Working with Young Men at Central States SER

by Vanessa Borjon

Central States SER (SER) is a workforce development and education organization that believes in the potential of each and every individual. The atmosphere at SER is super lively—the walls are covered in colorful murals and there always seems to be music bumping from somewhere, and inside other classrooms you can hear laughter, chatter, or sometimes more serious conversation happening.

My first book group happened at SER on September 11th. There were about eight young men in the room, plus their teacher, Moises, and the program director, Pete. Pete facilitated a short opening with the group where we went around the circle and introduced ourselves and shared what we were feeling. After that, I started book group and for a first day it went as expected: the group was quiet and a bit hesitant to share, but there was still just enough curiosity to keep them engaged.

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Reading Yesika Salgado’s Corazon at Sinclair

by Vanessa Borjon

literature for all of us corazonYesika Salgado’s debut poetry collection, Corazon is a romantic yet heartbreaking journey through understanding love and yearning as a Latinx* mujer. When I borrowed this book from a close friend and read through poems that seem reflective of my own overly-dramatic Mexican heart, I knew immediately that I wanted to write a curriculum around Salgado’s poems. They’d be perfect talking pieces for my young women’s group. I excitedly marked up the pages with questions I had in mind: what is it like to be daughters of immigrants living in what feels like two different worlds (“Ni de aqui, ni de alla”); how does displacement affect our propensity to sustain relationships; what does love look like when we are trying to heal from trauma; what is good love and what is bad love?

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Barnyard Banter at Simpson Academy

by Erin Brown

Literature for All of Us is delighted to continue its long-term partnership with Simpson Academy for Young Women, the only high school in Chicago specifically for pregnant and parenting teens. 


This year we are facilitating six groups at Simpson, and are fortunate to be working with the entire school. Once per month our discussions focus on literature for the students themselves, such as the poetry of Maya Angelou and Naomi Shihab Nye. We also meet with them monthly for our EPIC program, which incorporates discussion of quality children’s literature with broader themes of attachment, early literacy, and the joys and challenges of parenting.

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Reading Tyrell by Coe Booth with Second Chance Students

by Stella Akua Mensah

literature for all of us Second Chance TyrellDuring the last month of my book group at Second Chance Alternative High School, we started Tyrell by Coe Booth. We talked about sexual harassment, mentors, parental figures that are not our parents, receiving and offering earnest support when folks are struggling, homes away from home, homelessness, poverty, polyamory, different roles we play in our families, dealing with neglectful mothers, and responsibilities.

We opened the group with the question, “How do you define being ‘grown’ or being an ‘adult’?” People had a lot of takes on this, mentioning living alone, financial independence, and spiritual/emotional independence. Participants agreed quite unanimously that we are never fully “grown”—that we never stop learning and evolving.

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