Wish I Thought of a Reading List Sooner!

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Two weeks ago, I was given the challenging task of diving into a deep reading of various books and articles from scholars in the topic I want to look at for my thesis. (African American Vernacular English or AAVE for short). Although I am only a month into the process of my thesis, finding exactly what I want to discuss. During our Peer Review session two weeks ago, I discovered that my thesis seems to be wet cement. I am holding bricks in my hand to build a foundation, but I don’t know where to put the bricks or where to start. I know that the subject of AAVE is what I am wholeheartedly passionate about but what exactly?

I am happy and proud to say that my deep reading and studying of the reading list below was a success. I wish it were something that I had thought about earlier, then maybe I would be a little further along in my thesis. However, nothing was lost. Once you check out the reading list, it is ambitious to finish everything in two weeks. As I was reading Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, there was something that stood out to me, and it made me think that maybe this was where I could place my bricks. Native American teacher Martha Demientieff states this in Delpit’s book:

“We have to feel a little sorry for them because they have only one way to talk. We’re going to learn two ways to say things. Isn’t that better? One way will be our Heritage way. The other will be Formal English. Then, when we go to get jobs, we’ll be able to talk like those people who only know and can only really listen to one way. Maybe after we get the jobs, we can help them to learn how it feels to have another language, like ours, that feels so good. We’ll talk like them when we have to, but we’ll always know our way is best.” (pg 41)

In my previous blog, I expressed the concern or more the need to not write about my family for my thesis and focus on how language and the use of AAVE have affected not only me but my academic self. I am not going to fully exclude my family, but if you read the blog, you’ll see a few reasons why I want to go down a different path. I haven’t spoken to my professor or class about this decision yet, but I do believe I have done the right thing. I was about to focus on how language plays a part in forming one’s identity at a higher level and more than we think. The quote above from Demientieff perfectly articulates what I’m trying to develop my thesis around. (I think.) After reading that passage, I thought to myself, Yeah, why can’t we learn how to say things in two different ways?. I think about second language speakers of Polish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, or French who are deemed to be skilled when balancing multiple languages even though their language use of Standard English is not always at its best. They may get a pass because they speak [set languages stated above]. However, when it comes to AAVE, switching languages seems to have a negative connotation to it. As if someone who speaks AAVE is considered having less knowledge or unintelligent.

Now, I do understand that when it comes to African Americans who speak this form of English has had ancestors who were denied access to education, and it was illegal for them to learn how to read and write. However, because of these limitations, we (the speakers of AAVE) have formulated a beautiful and complex language filled with vocabulary, grammar, and rhythm. We too can code-switch (switching back and forth from both languages) and know when and where to use Standard English and AAVE. I’m rambling, but I guess what I’m trying to say is: If it’s better to know two ways to say something, then why doesn’t my language fit in this category and not accepted? 

I’ll be honest, I still need help developing a thesis statement, but I do feel as if I am coming along well with the beginning stages of this process.

Reading List:

  • Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (2006)
  • Bell Hooks: Race and Representation (1992)
  • Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2005)
  • John R. Rickford: What is Ebonics (African American English)? (2012)
  • Alice Lee: Why “Correcting” African American Language Speakers is Counterproductive (2017)
  • Felicia R. Lee: Lingering Conflict in the Schools: Black Dialect vs. Standard Speech (1994)
  • Samuel A. Perez: Using Ebonics or Black English as a Bridge to Teaching Standard English (1999)
  • John Baugh: American Varieties: African Amerian English: Ebony + Phonics (2005)
  • Sonja L. Lanehart: African American Vernacular English and Education: The Dynamics of Pedagogy, Ideology, and Identity (1998)
  • Liberation Education Project: African American Vernacular English (2017)
  • Tylah Silva: What’s the Difference Between Slang and AAVE?: Understanding the Cultural History of Language is Critical When Deciding Whether to Bae or not to Bae (2017)
  • Lisa Delpit: The Skin that We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom (2002) *Recently added to the list*
  • *This isn’t a book but it’s part of my research* The documentary Talking Black in America (Click Here for the link to their website).

I am excited to present what I have for class tomorrow but also nervous! I want this thesis to be at my best.

Until Next Week Y’all!

Previous Blogs for Pleasure Reading:

Jumping to the Halfway Point: Too Early for a Breakdown?

Hop in the Delorean…We’re Going for a Ride

2 thoughts on “Wish I Thought of a Reading List Sooner!

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