusual structure in this story could inspire film adaptations of the story, or original films with similarly experimental structures.

The Farside”—This story features intriguing dialogue and atmosphere, and student films could play with the identity of the mysterious narrator, which switches from second person to third person in the middle.

The Egyptian Tomb”—This highly metaphorical story offers lots of opportunities for creative cinematic representation. How might the setting evoke an Egyptian tomb? What kind of dialogue occurs between the mother and daughter?

Hello?”—In this story on a crowded bus, we hear only from the narrator as he watches and listens to the conversations around him. A film version might create adaptations of more busy scenes with voice-over narration.

Metamorphosis”—This story from Japan portrays the ways in which a real-life tragedy begins to imitate stage theater. Students can adapt this story, or film original stories about the blurring of the line between reality and illusion.

The Pharaohs of Egypt”—While it would be difficult to set a short film at the Egyptian pyramids, students could create films representing cultural misunderstandings similar to those in the story.

Translating poetry into film allows students the flexibility to connect it to their own life experiences, as did the students who set "Sleepless Homeland" on a college campus. Poetry on WWB Campus that might particularly facilitate such adaptions includes:

 Watch the student film of "Sleepless Homeland" mentioned above:

Lit 14: Sleepless Homeland from Clar Tagaza on Vimeo.

Last, in “Director’s Notes on ‘Sway’,” Nishikawa Miwa tells about the dream that gave her inspiration for a film about a possible murder. Based on this story, students could also create film adaptations of their own dreams.

Have your students created any films based on WWB Campus literature? Please send them to us if so—we’d love to feature student work in another blog post in the future!

Using World Literature to Help Students Find Purpose

Posted on May 08, 2017

As an educator, do you ever struggle to motivate students? More research is uncovering the motivational value of helping students connect their learning to a sense of larger purpose. This might be a sense of efficacy in local or global political, cultural, or social change, or a smaller-scale personal or social sense of being needed, or of belonging. Whatever the scale, says researcher William Damon, a sense of purpose always involves being engaged in something larger than the self.

An article from Mind/Shift offers tips on making learning meaningful and rewarding for students. Below, you'll see how contemporary world literature can act as a tool for students to make those meaningful connections. 

When teaching the literature on WWB Campus, you can:

  • Relate literature to students’ lives—Many of the stories on Campus feature contemporary settings and young-adult characters, which help make it relatable for students. In particular, we recommend Vladimir Vertlib's "The Bed," to connect with students' own stories of arriving in unfamiliar places and situations; shinji ishii's "Once Upon a Swing," for a window into sibling relationships; and Miral Al-Tahawy's "The Guest," to facilitate reflections on previous generations. 
  • Talk about why—Ask students to identify the author's purpose in texts such as "Two Million People in the Square," a pamphlet circulated during Egypt's 2011 revolution; and "This Country Must Break Apart," an awards acceptance speech calling for the dissolution of China. Written in hopes of effecting radical change, these texts underscore the power of the written word and may inspire students to undertake written initiatives of their own. You might also ask students to consider the purpose of reading literature from other parts of the world–grappling with potential answers will help them connect world literature to larger ideas of cross-cultural understanding and global citizenship. Through these conversations, students will find more meaning in what they read.
  • Explain your purpose as a teacher—When you assign a reading, share with your students why you chose it: "This poem 'Sleepless Homeland' gives you a sense of what it feels like to be in a country over-run by violence"; "I was wondering how people find courage to stand up against oppression, so I re-read 'An Interview with Wu Wenjian'"; "I was looking for something that shows the effects of bullying on a person's mind, and I found 'The Trapped Boy'." Hearing about what you want the students to get out of the literature can be inspiring for them.
  • Connect the classroom to the world—The resources linked to in the Context and Playlist tabs can help students see the “real-life” context of the literature they read in class. In materials for “The Bed,” for example, you can read and watch videos about current immigration realities; in “Sentimental Education,” you’ll find resources on attachment theory, adoption, and domestic violence.

How do you use world literature to help students find a larger sense of purpose? Let us know!

Leaving Home: New Russian Literature

Posted on April 05, 2017

In literature and in life, leaving home is a powerful theme, which encompasses stories of exclusion and inclusion, hopeful visions dashed by harsh confrontations with reality, and challenging interactions between people with different experiences and backgrounds. At a time when immigration and migration are especially charged and urgent issues around the globe, we’re glad to present the new literature in the Russia unit, all related to the theme of “Leaving Home:” In each story of new places and perspectives, both characters and readers will need to newly negotiate assumptions, stereotypes, and prejudices.

Vladimir Vertlib’s “The Bed” opens with a dream:

I dreamed I was in America. America, my father said, is a melting pot, where everyone is melted down and becomes an equal part of the whole. There are no “guest workers” there, just immigrants. Suddenly I realize it’s not a dream but reality. I’m fourteen years old and really am in America, in New York, in Brighton Beach...

As the story continues, we learn about the narrator's Russian Jewish family, the long road they took to New York, and the community they found there. As the character navigates his new life, we also see the complexity of identity: even within a neighborhood composed almost entirely of Russian Jewish immigrants, there are vast differences between characters’ backgrounds, assumptions, values, and dreams. . . Resources in the Context and Playlist tabs for this story include dozens of other accounts of immigration and migration, as well as diverse approaches to the concepts of “America” and the “melting pot.” Teaching Ideas include “New Places: Myths and Realities,” which includes some connections to contemporary immigration, and “America and New Americans,” in which students closely read and analyze the different visions of Americans held by characters in the story.

In the short story “Pears from Gudauty,” by Ludmila Ulitskaya, a mother and daughter travel to the Caucasus for vacation and listen as a neighbor rattles off her long list of slurs about nearly all of the different groups in the region. In the Playlist for the story, you can find resources about all the ethnicities and nationalities the neighbor disparages; and in the Teaching Ideas tab, you can find suggestions for helping students distinguish stereotypes from reality.

An excerpt from Yuri Rytkheu’s A Dream in Polar Fog, set in 1910 Siberia, shows how ingrained prejudices about one another’s cultures influence the interactions of a Canadian explorer and the local Chukchi people. (Teaching Ideas for this story include “Misunderstandings and Stereotypes” and “Other Lands, Other Lives.”)

In “The Only True Guide to Russia: Hidden Secrets Revealed,” Ilia Kitup—himself an emigrant from Russia—presents 1990s Moscow to “everyone who has never been to Russia,” including fantastical stereotypes and alternative versions of the city. Teaching Ideas include a lesson on cities in graphic and prose literature, and activities to help students distinguish between “Truth, Rumor, Exaggeration, and Reality.”

