Author Feature-Margo Rabb



Spirit of Texas Reading Program-High School

Featured Author

Margo Rabb 

Margo Rabb

Kissing in America

Margo Rabb is the author of the novels Kissing in America and Cures for Heartbreak. Her essays, journalism, book reviews, and short stories have been published in The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, Slate, Salon, Marie Claire, The Rumpus, Zoetrope: All-Story, Seventeen, Best New American Voices, New Stories from the South, One Story, and elsewhere, and have been broadcast on NPR. She received the grand prize in the Zoetrope short story contest, first prize in the Atlantic fiction contest, first prize in the American Fiction contest, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award. Margo grew up in Queens, New York, and has lived in Texas, Arizona, and the Midwest; she now lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and children.

 

 

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Book Quiz/Discussion Questions

Printable Copy

  1. Eva identifies as a feminist but her mom objects to her reading romance novels. Do you think Eva is a feminist? Is it possible to be a feminist and enjoy reading romance novels?
  2. Is Kissing in America a romance? Is it a feminist novel?
  3. How would the story be different if it were told from Will's perspective? Annie's?
  4. Will and Eva lack reliable internet and phone access. How does this affect the events of the novel? How would things have been different for them with smartphones? How does having individual smartphones affect teen relationships now?
  5. Will sends Eva hand-written letters, poems, and a mix CD. Is this more or less romantic than speaking to her or sending her texts?
  6. Would you prefer to receive beautiful romantic poetry from someone you like romantically (that they didn't write), or their own words in prose that are not expressed well or eloquently? Why?
  7. Was Eva's mom right to forbid her from visiting the private forum for crash victims' families? How could her mom have handled her grief differently? What could Eva have done differently to handle her grief?
  8. Was Eva right to sneak out of the studio to meet Will? What if the security guard hadn't changed and she got back in for the show?
  9. Eva said, "Every poem is a love poem." Do you agree or disagree? Justify your answer.
  10. What do you think of Eva & Annie's stop in Texas? Do you think it reflects Texas culture?


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Academic Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Supplemental Documents

Links to Kissing in America Poems

The activities and TEKS for these programs are intended for 11th grade English III classes since they study American literature, but the book and lessons could be used at any level of high school.

Activity 1: The Significance of Poetry in Kissing in America

Introduction

Throughout the novel, Rabb includes quotations from a variety of poets to start each chapter. In this activity, students will read these poems in their entirety, analyze them, and discuss their significance to the particular chapter of Kissing in America. They will also use the text of the novel as the basis to write their own poetry.

TEKS

  • English III: 1B, 1C, 1E, 2A, 3, 5A, 5B, 7, 14B, 18, 19

Books to Display

These are the books that contain the poems from Kissing in America.

  • Face by Sherman Alexie
  • The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai by Yehuda Amichai
  • Collected Poems: Auden by W.H. Auden
  • Poems by Elizabeth Bishop
  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
  • Selected Poems by Rita Dove
  • The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 by Nikki Giovanni
  • Vita Nova by Louise Gluck
  • Selected Poems 1965-1990 by Marilyn Hacker
  • What the Living Do: Poems by Marie Howe
  • The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes
  • The Complete Poems by Philip Larkin
  • Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • The Father by Sharon Olds
  • White Pine by Mary Oliver
  • Collected Poems: 1950-2012 by Adrienne Rich
  • The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson by Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas: The Original Edition by Dylan Thomas
  • The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 by Derek Walcott

Supply List

  • Butcher paper or poster board
  • Markers
  • Copy of the poems from the beginning of each Kissing in America chapter, or access to the Internet
  • Access to photocopier if students are going to create blackout poetry from the novel (they will need to photocopy the pages they are blacking out so as not to ruin their books.)

Detailed Description of Activity

To introduce poetry analysis and one of the most frequently quoted poets in Kissing in America, show students John Green's "Crash Course on Emily Dickinson."

There are approximately 30 poems or lines from poems that begin sections or chapters of Kissing in America. Assign students one of these opening lines/poems. Their source material is listed on pages 389-391 of Kissing in America's hardback edition. You can print the text of these to provide the students, or have them find the poems on the Internet. See Activity Resources section for links to online versions.

