The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "Coloring Outside the Lines"
Coloring Outside the Lines
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Lesson for "Coloring Outside the Lines"

When the writer becomes the only black girl in her 7th grade class she suddenly becomes acutely aware of being black. She feels pressure to represent “the race,” not just herself. She also begins listening to rock music (which is ridiculed by a friend). At the same time, she endures ignorant comments from her non-black peers. The pressure leads her to become hypercritical of black teens.

However, one day a black friend confesses to the writer she hates herself because of her black skin. She is shocked, and seeing a version of her own views reflected back at her makes the writer realize that her attitudes have become “poisoned.” She vows to change and become more accepting of herself and other black people.

Discussion suggestion: Have students read just the first half of this story. Stop them before they continue and ask them to predict what happens next. Will the writer become even more intolerant of her black peers? Or will she change in some way? What might spur her to change? Why? If she changes, will it just be a matter of changing her mind? Or will it take a while? What would be convincing evidence of her change [e.g., listening to different music or reading different books].

Then have students read the end of the story and compare their predictions with what happened. What do they think of the writer’s change? Are they convinced? Why or why not? What do they think she means when she says, “I couldn’t let my fears decide my behavior or tastes anymore”?
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(NYC-2006-03-03)

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