We hope you enjoy this literature as much as we have. Stay tuned—there will be more literature in the “Leaving Home” theme for Russia, but first, we have some exciting new stories to add to the collection from Mexico!

How have you used literature from WWB Campus to discuss themes of immigration/migration, identity, and prejudice and stereotypes? We'd love to hear about your experiences and ideas.

New Original Language Text: “The Old Cicada” (老蝉)

Posted on March 19, 2017

Readers and students of Mandarin Chinese can now read the original text of “The Old Cicada” in addition to the translated version. Thanks to author Can Xue and translators Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping for helping us share this exciting resource!

Keep an eye out for more original language texts soon.

Other literature with original language versions already on Campus includes the short story “A Failed Journey” (Un Viaje Fallido), the journalistic essay “Violence and Drug-Trafficking in Mexico” (“¡Qué manera de perder!”: Violencia y narcotráfico en México), and the poems “Sleepless Homeland” (La patria insomne), and “Notes on a Zombie Cataclysm” (Notas en torno a la catástrofe zombi), all from the Mexico Unit.

New Literature: Love Stories from Russia

Posted on February 14, 2017

We’re very happy to announce that, just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’ve completed our first collection of theme-based literature from Russia—Love Stories—along with exciting new resources and teaching ideas.

In this literature, you’ll find four stories of love in different times, places, and forms.

  • Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich said of her work: “I want to emancipate my hero from the big ideas. And to discuss with him things life is built on. And there are only two: love and death.” For a story that touches on both love and death, read “The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt” in which a widow tells about her complicated, yet true and lasting love for her her husband. The story opens:

    Letting someone into your world with so much baggage—twelve years in Stalinist camps, they took him as a boy, sixteen years old. . . . With the burden of that knowledge . . . the differences. That's not what I'd call freedom. What is it? What's the point? Admit that I only pitied him? No. It was love, too. That's exactly what it was: love. 
  • Marina Tsvetaeva’s “To kiss a forehead is to erase worry” is a soliloquy with cadences that for some readers may seem melancholic, whereas for others sound “partly hysterical, near the fall into tears or laughter” (Vladimir Khodasevich). Read more of Marina Tsvetaeva’s love poems, and watch one of her poems in song form, from the classic Russian movie “The Irony of Fate.” 

    (Watch the video on YouTube.)

  • In “Hello?” we see inside the mind of a witty passenger on a crowded bus, whose stream-of-consciousness mental monologue reveals both his thoughts on love and his observations of the crowd on the bus:

    We have been worn out by love, the immensity of which has filled us to overflowing, which is why we take up so much space. If we didn’t know love we would have withered and there would be plenty of room for everyone in the bus, which is actually quite spacious.
  • And in “Petroleum Venus,” we see two kinds of love: a teenage boy falls for the subject of a painting—“A naked blonde, her upturned face registering pleasure,” while his father experiences a cinematically-induced love of country:

    “My nose is stinging. I unobtrusively wipe tears from my eyes. It’s just love. I love this whole appalling shambles. I am a part of it. I don’t need any order beyond this chaos, beyond this indefinableness. Thank you, Russia, for the passion, for the atrocities, for your loveliness, for our suffering.”
We hope you find these love stories as intriguing as we do, and keep on the lookout for the next theme from Russia: Leaving Home.

In the Magazine: Graphic Literature!

Posted on February 07, 2017

If you like the graphic literature on WWB Campus,—such as “A Drifting Life” from Japan, “The Last of the Bunch” from Egypt, or “Sharing” from China—be sure to check out Words Without Borders' issue this month: International Graphic Novels!

In the introduction to the issue, Dominic Davies makes a good case for comics, or graphic narrative, as places for border crossings. He writes:

…comics might be thought of as an empathetic medium. Readers have to situate themselves in the cultural context inhabited by their authors in order to make sense of the story…Because comics are, one might say, comprised of words (and pictures) with borders, they allow readers to more easily identify those borders, before then moving beyond them in the very act of reading.

The short graphic narrative “Heniek” tells a brief story of an Polish man aspiring to move abroad. As Davies writes in the introduction, “By juxtaposing Heniek’s dreams of working abroad with a sarcastic depiction of the realities for migrant laborers, the comic runs against the grain of mainstream anti-immigrant media discourse, especially in the US and UK.” (This also would fit within the Leaving Home theme; students might read it alongside “Dreams and Memories of a Common Man” or “A Failed Journey” to examine different representations of migration and immigration.)

"The Minibus," from Turkey, illustrates in vivid color a young woman's trip across Istanbul on a minibus. In some ways, it’s a familiar story of crowded metropolitan public transportation, but it also reveals the tensions at different levels of Turkish society today. (Pair this with “Hello?” from Russia, which also takes place on public transportation.)

Joe” tells the story of a polar bear disturbed by the environmental crisis; he goes to the New York to tell the UN that they’re “misunderstanding everything.” Along the way, he meets people from around the worldand hears their stories of how the climate catastrophe has affected them. (This would work within a theme-based unit on Leaving Home or Transformation; or, you might pair it with Can Xue’s “The Old Cicada” to explore personification.)

"Coloureds," from South Africa, and "Men and Beasts," from Zaire, both tell stories that reveal the structural and other kinds of violence within the poorest communities. (Read an excerpt of Sentimental Education, from Japan, for another story of a rough childhood and parent-child relationship; or, read alongside another work of graphic literature: Proud Beggars, which depicts crime and vice in 1950s Cairo.)

An Endless Green Line,” from Cyprus, uses the borders of the comic to tell about how the political border in Cyprus affected people’s lives. (Pair this with the poem “Things Elude Me,” which evokes thoughts of previous homes; “Nothing Remains Empty,” a poem about what might be recorded in a book of the “memory of time.” Or, focusing on the father in the story, you could read it alongside “Timid as a Mouse” and “Appendix” to explore different father characters.

In “Urban Tails,” from Israel, two pet cats—Rafi and Spaghetti—comment on their two moms’ lives, in the process challenging borders of normative heterosexuality, and gender and sexual identity. (Read alongside another conversation around sexuality, “The Story of a Homosexual: An Interview with Ni Dongxue.”)

To find graphic literature on WWB Campus, go to the Find Literature page, and click on the “Graphic Fiction” or "Graphic Nonfiction" filters. And, as always, please let us know how you’ve used these stories in your readings and classes!

