Prof. Sarigianides’ co-authored work to receive AACTE Outstanding Book Award

The ground-breaking book, Letting Go of Literary Whiteness: Antiracist Literature Instruction for White Students, co-authored by Westfield State English Professor Sophia Sarigianides, Ph.D., and Carlin Borsheim-Black, Ph.D., has been named the 2022 recipient of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Outstanding Book Award in the Research & Dissemination category.

In Letting Go, the authors use classroom examples to offer discipline-specific practices for implementing antiracist literature instruction in white-dominant schools. Dr. Borsheim-Black is a professor of English language and literature at Central Michigan University.

“We wrote this book out of an urgency to figure out how to address race and racism in our predominantly-white college classrooms of students who often return to predominantly white districts to teach literature,” Dr. Sarigianides explained. “Though we knew how to address race and racism in majority-minority teaching contexts, we wanted to develop strategies for white-dominant contexts believing and knowing that so much racial harm stems from white actions and inactions.

“What would happen if those white students knew more, learned more about race and racism from middle school on, we wondered? And that’s what we designed in this book: multiple strategies for taking up rigorous, serious race work that did not sacrifice literary analysis and engagement, but deepened it.

“In writing this book, we wanted middle and high school English teachers to have a speed-track set of options for taking up race work. To not have to feel like they had to invite the wheel for making race and racism explicit; for keeping a focus on it sustained across the curriculum; for knowing the many ways that race-based dialogue can get sticky, but having strategies for responding to such moments.

“Already, we have heard back from so many teachers in the field who appreciate the strategies in the book, and who are putting them to use. The surprise for us has been that teacher candidates who choose to work in majority-minority schools, a decision we deeply encourage, of course, are also sharing how beneficial many of these strategies are for their own literature instruction. We see it as a beginning, and cannot wait to see where these strategies take the brilliant teachers doing this work in their schools,” Dr. Sarigianides concluded.

Dr. Borsheim-Black added, “I have been grappling with the challenges and possibilities of teaching about racism through literature study for many years, so collaborating on this book with Sophia has been a dream come true. Seeing it in the hands of teachers—and earning this award—is both thrilling and humbling.”

The award will be presented on March 4 at the AACTE annual meeting in New Orleans, La.