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  • Teaching Hemingway and Race ed. by Gary Edward Holcomb
  • Alyssa Young
Gary Edward Holcomb, ed. Teaching Hemingway and Race. Kent State UP, 2018. 142 p.

How do we take the works of America's machismo male figure, Ernest Hemingway, and utilize them strategically with pedagogical objectives for enlightening students about race? As an English Composition instructor, I feel the urgent need to verse my students in the topic of race, and how it appears in texts. Unfortunately, there is a lack of material that provides examples of literature and pedagogical strategies for teaching about the presence of race. That is, until I found Teaching Hemingway and Race, part of Kent State University Press's The Teaching Hemingway Series. The series exhibits varying topics found within [End Page 207] Hemingway's works, which include gender, modernism, war, race, and more. Teaching Hemingway and Race contributes a vital lens of pedagogical approaches to teachers, instructors, and professors alike who seek a detailed guide for how to instruct students about race.

Divided into two categories, the essays describe accounts of teaching experience in accordance with the goal of instruction on race. Holcomb introduces a synthesis and general overview, giving the audience a framework to have in mind. The pedagogical category features essays on approaches with strategies to teach students how to read and interpret representations of race and ethnicity. All chapters have a clearly stated purpose and a rationale for support. The second category compares the writings of Hemingway and similar raceoriented authors, and demonstrates how to use them together in the classroom.

Marc Dudley's essay guides instructors in teaching "The Battler," and provides background, "Hemingway works as an impressionist of sorts, painting character and landscape for striking sensory effect; but he also works as a reporter, a historian, and sometimes a political agitator, looking both to document and manipulate truth for optimal psychic effect" (8). This information gives teachers who are not familiar with Hemingway's life and work the foundation to appreciate his writings and contributions made to teaching race. Analysis of the characters of ethnic background helps students form questions and thoroughly dissect "The Battler" to discover how it portrays race. Dudley maintains explanations of his academic moves in the classroom and details what students gain from each reading and exercise.

Margaret Wright-Cleveland elaborates on the unique racial education Hemingway received while living in Oak Park, Illinois, which ultimately influenced his works (16) and builds the foundation of historical events in order to apply them to activities such as the Critical Race Theory.

Ross Tangedal addresses the lack of scholarly attention pertaining to race, and encourages attentive reading from students towards complexities of race in literature. He analyzes the benefits that "Death in the Afternoon" and "Green Hills of Africa" bring to the classroom. After reading the works, he suggests questioning students about the roles of the fighter's ethnic backgrounds and characterizations, and states the imperative nature of the activity, "If race is to be understood in either work, attention must be given to [End Page 208] Hemingway's treatment of his experts and their activities," noting that experts were people of ethnic background (39). The remaining three pedagogy chapters follow suit by detailing historical context, introducing the works analyzed, explaining the sections that make students uncomfortable, encouraging instructors to push through to ensure that they arrive at the cognitive state to ask intelligent questions, and expounding upon the final understanding of the lesson. I suspect that the first category of essays is more appealing to instructors who are seeking step-by-step outlines of how to approach a lesson and focus on race because of the introduction of learning outcomes, scaffolding recommendations, and exact questions that should be used.

The comparison category contains entries on teaching Hemingway's work in combination with the texts of additional authors who write about race. Each essay begins with the objective and personal interests of the essayist, and the learning outcomes they hope to stimulate within their classrooms. These comparisons act less as a guide and instead present the commonalities between Hemingway and additional writers. The essays integrate the topics of the Harlem Renaissance, dislocation and questions of...


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pp. 207-209
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