Grants and Awards Bulletin: Winter 2017

Posted on January 24, 2017

Are you looking to start 2017 with a new project, new recognition, or new opportunities to explore and educate yourself and your students about the larger world?

You might be interested in applying one of for the grants and awards below; they are all related to some aspect of international education, and have application deadlines within the next few months.


NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership Grants

Application deadline: February 15th, 2017 (other rounds: June 1, October 15th)

$2,000 to individual projects of professional development and $5,000 to group projects of collegial study. Projects that incorporate global learning are more likely to be funded. (Must be NEA Member to apply.)

Grant website and guidelines

NEA Global Learning Fellowship

Application deadline: February 28, 2017

Offers educators 12 months of professional development opportunities to cultivate global competence skills and develop lesson plans that will be shared with educators around the world. Opportunities include online coursework, online country-specific resources guides and webinars, a professional development workshop, and a nine-day international field study.


FAQs and Preview Application (PDF)

Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program

Application deadline: March 7, 2017

Grants to support overseas projects in training, research, and curriculum development in modern foreign languages and area studies for groups within higher education institutions and other educational organizations where teachers, students, and faculty are engaged in a common endeavor. Considered projects are short-term seminars, curriculum development, group research or study, or advanced intensive language programs.

Website and guidelines

Teachers for Global Classrooms Program

Application deadline: March 20, 2017

This is a year-long professional development program for elementary, middle, and high school teachers. The goal is to equip teachers to bring an international perspective to their schools through targeted training, experience abroad, and global collaboration.

IREX website

McCarthy Dressman Education Foundation Academic Enrichment Grants

Application deadline: April 15, 2017

Academic Enrichment Grants up to $10,000 designed to develop in-class and extra-curricular programs that improve student learning. The Foundation considers proposals that foster understanding, deepen students’ knowledge, and provide opportunities to expand awareness of the world around them.

Website and guidelines

The Awesome Foundation Grants

Deadline: Rolling (granted monthly)

$1000 grants awarded monthly by autonomous local chapters to any good idea in a range of fields, including the arts, technology, community development, and more. You can apply to a local chapter, global chapter, like “Awesome Without Borders,” or choose “any” on the application.




United States-Japan Foundation Elgin Heinz Teacher Awards

Deadline: February 1, 2017

Award presented annually to two pre-college teachers in humanities and Japanese language who further mutual understanding between Japan and the United States. The award includes a certificate of recognition, $2,500 monetary award, and $5,000 in project funds.


Application guidelines


Take this 5-min survey about diversity from the Tanenbaum Center. In developing trainings to combat faith-based bias and bullying at school, they are hoping to draw upon the opinions and experiences of educators.

Teaching About Translation: Tools and Resources

Posted on December 15, 2016

There is one thing almost all the literature on this site has in common: it has been translated into English from another language.

How is translated literature different from literature that has not been translated, and how should we approach reading and teaching literature in translation? Translators and educators are developing exciting new ways of answering these questions.

In London, Sophie Lewis and Gitanjali Patel have developed and are currently leading an extra-curricular workshop series called Shadow Heroes* after Paul Auster’s observation that “Translators are the shadow heroes of literature, who have enabled us to understand that we all, from every part of the world, live in one world." Lewis and Patel lead workshops in schools to help students develop their translation skills in different media, including literature, film and music. Lewis comments, “[T]ranslation is never 'simply' literary, from written text A to written text B or from discrete national language C to discrete national language D. Creating resources that illustrate and enact this in new, involving ways is something we will always be trying to do in new, improved ways.”

In the spirit of making translation visible in the classroom, we are highlighting resources from WWB Campus to help students learn to better read and think about literature in translation, understand the process of translation, and undertake their own translations.


On reading translated literature: "How to Read a Translation" is an essay in WWB by prominent translation theorist Lawrence Venuti. Here is a paraphrased list of Venuti’s five rules for reading a translation:

  1. Pay attention to meaning and language when you read.
  2. Be prepared for translations to be written in unfamiliar and non-standard dialects.
  3. Pay close attention to connotations and cultural references.
  4. Always read introductory essays and notes from translators, which will help you understand how they interpreted and approached the literature.
  5. Remember that a single translation doesn’t represent an entire body of literature; read other works translated from the same language and compare them.

On translating: Translators Samah Selim, (Miral Al-Tahawy’s "The Guest"), Chip Rossetti (translator and writer of the Egypt unit introduction), and Humphrey Davies (“Two Million People in The Square”) have all written posts describing their rules for translation on the site ArabLit: Selim's rules, Rossetti's rules, Davies' rules.

Activities for Teaching Translation

  • Any piece of literature could be translated in a variety of ways, and reading different translations of the same work can help students understand the nuances of translation. In the essay excerpt, "Translating a Peony," translator Ilya Kaminsky shows five different translations of one line of poetry Along similar lines, the second teaching idea for “Poems for Parting” outlines how to use multiple translations to help students understand the nuances of Tang poetry. (Find it under the “Teaching Ideas” tab to the right of the poem.)
  • A valuable question to ask about translation is whether it is ever possible to truly and fully understand another culture. In the short story "The Last Picture Show," a Japanese teenager and a yakuza (or gangster) wander into a screening of the American film The Last Picture Show and are forever changed. The fourth teaching idea for that story, "Connecting Through Culture," asks students to think about how much we can understand and connect with those different from ourselves, and the limitations of translation.
  • Some words have culturally specific meanings that present particular challenges to translators. In "My Madre, Pure as Cumulous Clouds," a linguist explores the cultural significance of the word madre in Mexico. The second teaching idea for the essay, "Investigating a Word," walks students through the process of better understanding the cultural connotation of words.

The Translation Process

Translation is a collaborative and communicative process, with many drafts and correspondences traveling between authors, translators and editors. WWB and WWB Campus have several examples from “behind the scenes” of the translation process, and we hope to share more in the future.

Translator’s Notes and Thoughts

As Lawrence Venuti recommends, reading translators' notes contributes to a deeper understanding of the work. Below, you will find notes relating to several pieces on WWB Campus.

Interviews with Translators

Translators' own stories and experiences can inform their ideas about literature. Here are some interviews with translators about their lives and their experiences in their careers. Links to these interviews can all also be found in the Context and Playlist tabs of their respective stories.

  • In this WWB Campus video interview with translator Allison Markin Powell ("Sentimental Education"), she describes how she became interested in Japanese culture and some of the challenges of putting Japanese texts into English.
  • In another WWB Campus video, translator Wenhuang Huang ("Prison Memoirs") describes taking part in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, some of which were led by the memoir's author, Wang Dan.