After reading the entirety of their poem, each student will create a poster about their poem using butcher paper or posterboard. The poster should include: the poem title, author, line included in Kissing in America (can be one or two selected lines in the case where Rabb included the entire poem), student-generated theme of the poem and the answer to these three questions: (1) What tone does the poem set for this section or chapter of the novel? (2) Why do you think Rabb chose this poem to begin this particular section/chapter? and (3) What further insight could the reader gain about the issues or themes of this chapter by reading the entire poem that they could not get by reading the excerpted line alone? (Or in the case where Rabb included the entire poem: What additional insight into the theme of the novel does the reader gain by reading this poem?)

Before students work independently, the instructor can guide students through one or two examples together as a class on the board or projector. If you will need all of the poems that begin chapters for the students' individual assignments, use one of the other poems mentioned in the novel, such as Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (p. 267).

Once students have completed their individual posters, they can be presented to the class and discussed and then hung around the classroom/library. If multiple classes complete the assignment, it would be interesting to compare and contrast the interpretations of each poem by students from different class periods. As and/or after students present their analysis, discuss as a class or in written journal responses questions such as:

  • Why do you think Rabb included so many poem excerpts to begin the chapters?
  • What/Can the reader gain from reading the excerpts alone if they are not familiar with the poems?
  • Is it necessary to know or read the entire poem?
  • What does reading the entire poem do to enhance your understanding of the story or characters?

An optional extension activity that can be included on the poster or completed separately is to have students write their own companion poem for their section/chapter. This could be an original poem in their choice of style, a found poem from their section/chapter, or a black-out poem from a page in their section/chapter. See Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians for examples of found and black-out poetry.

Activity Resources

Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Activity 2: Feminist Literary Criticism

Introduction

Eva's identity as a feminist is a central issue in the novel. In this lesson, students will become more familiar with the tenets of feminist literary criticism and use that lens to analyze the text.

TEKS

  • English III: 2A, 5A, 5B, 8, 9A, 9B, 9C, 9D, 24A, 25, 26

Books to Display

  • Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism: A Norton Reader by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Editors.
  • A Natural History of the Romance Novel by Pamela Regis.

Supply List

  • Paper
  • Pens/pencils
  • Computer projector/screen

Detailed Description of Activity

If students have not already been introduced to the tenets of feminist literary criticism, show them the video "Feminist Literary Critical Theory" listed in the Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians. As a class, discuss the video and brainstorm questions that a feminist literary theorist would ask of a novel, such as:

Does the book depict an imbalance of power between men and women?

Does it contain examples of patriarchal structures which prevent gender equality?

Are female characters depicted as marginalized or "other"?

Does the novel do anything to defy gender stereotypes? Reinforce them?

See the Vandergrift article A Feminist Research Agenda in Youth Literature in the Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians for more question ideas http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/professional-development/childlit/books/feminist.pdf

Now look at the description of the American Library Association's Amelia Bloomer List: http://www.ala.org/awardsgrants/amelia-bloomer-book-list. Print out or project the description on an overhead screen. Have students think-pair-share (think & write notes independently, share their ideas with a partner next to them, then have students share their ideas with the entire class) what criteria they would use if they were selecting books for the Amelia Bloomer List.

Pass out or project on a screen the committee's actual criteria: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/about/amelia-bloomer-project-book-criteria/. Compare their criteria to the list the class created. Were there criteria the class came up with that the Amelia Bloomer Project did not, and vice-versa?

Tell students they will be simulating a committee meeting for the Amelia Bloomer Project. They will pretend they are members of the committee discussing whether or not to include Kissing in America on the Amelia Bloomer list (assuming it meets the eligibility criteria for publication date, etc.).

Divide students into groups of four. Assign each student three of the twelve "significant feminist content" criteria from the Amelia Bloomer Project:

Does the book show an awareness of gender-based inequalities with action to change these inequalities?

Do girls and women take on nontraditional roles?

If so, does the book point out that these roles are in opposition to society's expectations, that the person is breaking new ground?

Do females blaze new trails for themselves and those who follow them? (Again, does the book point that out?)

Do females use power for purposeful action, empowering others?

Does the book reflect female opportunities (or the lack of them), inequalities, and non-traditional roles in the era in which the book is set?

