by Li-Young Lee
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
The Negro Speaks of RiversLangston Hughes
The speaker in this famous Langston Hughes poem uses symbolism to explain the connection they feel between their ancestry and identity.Pair “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” with “I Ask My Mother to Sing” and ask students to discuss how one’s ancestral history is a part of their identity. How are the speakers impacted by the history of their family and ancestors? Why does this affect each speaker’s identity?
In Nikki Giovanni's "Legacies," a girl's grandmother wants to teach her a recipe.Pair “I Ask My Mother To Sing” with “Legacies” and ask students to discuss how both poems depict how tradition and knowledge are passed down in families. What is the significance of passing ideas down to younger generations? How do the young characters in both poems respond to this tradition?
Blue-Sky HomeLisa Papademetriou
In Lisa Papademetriou's short story "Blue-Sky Home" a girl's struggles to get her grandfather to accept that she identifies as an American.Pair “I Ask My Mother to Sing” with “Blue-Sky Home” and ask students to discuss how the speakers feel about their family’s home countries. Why might Li-Young Lee and Phoebe not feel as connected to China and Greece as their older relatives? How do students think this impacts their identity?
Tansen's GiftDawn Renée Levesque
In "Tansen's Gift," a talented musician named Tansen faces a dangerous challenge: perform a song that could result in his demise.Pair “I Ask My Mother to Sing” with “Tansen’s Gift” and ask students to compare the themes of both texts. What does music mean to the characters in the poem and story? What power or significance does it hold?
Dragons Race on WaterNatasha Yim
In "Dragons Race on Water," Natasha Yim describes dragon boat races of the past and present.Pair “I Ask My Mother to Sing” with “Dragons Race on Water” and have students think about how memories of home are important in both texts. What language does the poet use to talk about memories in “I Ask My Mother to Sing”? What language does the author use to describe her memories in “Dragons Race on Water”? How are memories important in both texts?
In "Ribbons," a young girl struggles to connect with her grandmother who has recently arrived from China.Pair “I Ask My Mother to Sing” with “Ribbons” and ask students to discuss the common themes in the two texts. In both texts, how is knowledge shared across generations? How does the speaker in “I Ask My Mother to Sing” learn about China? How does Stacy learn more about her grandmother? Why do you think this knowledge is important to the speaker in “I Ask My Mother to Sing” and Stacy in “Ribbons”?
A Movement's SoulSusan Hurley-Glowa and Cynthia Levinson
In "A Movement's Soul," Susan Hurley-Glowa and Cynthia Levinson explain why singing was an important part of the civil rights movement.Pair “I Ask My Mother to Sing” with “A Movement’s Soul” and have students discuss how singing is important to people in both texts. How does singing make the people in the poem feel in “I Ask My Mother to Sing”? How did singing make the people fighting for civil rights feel in “A Movement’s Soul”? How is music a powerful way to bring people together?
Cold WarMargarita Engle
In "Cold War," the speaker presents a different side of Cuba than the one that was presented by the media.Pair “I Ask My Mother to Sing” with “Cold War” and have students compare how both poets use strong imagery to explain the connection they feel between their heritage and their identity. Which words or phrases do the two poems use to convey a sense of importance and meaning about the places described? How does the language of each poem give the reader clues about the speaker's identity and heritage? As an extension activity, have students craft their own poem about a place that has special meaning to them or their family using the paired texts as a guide.