  • Motoyuki Shibata’s essay “Walking the Keihin Factory Belt with Stuart Dybek” is an interesting creative depiction of the connection between a writer and translator. Shibata is a well-known translator of English-language literature into the Japanese, and discusses his work in an interview with the magazine Asymptote
  • Khaled Mattawa, the translator of Iman Mersal’s poems (“Things Elude Me,” “Amina,” “Sometimes Wisdom Possesses Me”) talks about his experience as a translator and the ways in which translation informs his personal and political identity.

    Khaled Mattawa also describes the importance of translation in opening up access to different cultures.

  • Ginny Tapley Takemori translated much of the Japanese literature on WWB Campus (“Kiso Wayfarer,” “When My Wife Was a Shiitake,” “Compos Mentis,” “The Farside”). She discussed her background as a translator in an interview with the Japan Chapter of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

We at WWB Campus hope to continue providing ideas and resources for teaching literature in translation. To do that, we would love to hear from you. How do you teach translation in your classes? Which resources and tools do you use? Let us know! 

* Patel and Lewis would like to thank web designer Josh Nathanson for his work on the Shadow Heroes site.

Literature for Middle School Readers

Posted on December 05, 2016

Update 12/12/16: Aisha's Facebook page has changed to Reading Books From Every Country

We are always thrilled to hear from readers and educators interested in international literature. So, you can imagine how we felt when we heard about Aisha Ebhani's project, Reading the Globe. Aisha is a twelve-year-old girl in Pakistan who has embarked on a quest to read a book from every country in the world, and is tracking her progress on her Facebook page, Reading the Globe

Words Without Borders Campus includes many pieces of literature suitable for middle school readers. We’re including a list of suggestions below, but, alternatively, and as the site grows, you can find middle school-level literature by going to the Find Literature page and, depending on what works best for you, typing the following keywords (in quotation marks) in the search box:

  • “middle school level”
  • “middle school”
  • “middle grades”
  • “sixth grade level”
  • “upper elementary school”
  • “early middle school”

Graphic Literature

  1.  A Drifting Life (Japan) shows manga master Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s early years, and depicts encounters with bullies and his personal hero—the “god of manga” Osamu Tezuka. 
  2. Sharing (China) portrays a character who moves to a new city and struggles with loneliness and a need for belonging.
  3. Two Million People in the Square (Egypt) is a few pages of a pamphlet created by graphic artists and distributed during the Arab Spring of 2011.  


  1. It's a Chick, Not a Dog (Egypt) tells the story of a child who learns about “the way life works” through a friendship with a dog, and her mother’s friendship with a chick.
  2. A Failed Journey (Mexico)  features a young girl in Mexico dreading a trip to the US.
  3. The Trapped Boy (Japan) is a story about an encounter with bullies, with an unusual structure.
  4. Appendix (China) is the story of two boys and how their admiration for their father leads to disaster.
  5. Spirit Summoning, Part I (Japan) features a young girl who is a “fake medium,” but surprises herself when she seems to have actually called on a real spirit.
  6. The Kiso Wayfarer (Japan) tells a story of a young boy who senses a ghost tagging alongside a mysterious traveler.


  1. Poem to the Tune 'Pure Peace' (China), a love poem from the Tang Dynasty.
  2. Poems for Parting (China), another love poem from the Tang Dynasty.
  3. Marías Mazihuas (Indigenous language, Mexico), a poem about mothers migrating to cities for work.
  4. Purépecha Mother (Indigenous language, Mexico), another poem about mothers.
  5. Nothing Remains Empty (Indigenous language, Mexico), a poem about what it’s like to write poetry.

If you’re a middle school-aged reader, tell us what you’ve read and what you like; if you’re a middle school educator, let us know what has worked for your classes. Enjoy!

Celebrating the Season with International Ghost Stories

Posted on October 25, 2016

Halloween, the Day of the Dead, All Souls Day—many cultures are approaching the time of the year to consider the spirits of the departed.

Words Without Borders is celebrating Halloween this year with a feature on ghost stories from Japan, Madagascar, and Morocco. Editor Susan Harris writes:

…we’re observing Halloween with the theme of this month’s feature; but while the supernatural and the otherworldly might be foregrounded in this season, ghosts and all they represent lurk perennially in the universal consciousness and in literature around the world.  

In Japan, people honor the spirits of their ancestors during the Bon Festival, which happens around August, but spirits, or yurei, appear in different forms in literature and culture throughout the year.

In "Wheels," a poem from Japan published this month in WWB, we see a ghost in snake form, frightening two young girls. You'll find other ghosts in WWB Campus’ collection of Japanese literature on the theme of “Ghosts, Dreams, and Visions.” “Compos Mentis” tells a version of the Noppera-bo—faceless ghost—story; in “The Kiso Wayfarer,” a young boy senses a ghost tagging alongside a mysterious traveler; and in “Spirit Summoning,” a young girl who is a “fake medium,” surprises herself when she seems to have actually called on a real spirit.

In China, QingMingjie (Tomb-Sweeping Day), in early April, is when people go to their ancestors’ graves to honor their spirits. In “Appointment in K City,” this holiday gives a woman the chance to remember her former lover.

In his journalistic essay on Violence and Drug-Trafficking in Mexico, Mexico’s Juan Villoro brings the cultural inspiration of Day of the Dead out of literature and into real, immediate life:

Today, death is not just the inspiration behind rituals, poetry and philosophy. At the corner of Avenida Patriotismo and Río Mixcoac, one of the busiest crossroads in Mexico City, there is a bridge where people often hang advertisements and protest banners. Last week, I saw a yellow sign advertising a newly fashionable profession: “thanatology," the study of corpses and the manner of their death having become an urgent need.

We hope you enjoy these stories, some wildly fantastical, others all too real.

Connecting with Classrooms Around the World: Resources for Virtual Exchanges, Part II (updated)

Posted on September 20, 2016

Are you and your students interested in meeting students and educators from other parts of the globe? Or would you like to read the international literature from WWB Campus along with another (perhaps international) classroom?

While WWB Campus isn’t currently facilitating international classroom exchanges, we can help teachers identify resources for doing that. Below, we’ve shared an updated list of several organizations and tools that can help you set up virtual exchanges in your classroom. The first section includes resources that are primarily platforms for educator-designed projects; the next group includes those that act as a platform and provide curricula; and the last section includes resources that offer chances to connect globally with pre-developed curricula.