Has the protagonist grown in a positive manner, or does she stay dependent on others?

Does the girl or woman in the book depend on men to support her, or does she gain power through personal effort?

Is the protagonist the active party, or does she simply react to situations?

Is the protagonist's voice silenced?

Does she become "squelched" between the beginning and the ending of the book?

If so, does she ever regain her voice?

Do descriptions show the character of the person, or do they concentrate on attractive personal appearances?

Is there an emphasis on male activities, male photographs, etc.?

Is the word "feminism" used in the book?

Is the approach positive to feminism?

Individually, students will answer their assigned three questions about Kissing in America and find specific text evidence and page numbers to support their answers. Then, students will meet with their other "committee members" to discuss their findings and decide whether or not they recommend including Kissing in America on the list. Give students the option of adding 2-3 additional criteria they deem important to their decision. Have them write down their decision with the three most important criteria/examples to support their position.

Students will select one person from their group to present their recommendation to the class. Give other students in the class a 1-2 minute "cross examination" period to ask questions of the group about their decision. After all the groups have presented, have the entire class of students vote on whether or not they would include Kissing in America on the Amelia Bloomer list (can be a simple raising of hands or by secret ballot).

* An alternate, more involved project would be to have each group consider and debate a different book they were assigned during the school year so that only one group would be fully analyzing each book before presenting to the class.

Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Activity 3: Writing for Point of View

Introduction

Kissing in America is written in first-person from Eva's point of view. In this lesson, students will engage in a creative writing assignment to analyze and rewrite key scenes from other characters' points of view.

TEKS

  • English III: 1B, 5A, 5B, 5C, 13D, 13E, 14A, 18, 19

Books to Display

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  • Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual Edition by Stephenie Meyer
  • My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  • Four by Veronica Roth
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

Supply List

  • Notebook paper
  • Access to computers for typing (optional)
  • Computer/projector (optional)

Detailed Description of Activity

Have students read or watch Dave Barry's Roger and Elaine: A Love Story. As a class, discuss the selection. How does it illustrate the significance of point of view? Why did each character incorrectly interpret the thoughts of the other character? Why do different people interpret the same situation in different ways?

Optional/additional starter activity: As a class, have students review the main plot points of The Three Little Pigs. If you were going to tell the story from the wolf's point of view, what main plot points would be immutable? How do you think his point of view would differ from the traditional story? Have students work in groups to write a retelling from the wolf's point of view. Watch the video The TRUE Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf as Told to Jon Scieszka.

Assign or have students select a scene from Kissing in America to write from another character's perspective besides Eva's. Some suggested scenes:

Will & Eva's first meeting (p.8-10)

Will & Eva's tutoring session (p.23-27 or 38-43)

Will & Eva's kiss (p.79-83)

Will's time in California (p.89-93, p.202-203)

Eva's mom's marriage announcement (p.111-114)

Annie & Eva meet Annie's family (p.177-182)

Eva's mom during the road trip (p.185-187)

Annie flying (p.191-197)

Eva confronts her mother about the online forum (p.293-295)

Annie playing The Smartest Girl in America (p.318-347)

Before students begin writing on their own, discuss as a class some key considerations of the original text before rewriting from the other character's point of view. What parts of the scene must remain the same? What parts do you think they would interpret the same? Differently? How will the character's word choice and diction differ from Eva's?

Students will consider the characteristics and motivations of their particular character before beginning to rewrite the entire scene. Have students fold a sheet of paper into fourths. Label each quadrant with the headings: Likes, Dislikes, Motivations, Flaws. Students will complete this chart about their character. Have students begin a short monologue with "I lay awake, unable to sleep, because..." [see Alan Gillespie article in the Activity Resources section for more details on this exercise.]

You may want to include this as part of a larger lesson on creative writing and do some pre-writing exercises and/or peer editing or revision exercises/lessons, such as those suggested in the creative writing Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians section.

Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

 

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Active Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Supplemental Documents

Cupcake Felt Keychain Craft Template

Activity 1: Smartest Teen in the Library Game Show

Introduction

Eva and Annie travel across America to participate in a game show called "The Smartest Girl in America." Similarly, teens can play the "Smartest Teen in the Library," a custom-made Jeopardy-like trivia game where teens can compete.

