Have you ever wondered what Satan might suggest we read? Maybe he’d offer classics like Dante’s Inferno, The Great Gatsby, or Silence of the Lambs. Or maybe he’d want us to read To Kill a Mockingbird.
Most would agree the last book is a surprising addition, however even the best books with the purest of stories can be twisted and turned for whatever evil purpose the conniving Prince of Darkness has in store for us. And that is exactly what happens in Reading Blue Devils.
For Dieter Vogel, a failing English teacher who is predominately educating Black and Latino students, the Devil’s suggestions guide his curriculum so Dieter can overthrow the school and its White administration. In return, Satan gets his prominence as the school mascot. All Dieter has to do is stir the students into a frenzy fueled by their hormones, caffeinated drinks, and sense of injustice.
So what texts does Lucifer advise Dieter to use?
9th Grade texts
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9th graders come into high school at that crucial point that can tip either into rebellion or obedience based on the direction of their peers. What better way to showcase the power of mob rule than with this novel of an island of boys living without adults?
Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie
Continuing with the theme of power, this book, very unDisney in its original version, pits child versus adult.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
When the students begin to get whiff of the inadequate accommodations for students with learning disabilities, Dieter uses this book to show what might happen to these students (metaphorically, of course) if the administration had their way.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Tyranny! Oppression! Pigs! Is the school’s administration like Napoleon? Sure?
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
If read correctly, it’s a wonderful guide on “how to commit murder and get away with it.” Also, it serves as a warning: cast aside your weak morality or you will end up like the Macbeths!
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass
The history of slavery: is it truly over? In the minds of teens: never. In reality, there are still grave injustices that need to be addressed. Dieter exploits this idea to build racial tension between the students and the staff.
11th Grade texts
Julius Caeser and Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Books on how to overthrow a kingdom, how to betray, how to get…revenge. Soon after Dieter’s class reads Julius Caeser, red paint slashes are found on the statue of the school’s mascot.
Night by Elie Wiesel
What’s the ultimate four letter word that can tear up a conversation? Nazi. To push against the proud German heritage of Reading High School, Dieter chooses to mischaracterize the staff, especially Principal Sanders, as Nazis. It doesn’t help that the letter Dieter crafted (anonymously), which was sent home to parents, sounded awfully similar to a section of Mien Kampf.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This is a harrowing Post-Colonial story about cultural identity being stolen by the White man. When the administration refuses to let students voice their opinions, Dieter finds this novel provokes many of his students.
“One of These Days,” by Gabriel García Márquez
This classic short story poses a unique way to find revenge: by humiliating one’s opponent. At least, that’s what the students learn.
12th Grade Film Studies
Showing the Holocaust ramps up the urgency in the students to a whole new level.
The battle to take down the school’s mascot heats up. The students want to find a way to destroy it. It begins with graffiti, but after watching this movie, they take the assault on the statue a step further.
Dieter uses this movie to teach teens about how to try to send a message that the Principal couldn’t refuse (or rather “shouldn’t refuse”…since he did refuse and that just made the whole year spiral out of control).