Resources to connect over self-designed projects (i.e. WWB Campus lit groups)

The Global Education Conference hosts a virtual conference for global-minded educators, as well as an active online discussion forum where educators post and connect about projects. Between September 15th and October 1st, GEC has open submissions for the Great Global Project Challenge. (free)

Skype in the Classroom allows students to take virtual field trips, bring experts into the classroom, and connect with travelers, educators and authors. The Around the World with 80 Schools and Learn NC blogs give examples of projects that are possible using Skype in the Classroom for virtual global learning. (free)

After signing up on ePals (Global Community), teachers and students can message each other; teachers can also choose from a library of "Experiences"—cultural exchange, subject-based learning, and language practice—for their classes. (free)

Resources to connect with self-designed projects or with curriculum provided

TakingITGlobal offers a variety of ways for teachers and students to connect globally, including finding or registering your own globally-collaborative project, and finding curriculum-based resources (try searching by subject, like English/Language Arts, or topic, like Culture. (free)

iEARN organizes project-based collaborations for classrooms around the world using online (emails, forums, and live chats) and face-to-face (video chats) interactions. On its Project Collaboration Center page, you can browse the many different projects underway; and, after creating an account, you can explore the different platforms for exchange, including a General Discussion SpaceProjects Space, and Learning Circle Space($100 for individual/$400 for schools)

Resources to connect with curriculum provided

Global Nomads Group provides educators with several different options for education programs that foster dialogue and enhance understanding between students on all seven continents. Find GNG project guides and curricula on Open Educational Resources Commons. (free with registration) 

  • GNG's Youth Voices program provides curricula and platforms for connection, including interactive videoconferences focused around several questions related to global citizenship. The Global Citizens in Action project has a specific cross-cultural focus: classrooms in United States and the Middle East and North Africa connect to explore cultural exchange, media literacy, and global citizenship. (free materials, participation with application) 
  • The Pulse programs are virtual town hall meetings: classrooms across the globe use live chat to discuss current questions and issues. (free)

Finally, with a subscription to Flat Connections, you and your class can take part in collaborative projects with other teachers and students throughout the world. Look at the different levels of project to see what would best fit your class. (fees start at $149 for one 15-student project, $699 for access to all projects)

For more ideas, Asia Society’s Center for Global Education also has lots of helpful resources on how to connect to people involved in global education around the world. Start with their guide to being a #GlobalEducator on Twitter.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on online collaborations, and about how any collaborative projects are going. Let us know what you are up to!

Celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival with Chinese Literature

Posted on September 15, 2016

As you watch the Full Harvest Moon emerge tonight and tomorrow, remember that people around the world will be looking at the moon as they celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. During the holiday, Chinese people gather together with their families, eat mooncakes, look at the full moon, and think about the family members not with them on that day. The holiday is celebrated in China along with the full moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, and falls on Thursday, September 15th, this year.

To celebrate the festival, and connect with the tradition of thinking about family on this day, read two stories that take place in the autumn from WWB Campus’ China unit:

  • Appendix, by Yu Hua, is the story of two boys and their near-mortal admiration of their surgeon father. 
  • Timid As A Mouse, also by Yu Hua, tells the story of a young boy who struggles with the weaknesses—and strengths—that he inherited from his family.

Here’s an introduction to the holiday, also known as “Mooncake Festival”…

And then, a video that illustrates one of the stories of the origin of the festival…

For those in NYC, you can celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival at the Museum of Chinese in America’s event.

中秋节快乐! Zhōngqiū jié kuàilè! (Happy Mid-Autumn Festival)

10 International Stories in the First Person: True, fictional, graphic, and poetic

Posted on September 09, 2016

“The series of events unfolding in that year still remain vivid in my memory,” writes Wang Dan, former student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprisings, in his book, Prison Memoirs. The same sentiment shines through in other stories told in the first person, whether or not they describe an equally infamous event.

Here is a collection of 10 first-person stories from WWB Campus; you can find nonfictional personal narratives, like Wang Dan’s Prison Memoirs; fictional, or partly-fictional short stories; and stories illustrated with graphics and poetry:

Personal narratives:

  • Prison Memoirs, by Wang Dan: an excerpt from his memoir of his time in prison after being one of the student leaders in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China. 
  • Memories of Chernobyl, by Egyptian doctor Mohamed Makhzangi: an excerpt from what he calls an “anti-memoir” about living in Kiev at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown.
  • Walking the Keihin Factory Belt with Stuart Dybek, by Motoyuki Shibata, Japan: an essay that follows Shibata walking through his childhood neighborhood along with Stuart Dybek and his remembered younger self.

Fictional narratives:

  • The Last Picture Show, by Ryu Murakami, Japan: the part-autobiographical story of Yazaki, who moves to Tokyo with his blues band and becomes friends with a member of the yakuza.
  • Appointment in K City, by Li Xiao, China: a fictional narrative that follows the narrator’s investigation of a mysterious death and his developing understanding of poetry and love. 
  • It’s A Chick, Not a Dog, by Jar al-Nabi al-Hilw, Egypt: a short story from the perspective of a child who learns about “the way life works” through a friendship with a dog, and her mother’s friendship with a chick.

Graphic Literature:

  • A Drifting Life, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Japan: an excerpt from Tatsumi’s mostly autobiographical graphic novel about his development as a manga artist and person. 
  • Sharing, by Duncan Jepson and Xie Peng, China: a short graphic story about a character who moves to a new city and struggles with loneliness and a need for belonging.


These links are, of course, only some of the many first-person stories on WWB Campus—visit the Find page for more!

7 Complex Female Characters in International Literature

Posted on August 21, 2016

“A woman could fall in love for a cheap word. That's women for you!" the street vendor Damao asserts in Ye Mi’s short story, “Love’s Labor.” Damao makes lots of confident pronouncements about women, but they are mostly, blessedly, proven false—the woman in the story is much too complex to conform to aphorisms.

Below, you’ll find that story, along with six other, similarly complex, perspectives on women. 

