Professor of English Megan Isaac mentored Honors Fellow and environmental and sustainability studies major Lucy Garcia ’23 to write a book chapter on how to teach using LGBTQIA-themed young adult novels.
Lucy Garcia ’23 is an environmental and sustainability studies major. Megan Isaac is a professor of English.
How they connected to co-author a book chapter in a manual for high school English teachers is an Elon story through-and-through.
Garcia and Isaac’s chapter, “‘Felix Ever After’: A Mystery in Progress,” appears in the second edition of “Queer Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the English Language Arts Curriculum,” which was published earlier this year. The book serves as a resource for high school teachers who want to include contemporary young adult novels with LGBTQIA themes in teaching fundamental literary and reading comprehension objectives.
“The purpose of the book is not to teach LGBTQIA literature, but to teach traditional high school pedagogy and happen to have the sample material come from that genre of young adult books,” Isaac said.
Their chapter’s subject, “Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender, involves a transgender teen trying to solve the mystery of who posted photos of him before he transitioned and is sending him transphobic messages. The chapter includes pre-reading, post-reading and in-process activities to engage students in the skills of reading and interpreting the mystery genre.
“‘Felix Ever After’ is a clear five-star, all-around great book,” Garcia said. “It’s so universal, but its themes and central character are so unique and so new. I’m honestly thrilled that it exists. ”
Garcia, an Honors Fellow also minoring in policy studies and geographic information systems, is planning a career in urban planning. So how did she come to co-author a chapter on LGBTQIA young adult literature with an English professor?
In her first year, she enrolled in Isaac’s Honors seminar, Forging Culture Through Children’s Literature, due to her interest in young adult fiction and literature in general. It happened to be the spring 2020 semester – with in-person instruction cut short by COVID that March. Even still, Garcia felt so connected to the course material and Isaac that she reached out for additional young adult titles with queer themes as the semester ended.
Early in Fall 2020, when Isaac saw a call for chapters for a guide to teaching English using LGBTQIA young adult literature, she instantly thought of Garcia.
“She was a great analyzer of literature and had great insights. I knew she would bring things from the class to the research, and that she was also familiar with the current high-school conditions and practices, “Isaac said.” Lucy was a fantastic research partner. She is smart and had great ideas to contribute, and when you work with a partner who is so responsible, they make you a better researcher. ”
Because “Felix Ever After” incorporates many allusions to current pop culture, Isaac and Garcia included exercises to emphasize teaching literary allusions – as well as a guide to those allusions for teachers who may not be fluent in Ariana Grande or the Marvel universe. It ends with a glossary and a teacher’s guide to LGBTQIA resources for additional information, which Isaac credits to Garcia.
“I would encourage other professors to work with students outside of their disciplines,” Isaac said. “This was the first time I’d taught ENG 499: Research in English with a student who did not at least have a minor in English. I was fortunate Lucy was up for trying something outside of her majors and minors. ”
Garcia says the process helped her prepare for her honors thesis research, honing project-and time-management skills.
“The transition from not doing research to doing research is a big one,” Garcia said. “This helped me realize that research is not this big, scary thing. It’s serious, but it’s also an adventure and a fun slice of college life.
“I think this is a cool success story of Elon’s professors,” Garcia added. “It’s emblematic of the experience I’ve had at Elon. If you reach out to a professor because of a common interest and want to work with them, you can involve yourself more. Elon has no shortage of great professors. ”