Women’s Literature; Advancing Grandview’s English Curriculum


Katie Fisher

For decades, the standard English curriculum has stuck to the same repetitive profiles of its typical authors. While they cover varying topics, they bridge on one commonality.

Almost all are male. 

The top ten most commonly taught books at the high school level, save To Kill A Mockingbird, were all written by men. Every. Single. One. 

Yet, for Grandview’s rising seniors, a new class has been offered. A women’s literature class has been added to the 2022 class roster. 

Mrs. Russo, an AP Literature and Honors English teacher, has been the driving force behind this class’s creation, with the motivation being close to her heart.

“I wanted to teach a concurrent enrollment class for seniors, and then I was trying to figure out what is missing from our curriculum and what I could bring to the table,” Russo said. “I thought that I would be really good at teaching women’s literature because I never get to teach the female perspective.” 

The class will explore a chronological timeline of the female perspective, with a special focus on our own geographical location. 

“[The class will be] from the American female perspective,” Russo said.  “From history to today and then we would talk about the change and how the literature reflects the change and [evolution].”

Although women in America will all share a baseline common experience, major cultural differences can play a major factor in their experience, which will be explored throughout the course. 

“[We are] going to be looking at it through the way women are talking about their own acknowledgement of being a female [whether] Latina, Black, white, poor,” Russo said. 

Beyond exploring different cultures, the topics of gender identity will be heavily explored throughout the semester-long course.  

“We are going to have some gender discussion as well, about femininity and masculinity,”  Russo said.  “We are going to go trans and gay [as well].”

Students who enrolled in the class next year share similar wishes for the course to go beyond the typical American women’s experience. 

“I hope that it is super diverse,” junior Kaitlyn Forth said. “I hope that there are a bunch of trans women and POC women, and not just white women. Gay women. I want to see all the women.”

Others are attracted to the class simply for the break it promises from the typical English curriculum reading list. 

“Throughout school we are usually reading books written by old white men, so I wanted to change it up,” junior Gabe Hockenberry said. 

Open discussion will actively be encouraged throughout the course, especially with the unique, personal experiences that will be explored. 

“[I] thought that this would just be a good place to make women feel safe in a good place where we can talk about things they don’t get to normally talk about,” Russo said. 

Students enrolled in the class for next year have similar wishes for an open form of discussion, both around personal experience and the books that will be read. 

“[I want to] just continue to push our thoughts, and [hope] we can actually speak about our opinions on the matters that we talk about in the books,” junior Noah Burgan said.  

The books included in the curriculum will be a mixture of classics and newer tellings to showcase the everchanging female experience. 

“[I could do] The Blues Eye, [or] Pride and Prejudice. I could do Kindred from Octavia Butler,”   Russo said.  “I could do Garcia Girls lost their Accents. I could do Joy Luck Club.” 

This book list aligns well with the wishes of many students. 

“I would hope for a good mixture of both modern books, but also older books,” Hockenberry said.  “Just kind of a good mixture rather than just focusing on the past, but also bringing in the present.”

With the current school year coming to an end, Russo is beginning to shift her attention to planning for Women’s Literature, with a hope for all, not just women, to be able to enjoy and take something away from the course. 

“I’m just really excited,” Russo said. “[The class can be for anyone who] wants to read about something different from a different perspective. So I think it could be for anybody, doing anything.”