  1. Love’s Labor, a short story by Ye Mi, China: What kind of woman is Fan Qiumian? Wang Longguan and his friend Damao, both street vendors, have very different opinions of Fan—then, she suddenly disappears. (For educators interested in questions of women's characterizations, Teaching Idea 3 is especially relevant.) 
  2. The Guest, a short story by Miral Al-Tahawy, Egypt: Memories of a grandmother who was kidnapped into a Bedouin family at the age of twelve and forever referred to as “The Guest.” (Teaching Idea 2: "Labels.")
  3. Amina, a poem by Iman Mersal, Egypt: A poem reflecting one’s woman’s image of another, a “perfect friend.” (Teaching Idea 2: "Complex Friendships." )
  4. Cavities and Kindness, a short story by Nao-Cola Yamazaki, Japan: Femininity as perceived and embodied by a young Trans woman. (Teaching Idea 1: "The Complexity of 'Cute.'")
  5. The Memory, a short story by Mitsuyo Kakuta, Japan: Who is telling this story of a fashion model with a disturbing secret?  (Teaching Idea 2.)
  6. Sleepless Homeland, a poem by Carmen Boullousa, Mexico: Drug-war-ravaged Mexico, personified as a woman. (Teaching Idea 1.)
  7. My Madre, Pure as Cumulous Clouds, an essay by Liza Bakewell, Mexico: Why is it so “dangerous” to insult someone’s mother in Mexico? A linguistic researcher describes her search for answers to that question. (Teaching Idea 2.)

These links are only a sampling of all the literature by and about women on WWB Campus—visit the Find page for more, and try searching for “women authors.”

Chapatas and McDonald’s: International Writing about Food

Posted on August 02, 2016

Every once in a while, an educator will write to us requesting suggestions for literature around a particular topic or theme. We made the list below in response to one of those requests, from a professor interested in the literature of food. To our surprise, we found that food-related literature is a much broader genre than we had ever imagined, encompassing a prisoner’s memoir, a ghost story, and more:

  • The Kiso Wayfarer, from Japan, featuring a mysterious stranger bearing sushi
  • When My Wife Was a Shiitake, from Japan, in which a widower discovers the transformative power of cooking
  • Cavities and Kindness, also from Japan, in which a love affair ends over ramen
  • Prison Memoirs, from one of the leaders of China's Tiananmen Square uprisings; he describes former prisoners' strange nostalgia for the corn buns in Qincheng Prison
  • A Failed Journey, in which a schoolgirl attempts a trip to the newly opened Mexico City McDonald's
  • Purépecha Mother, also from Mexico, a poem in tribute to a street cart vendor

To find literature around a topic or theme, you can visit the “Find” page and use the filters on the right-hand side – we have already organized collections around themes such as “Leaving Home,” “Love Stories,” and “Revolution.” Or, if you’re looking for a different theme, try the keyword search in the top box. And, of course, if you’d like to ask us, just fill out the form on the “Contact” page.

Thank you! And another way to reach us

Posted on June 22, 2016

We are very happy with the support we received during our campaign to #InspireGlobalReaders. Thank you to everyone who participated by donating and spreading the word.

During the campaign, we also found out that we had some technical issues with our contact page, so if you have tried to reach out to us and haven’t received a response, we are very sorry!

The contact page should be working now, but just in case, another way to reach us is to write directly: [email protected]

Thank you again for your support, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Help WWB Campus Inspire More Young Readers: #InspireGlobalReaders

Posted on June 06, 2016

“What I like about reading literature from different countries is connection …you have to know about more than what’s right in front of your face.” – Lauren Patterson, LaGuardia Community College

What do you and your students like about reading international literature? How has WWB Campus helped you and your students make connections to other cultures?

Since 2014, we at Words Without Borders Campus have been working hard to bring exciting, contemporary international literature to young readers. With our collections of literature from Mexico, China, Egypt, and Japan, we have already reached more than 1,500 high school and college students in the United States and throughout the world. And, importantly, our site is totally free.

Now we are asking you, -- readers, educators, and even students – for help with a new crowd-funding campaign to spread awareness of WWB Campus and raise $15,000 to take our program to the next level.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

We have great things planned for the next phase of WWB Campus, including doubling the number of students we reach, adding new features to the website, and introducing eye-opening literature from more countries (Russia, Iran, and West Africa are in the plans).

Here’s how you can help: 

  • Go to our Generosity page to make a donation in any amount 
  • Share the campaign with your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #InspireGlobalReaders 
  • Reach out to the people in your network, telling them why you think it’s important for students to read more international literature

Will you help us #InspireGlobalReaders by supporting WWB Campus? We’re grateful for donations in any amount, and we’ll be showing our thanks with a range of unique gifts, from temporary tattoos to your name emblazoned on the next collection of WWB Campus literature.

Thank You, Gracias, Shukraan, Xièxiè!

Grant Opportunity: The United States-Japan Foundation’s Pre-College Education Programs

Posted on June 02, 2016

Do you teach Japanese literature, culture, and society in your classroom?

The United States-Japan Foundation supports projects that aim to build mutual knowledge, understanding, and communication between students in the Japan and the United States in its Pre-College Education Program. From Philanthropy News Digest:

Through its Pre-College Education Program, US-JF supports programs that take advantage of new technology to bring Japanese and American teachers and students together; build human networks among teachers on both sides of the Pacific with a mutual interest in teaching and learning about Japan, the U.S., and U.S.-Japan relations, particularly in the fields of social studies and Japanese-language instruction; and invest in programs in regions in both countries that have been underserved in terms of exposure to and resources for learning about the other country.

Letters of intent for grants for this fall are due by July 15th. Full proposal guidelines and information about the application process are available on the United States-Japan Foundation’s website.

May: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Posted on May 19, 2016

The month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month! Christina Torres, in an article for Education Week’s teacher blog The Intersection, writes:

It is one thing to be "seen" in a classroom. It is another to know that someone else-- student, teacher, or even text-- sees not just you, but the cultural narratives and traditions that you carry deep inside you and made you who you are.  

Reading the literature on this site from China and Japan can be a way to celebrate and recognize the cultural traditions of students of Asian heritage and in doing so, allow them to be “seen” in the classroom.

Poems like “Poems for Parting” and “Poem to the tune ‘Pure Peace’” connect to the deep-seated literary traditions of China; and “Spirit Summoning” and “Compos Mentis,” connect to Japanese legends and cultural practices.

We also recommend a viewing of our interview with Chinese-American author and translator Wenguang Huang, who eloquently describes his sense of mission in bringing Chinese realities to American readers.

Other ways to celebrate the month are:

  • Read through Asia Society’s archive of interviews with Asian Americans.
  • Wing on Wo & Co in New York’s Chinatown has begun a summer series of panels and events about Chinatown culture and community. Keep an eye on events like this in New York and elsewhere and take part!

How are you celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month?

May 21: World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Posted on May 16, 2016

Following UNESCO’s 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, the UN General Assembly declared May 21 as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

Starting in 2011, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has joined with UNESCO and other partners to launch the world campaign “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion.” The campaign aims:

  • To raise awareness worldwide about the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion. 
  • To build a world community of individuals committed to support diversity with real and everyday life gestures. 
  • To combat polarization and stereotypes to improve understanding and cooperation among people from different cultures.

