I love my niece and nephew and my friend’s children, but the more I’m around them the more I realize how incredibly tough it is to be a parent. It is, without a doubt, the hardest job imaginable. Not only is there no instruction manua,l but, as literature has shown us, parents screwing up is the primary reason the memoir genre even exists–ahem, Augusten Burroughs and Jeannette Walls. In fact, so much of who we are as adults is shaped by the way in which we are raised. Therefore, when looking for pieces of non-fiction to pair with coming-of-age novels, consider providing texts that explore the role of parenting. These could bring about discussions hypothesizing the way in which our character’s personalities are shaped.
“Welcome to the Age of Overparenting,” is an article that appeared in Boston Magazine that describes the consequences of being too protective as a parent and provides suggestions on how to parent. Have your students read the article and identify the qualities that lead to and the effects of overparenting. Then, have them evaluate the role of parenting as possible interpretative motivations for the actions of the characters in the following pieces of literature: David Copperfield, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Hamlet, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Jane Eyre. Even a text that is antithetical, like To Kill a Mockingbird, would work well with this article.
In a different activity, have the students compare and contrast the methods of parenting in “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” by Amy Chua, and “No More Mrs Nice Mom,” by Judith Warner. These texts in particular would be great pieces to study alongside “Mother Tongue,” by Amy Tan, another piece of non-fiction. While all are explicitly cultural-based and would work well with similar-focused novels like House on Mango Street and Song of Solomon, the interpretation deduced from these articles could be used in conjunction with the above texts as well.