Books to Display

  • Paper Towns by John Green
  • Guinness Book of World Records 2016 by Guinness World Records
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
  • 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!) by National Geographic Kids
  • Finding Paris by Joy Preble

Supplies

  • Whiteboards + dry erase markers enough for teams
  • Computer
  • Projector or TV

Detailed Description

Play a Jeopardy-style game with teens with questions based on those in Kissing in America. The questions are based on the actual questions asked when Annie was on the "Smartest Girl in America" gameshow in the book as well as Kissing in America book trivia and other themed categories such as feminism. The game is already created and available to play through JeopardyLabs.com. Click on the link in the "Activity Resources" section to find the pre-made game and select the number of teams to begin. Depending on the number of attendees, they may work individually or in teams. This works great with incentives, but it's entirely optional.

The first team gets to choose the category and point value. Teens can write down their answers in the form of a question on the provided white board.* Under the question, click "Correct Response" to see the answer. If they answered correctly, click the plus sign (+) beneath their team number to award them points. Move on to the next team and repeat until all questions have been answered. The team with the most points wins!

*If white boards are not an option, glossy sheet protectors with cardstock in between are a possible alternative.

Incentives

Anything can work for incentives, but some great Kissing in America themed ones would be cupcakes. Since the activity is game-show themed, board games would work well--consider asking for donations or purchasing some gently used ones from a local used bookstore such as Half Price Books.

Activity Resources

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Activity 2: Poetry Slam

Introduction

Poetry is woven all throughout Margo Rabb's Kissing in America. In this activity, teens will have the opportunity to share their own poetry with others in a library-hosted poetry slam. The event should be advertised early enough to allow time for teens to write poetry to submit.

Books to Display

  • Collected Poems by W.H. Auden
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Supplies

  • Chairs
  • Stool or chair
  • Sound system, if available

Detailed Description

Advertise the Poetry Slam early enough to allow teens the time to write their own poetry to read during the event. Librarians may require prior submission to read and review the poems for content before the poetry slam.

To set up the poetry slam, arrange the chairs in a meeting space to make an audience. At the front, facing the audience, place a single stool. Introduce the poetry slam, and invite the first teen up in the order they signed up for the event. If possible, dim the lights to create a nice atmosphere, and encourage the teens to snap or clap after readings.

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Incentives

Incentives aren't necessary, but would be a great option to thank participants for sharing their poetry and making the slam possible. Consider blank poetry notebooks for aspiring writers or gently used poetry anthologies from a local used book store.

Activity 3: Road Trip Cupcake Wars

Introduction

In Kissing in America, Will's mom owns a bakery and he drives a van with a giant cupcake on it. Teens can decorate their own cupcakes. Give them a challenge to design their cupcake based on a location Eva and Annie visit in the book.

Books to Display

  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold (Ohio)
  • Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (NYC)
  • Dirty Little Secrets by Jennifer Echols (Tennessee)
  • Since You Asked by Maureen Goo (LA)
  • First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky (Arizona)
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (LA)
  • Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (Texas)
  • Kissing in America by Margo Rabb (feature)
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Texas)
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (NYC)
  • Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee (Tennessee)
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (NYC)

Supplies

  • Undecorated cupcakes from bakery
  • Different icings
  • Cupcake toppings
  • Paper plates
  • Plastic utensils
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic tablecloths

Detailed Description

Bring Kissing in America-themed cupcake wars to your library! Request undecorated cupcakes from a local bakery and provide a variety of icings and toppings for teens to use for decorating their cupcake masterpiece. Don't just stick to traditional toppings such as sprinkles--branch out to different candies, gummy worms, fruit, and even a few oddities to challenge teens to be creative. When purchasing cupcake toppings, remember to be aware of common food allergies, such as peanuts.

Cover tables with plastic tablecloths for an easier cleanup. Each teen gets a paper plate, rubber gloves (for food preparation safety), and an undecorated cupcake. Instruct the teens to pick a state other than their own and design a cupcake based on that theme. Give them a set amount of time to decorate, and once they near the end, throw in a wacky topping that they have to incorporate. When finished, allow the teens to show off their cupcakes to everyone else, explaining their design choice. At the end of the program, they can eat their cupcakes!