As we read through the UN’s list of ten things you might do to celebrate the day, we saw that it’s possible to do many of those things from WWB Campus. Here’s the list, with suggestions on how to incorporate WWB Campus in italics:

  1. Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures (The Guggenheim’s Tarascan Empire materials, for example, complement the poem “Purepecha Mother.”
  2. Invite a family or people in the neighborhood from another culture or religion to share a meal with you and exchange views on life. 
  3. Rent a movie or read a book from another country or religion than your own. (This applies to any piece of literature on WWB Campus! For different religions: “The Veiler of All Deeds” tells a story that centers around religious and social rules in Islam; the contextual materials for “Spirit Summoning” include information on contemporary religions in Japan, including Shintoism.
  4. Invite people from a different culture to share your customs. 
  5. Read about the great thinkers of other cultures than yours (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi). 
  6. Go next week-end to visit a place of worship different than yours and participate in the celebration. 
  7. Play the “stereotypes game.” Stick a post-it on your forehead with the name of a country. Ask people to tell you stereotypes associated with people from that country. You win if you find out where you are from.  
  8. Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures; learn more about Hanukkah or Ramadan or about amazing celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Spain or Qingming festival in China. (Mrs. Saniya’s Holiday” takes place during Eid al-Fitr, the holiday celebrated at the end of Ramadan; in “Appointment in K City,” Xiaoli’s mother celebrates the traditional Chinese holidays Festival of Ghosts and the Double Ninth Festival; in “A Failed Journey,” which takes place in Mexico, Odette receives a bicycle from the Three Kings.
  9. Spread your own culture around the world through our Facebook page and learn about other cultures. 
  10. Explore music of a different culture. (Listen to Egyptian musician Umm Kulthum while reading “Proud Beggars;” narco-corridos alongside “Sleepless Homeland” and “Notes on a Zombie Cataclysm;” or a collection of multi-cultural music inspired by cicadas with Can Xue’s “The Old Cicada.”)

For those who live in New York City, AFS-USA is celebrating with a World Day for Cultural Diversity event this Thursday, May 19th. Register for the event by following this link.

Share with us how you used WWB Campus to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity!

News: Literacy Today's 30 Under 30!

Posted on May 11, 2016

The International Literacy Association’s magazine Literacy Today is seeking nominations for its second annual 30 Under 30 list, which aims to highlight innovative up-and-coming literary champions from all over the world. The list honors “educators…administrators, authors, librarians, students, nonprofit leaders, politicians, technology experts, volunteers, and advocates who are advancing literacy for all.”

You can use this nomination form to nominate someone who deserves this honor. Nominations are open until 11:59 p.m. ET on May 16th, 2016.

New Unit: Literature from Japan!

Posted on March 31, 2016

We’re very excited to announce that we are publishing the first two parts of our newest country unit – this time we’re in Japan!

Read Japan

To debut the unit, we are publishing literature around the themes of “Ghosts, Dreams, and Visions” and “Love Stories,” which overlaps with the “Love Stories” theme in the China Unit. We’re also publishing an excerpt from the novel Sentimental Education, which translator Allison Markin Powell reads from and discusses in our newest video.

In these modules, you will have the chance to read a variety of beautiful, inspiring, sometimes dark, and sometimes humorous literature. In the tabbed sections next to the literature, you’ll also find specifically designed lesson plans for each piece of literature, and resources to help students understand the cultural, historical, geographical, and literary context. The Context and Playlist tabs in these modules include links to traditional Japanese ghost stories; a collection of dream-inspired works; maps of locations in the stories; Japanese home-cooking recipes; videos and articles about contemporary issues in Japan, and much more. Also, to facilitate classroom discussions, at the top of each Context tab includes the audio recording of the pronunciation for the Japanese names in each story.

Stay tuned for the following modules to come: the rest of the literature in the "Leaving Home" theme, which overlaps with themes in the Egypt and Mexico units; “Memories;” and "Transformations" will all be published over the next few months.

In addition to the new literature, teaching ideas, and contextual materials, we are also pleased to share a new WWB Campus video, which features translator Allison Markin Powell. Powell talks about her experiences in Japan and take on Japanese culture, introduces some interesting Japanese words, and reads an excerpt in Japanese from Sentimental Education.

Using WWB in the Classroom: Teachers' Ideas

Posted on February 22, 2016

During the piloting phase of Words Without Borders Campus, we have worked with teachers of English, world literature, global history and citizenship and other subjects. It has been inspiring to hear about some of the ways educators have used the materials, and how their students have responded. 

Alona Guevarra, an instructor in the English Department at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, Philippines, used Carmen Boullosa's poetic response to Mexico's drug wars, “Sleepless Homeland,” with her Introduction to Poetry and Drama class. In order to extend students’ interpretive understanding into a creative project, Guevarra assigned students to work in groups to create their own reinterpretations of the poem. One group of students made the video below.

Lit 14: Sleepless Homeland from Clar Tagaza on Vimeo.

Of the video and the assignment, Guevarra says: 

The students were able to relate to the poem's symbolic level and tie it up with their generation's concerns. I also think that the poem is relatable given some similarities between Mexican and Philippine socio-historical realities. The problems of 'homeland" are quite similar in the two settings.

(If you’re interested in filmmaking in the classroom, take a look at two articles from Edutopia: one gives tips on how to insert movie-making into your lesson plan and the other is a playlist of instructional videos about filmmaking.)

Like Alona Guevarra, Vermont teacher Whitney Kaulbach, of Lamoille Union High School, connected the contemporary literature on the site to current events. Kaulbach used Iman Mersal’s poem “Sometimes Wisdom Possesses Me” after the Paris attacks in November. First, Kaulbach had her AP World History students read and pass around the poem, annotating favorite passages and highlighting questions or connections. Then, she played a video of Mersal reading her poem “The Clot” in Arabic. Kaulbach says she wanted the students’ first experience hearing Arabic to be “pretty and peaceful and not connected to the news.” 

Finally, Kaulbach posted documents on the wall for students to walk around and read, leave comments on and look for connections with: a BBC timeline of Egyptian history available in the Context tab of Mersal's “Sometimes Wisdom Possesses Me;” a quote by Bernie Sanders on international forces; and a map of ISIS attacks from the New York Times. 

