by I.M. Desta
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.
Going to School as a RefugeeCaroline Garrison
In the feature article "Going to School as a Refugee," Caroline Garrison describes the fears and struggles of refugee students in Dallas schools.Pair “Going to School as a Refugee” with “Sweet Difficult Sounds” and ask students to compare the experiences of SB with Nothukula. How do these texts affect your perspective of what foreigners experience in America? What challenges do foreign students face as they enter new schools in America? Based on these texts, where do young foreigners find hope and confidence?
Diary of a Teenage RefugeeAmira
This account comes from a 16-year-old Syrian girl named Amira and details the past three years of her life in a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Lebanon.Pair “Diary of a Teenage Refugee” with “Sweet Difficult Sounds” and have students consider why refugees might choose to come to America. Even though “Sweet Difficult Sounds” does not provide a backstory for why Nothukula came to America, readers know she left her family behind to live with her Aunt Thandi. Use this text to help students write diary entries from Nothukula’s point of view. These could take place before, during, or after the events of “Sweet Difficult Sounds.”
A Quick Note on Getting Better at Difficult ThingsTa-Nehisi Coates
In "A Quick Note on Getting better at Difficult Things," Ta-Nehisi Coates shares his own experiences struggling with a new skill and why it's important to do so.Pair “A Quick Note on Getting Better at Difficult Things” with “Sweet Difficult Sounds” and have students consider what Nothukula has in common with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ message. How does Nothukula overcome her feelings of hopelessness and despair? Who helps Nothukula realize that she is “going to have it” when she wants to give up? Why do failure and struggle make success more meaningful?
In Shel Silverstein's poem "Underface," a speaker describes the face they show to the world and the one that hides underneath.Pair “Underface” with “Sweet Difficult Sounds” and have students discuss the difference between Nothukula’s school personality and her real personality. How does Nothukula’s description of herself in Zimbabwe compare to the way she acts in America? Describe Nothukula’s “outside face.” Why is she hesitant to show her true personality? How do you think Nothukula will change based on the ending of “Sweet Difficult Sounds”?
In Sandra Cisneros's "Eleven," a girl is forced to wear a sweater that doesn't belong to her on her birthday.Pair “Eleven” with “Sweet Difficult Sounds” and ask students to compare how Rachel and Nothukula respond to embarrassment. Which story portrays an example of acceptance and which story portrays an example of overcoming a struggle? How would “Sweet Difficult Sounds” be different if Nothukula were more like Rachel? What stops Nothukula from reacting like Rachel? Why do people respond to embarrassment or frustrations differently? Which text do you think is a better example to follow? Why?
Inside OutFrancisco Jiménez
In "Inside Out," A young boy experiences a language barrier as he attends school for the first time.Pair “Sweet, Difficult Sounds” with “Inside Out” and ask students to compare Nothukula’s and Francisco’s experiences as they enter new school environments. How does language present a barrier to each character? How does each character respond to their new challenges? What do these stories reveal about overcoming the challenge of being different?
In "Chameleon," David Lopera explores culture, identity, and what it means to blend in as a high schooler.Pair “Sweet, Difficult Sweets” with “Chameleon” and ask students to discuss the theme of fitting in in the two texts. What do the character Nothukula and the author David Lopera do in order to better fit in? What drives this desire to fit in? What lessons do the two ultimately learn at the end of the texts?