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Activity 4: Cupcake Felt Keychain Craft

Introduction

Similarly to activity 3, this craft focuses on the theme of cupcakes from when Eva visits Will's mom's cupcake bakery in Kissing in America. Teens can make their own cupcake keychain out of felt.

Books to Display

  • Pipsqueaks - Itsy-Bitsy Felt Creations to Stitch & Love: 30+ Easy-to-Make Animals & Accessories by Sally Dixon
  • Super-Cute Felt by Laura Howard
  • Big Little Felt Universe: Sew It, Stuff It, Squeeze It, Fun! by Jeanette Lim
  • Felt with Love: Felt Hearts, Flowers and Much More by Madeleine Millington
  • Happy Stitch: 30 Felt and Fabric Projects for Everyday by Jodie Rackley

Supplies

  • Felt (various colors)
  • Felt tip pen
  • Needle & thread OR hot glue
  • ½ inch ribbon
  • Key ring
  • Scissors
  • Buttons, sequins, ribbon

Detailed Description

In this craft program, teens can create their own cupcake felt keychains. The craft can be modified to hot glue the cupcake pieces together instead of sewing, depending on the skill level of the attending teens.

Prepare for the program by making copies of the provided cupcake templates. Layout the templates and the supplies on a table available to the teens. Have a variety of bright colors for felt, such as pink, blue, purple, red, and brown for the cake. Teens can cut out the provided templates and then trace onto the felt colors of your choice. Cut out the felt and hot glue or stitch the pieces together. Loop a 2-inch piece of ½ inch ribbon around a keychain and glue/stitch the two loose ends to the top of the cupcake to complete the keychain.

Activity Resources

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

 

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Passive Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Supplemental Documents

Poetry Bookmarks

State Shapes

Activity 1 Reading in America Travel Display

Introduction

Eva and Annie go on a road trip from New York City to Los Angeles, CA, making stops in several cities on the way. Readers can recreate the journey by reading similar books set in each city, following along the same path.

Books to Display

  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold (Ohio)
  • Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (NYC)
  • Dirty Little Secrets by Jennifer Echols (Tennessee)
  • Since You Asked by Maureen Goo (LA)
  • First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky (Arizona)
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (LA)
  • Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (Texas)
  • Kissing in America by Margo Rabb (feature)
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Texas)
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (NYC)
  • Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee (Tennessee)
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (NYC)

Supplies

  • Map of the United States
  • Pushpins
  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Tape or sticky tack
  • Printer & paper

Detailed Description

Recreate Eva and Annie's road trip by placing a pushpin in each city where they stop and tying string between each--an eye-grabbing color like red would be best. Their journey starts in New York City, then travels to Cleveland, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee; Calypso, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; Los Angeles, California. Calypso is fictional, so place the pin somewhere along I-20, between Dallas and Abilene. Print out provided state shapes, cut out, and tape the front of the corresponding book and put out near the map. Supplement with books from the read-alike list if needed.

Activity Resources

Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Activity 2- Poetry Bookmarks & Display

Introduction

Poetry is a major theme woven into Kissing in America. This passive program exposes teens to more poetry with useful bookmarks as well as an optional display showcasing the poets and authors mentioned throughout the novel.

Books to Display

  • Collected Poems: Auden by W.H. Auden
  • Poems by Elizabeth Bishop
  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
  • The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 by Nikki Giovanni
  • Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • New and Selected Poems, Volume One by Mary Oliver
  • Collected Poems: 1950-2012 by Adrienne Rich
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke and Stephen Mitchell

Supplies

  • Cardstock
  • Scissors or paper trimmer
  • optional:
    • Display materials
    • Post-IT notes
    • Pencil

Detailed Description

Print out the provided bookmarks on cardstock paper of any color and cut using a paper trimmer or scissors. Provide the bookmarks someplace teens can easily grab them. For the optional display, create a display with the quote, "Giving someone a poem is like gifting them a feeling..." (Kissing in America by Margo Rabb) and provide Post-IT notes and a pencil for teens to write their own short poem and stick it on the display. (Be sure to monitor the display daily for content.)

Activity Resources

 

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Created on Apr 8, 2016 | Last updated April 17, 2016