(Over on Education Week’s Global Learning blog, guest blogger Susanna Pierce also wrote about the challenge of teaching about terrorism.)

Miciah Hussey, an instructor in the “Great Works of World Literature” course at Baruch College in New York, also taught Iman Mersal's poetry, as well as the story “Dreams and Memories of a Common Man,” by Marcos Matías Alonso, and an excerpt from Prison Memoirs, by the Tiananmen Square protest leader Wang Dan. 

Hussey began a culminating class discussion with the question, “What’s one issue you would write about if you were writing a novel?” Gentrification, economic equality, racial equality, and freedom from oppression topped the students lists; they were then able to find similar themes in the readings (gentrification in Alonso and Mersal’s literature; freedom from oppression in Prison Memoirs.) In class, students watched the "Tank Man" video filmed during the Tiananmen Square protests, available in the Context tab of "Prison Memoirs," and discussed their responses to Wang Dan and the other authors. These kinds of discussions contributed to students' understanding of the overall theme of Hussey’s class – world literature and human connection.

We would love to hear from educators who taught with materials from WWB Campus. If you’d like to share new ideas, or were inspired by the ones in this post, please write to [email protected].

“What if education encouraged us to care for our world?”

Posted on February 19, 2016

UNESCO recently released an inspiring video that expresses its approach to Global Citizenship Education.

UNESCO’s Global Citizenship Education (GCED) initiative “aims to empower learners to assume active roles to face and resolve global challenges and to become proactive contributors to a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure world.”

The materials on WWB Campus can help teachers meet the goals of the GCED initiative by fostering empathy across cultures and helping students to appreciate cultural diversity. 

To learn more about UNESCO’s program, read about their approach to Global Citizenship Education on their website.

Translation Tuesday! A Free Online List of Translated Arabic Literature for Young Readers

Posted on February 16, 2016

To celebrate Translation Tuesday this week, we’re sharing a great list of Arabic literature for young readers that ArabLit, the blog for Arabic Literature in English, published back in 2014.

Resources for Teaching Translated Literature to Young Readers: A Free Online List-in-Progress

The criteria for the list were that the works had to be available online for free, and also “accessible, interesting, compelling, well-translated, and worthwhile for students aged 11-18.”

For those who are familiar with the Egyptian literature on WWB Campus, you’ll recognize some writers and translators featured on WWB Campus as well: Nawal El-Saadawi, Khaled Mattawa, and Elisabeth Jaquette. You’ll also find the graphic story “The Apartment in Bab el-Louk” on the list. It was originally published in Words Without Borders; now we’ve re-published it on Campus, along with contextual materials and teaching ideas.

 Thanks to ArabLit for this helpful resource!

Pilot WWB Campus this spring!

Posted on January 15, 2016

Are you a teacher of English, world literature, global history, or a related subject? Do you enjoy international literature, and want to use it in your classroom? Sign up to be part of a new round of pilots for Words Without Borders Campus, WWB's online education initiative.

Words Without Borders Campus presents exciting texts from WWB's monthly magazine, organized by country and by theme; alongside each piece of literature are multimedia contextual materials, resources for further exploration, and ideas for lesson plans. To date, WWB Campus features units of literature from Egypt, China, and Mexico; units on literature from Japan and Russia are planned for 2016. Our goal—with the help and invaluable feedback of educators and students —is to create opportunites for students to engage with the thousands of rich global texts in the WWB archives, fostering deep cross-cultural understanding and stimulating lasting interest and passion for international literature.

Participants in the pilots will teach one or more of the many poems, stories, or essays on the site and provide feedback in surveys and an online forum. To allow participants a large window of time for participation, pilots will begin in early February and end in late April. If you are a secondary or college-level educator who might be interested in taking part in the spring 2016 round of pilots, please write to [email protected], and include the name of your school and the class(es) in which you'd like to pilot our program. 

Thank you for your consideration, and we hope to hear from you soon! 

Virtual Exchanges: Connecting With Classrooms Around The World

Posted on January 13, 2016

Reading literature from other countries brings us closer to the people who live there, and can stimulate students’ desire to connect with peers around the world.   Virtual exchanges use technology to facilitate live, international interactions right in the classroom. In a virtual exchange, classrooms use technology to connect with other classrooms or individuals outside of their local community, either once or   over a longer period of time. Often, virtual exchanges come with curricula for enhancing knowledge before, during, and after the interactions. 

 Below we’ve put together a list of several organizations and tools that can help you set up virtual exchanges in your classroom. 

  • Global Nomads provides educators with several different options for education programs that foster dialogue and enhance understanding between students on all seven continents. 
    • The Youth Voices program provides curricula and platforms for connection, including interactive videoconferences focused around several questions related to global citizenship. The Global Citizens in Action project is coming soon, and has a specific cross-cultural focus: classrooms in United States and Saudi Arabia will connect to explore answers to the question, “How do we, as youth, promote dialogue between our countries and cultures?”
    • The Pulse programs are virtual town hall meetings: classrooms across the globe use live chat to discuss current questions and issues.
  • Skype in the Classroom allows students to take virtual field trips, bring experts into the classroom, and connect with travelers, educators and authors. The Around the World with 80 Schools and Learn NC blogs give examples of projects that are possible using Skype in the Classroom for virtual global learning.
  • TakingITGlobal offers Digital Youth Engagement programs like Culture Connect, which features four-week long digital exchanges organized around topics like “Daily Life,” “My Roots,” and “Our Quest.”
  •  After signing up on ePals (Global Community), both teachers and students can message each other; teachers can also choose from a library of "Experiences" – cultural exchange, subject-based learning, and language practice – for their classes. 

Helping Students Become Global Citizens

Posted on December 07, 2015

In a recent column of Education Week’s Global Learning column, Jason Harshman, Assistant Professor of Social Studies and Global Education at University of Iowa, writes about the three ways that educators can help students truly become global citizens: through reflection, action, and variation in the classroom.

Working with international literature can fit especially well into the reflection part of global citizenship education. When reading international literature, students may come upon ideas and practices that seem strange, different, or disturbing to them. Harshman writes that educators can remind their students that being uncomfortable with difference is an important part of the learning process. Indeed, what we strive for as global citizens is not to never feel uncomfortable, but to learn to restrain from judging when we do. Confronting the sometimes-unfamiliar worlds in international literature is a good way to practice this. 

Harshman suggests the following questions as part of the reflective process:

  • Whose perspective is missing?
  • What influences my global perspective and how does my perspective inform my decision making as an educator/student?

Read the full article for more thoughtful and powerful suggestions.