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Oct

A Mercy is Toni Morrison’s 9th novel. It was first published in 2008. A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery in early America. It is both the story of mothers and daughters and the story of a primitive America. It made the New York Times Book Review list of “10 Best Books of 2008” as chosen by the paper’s editors. In Fall 2010 it was chosen as for One Book, One Chi

Set in the 1680s, when this country’s reliance on slavery as an economic engine was just beginning, ‘A Mercy’ explores the repercussions of an enslaved mother’s desperate act: She offers her small daughter to a stranger in payment for her master’s debt.

(Source: NPR)

“Open the Door to What is Possible”: Reading Toni Morrison Inspires New Media Projects

Last time on StudentSpeak, teens at YOUmedia, the Chicago Public Library’s digital space for teens, created innovative new media projects based on Toni Morrison’s most recent novel, “A Mercy.”

This week, StudentSpeak is there as the students showcase their work in front of a crowd of educators, parents and their peers at the Chicago Public Library.

“We have a bond, and we build ourselves up together,” says Zoi a 15-year-old spoken word poet who performed original adaptations of Morrison’s work based on themes of racism and slavery.

Zoi said the project was important to her because of the cohesiveness of the group of teen writers and performers from all across the city, and because of YOUmedia’s mentors.

“This poem took me two weeks, first attempt,” Zoi said. “The mentors we have here are so dope, Jennifer especially. She really helped me put this piece together to be the best that it could be.”

Jennifer is Jennifer Steele, a writing mentor at YOUmedia and one of several Chicago-based artists who work regularly with teens in the digital space. She says it’s been wonderful to see students come up with so many creative ways to tackle the novel’s diverse themes.

“I think it really helps them understand the themes,” Steele told Spotlight. “They get into some really heated discussions sometimes about what’s going on in the book.

“By defending their opinions on the book, it’s in a way defending their perspective on their art, or their poem, or their graphic design.”

You can view all of the “A Mercy” projects - including original photography, podcasts and documentary films - at oboc-amercy.tumblr.com. Listen to their spoken word performance, poetry and original music in this mix tape.

YOUmedia students presented a CD of their work to Morrison, who was in town to receive the Carl Sandburg Literary Award from the Chicago Public Library and its foundation.

StudentSpeak, a video series produced by Spotlight, goes behind the scenes to show how teens use digital media in their daily lives. View previous webisodes here: spotlight.macfound.org/​studentspeak/​

In this webisode, StudentSpeak goes behind the scenes to watch how students at YOUmedia, the Chicago Public Library’s digital space for teens, are using Toni Morrison’s book “A Mercy” to create new media projects around themes of slavery and empowerment.

“It’s been cool to see how a vast array of work has come from this one book,” says 15-year-old Dominique, who recorded her own original poetry based on “A Mercy” in YOUmedia’s recording studio.

Many of YouMedia’s students found personal resonance in the book, which explores racism and slavery in early America. Their work includes everything from digitally designed alternative book covers to audio narratives and spoken word performances in which students reimagine dialogue between characters in the novel.

“To make that connection was just a dream,” said Thaddeus, a 16-year-old musician and producer who’s a regular at YOUmedia’s downtown space at the Harold Washington Library. “To be able to read a book that you wouldn’t normally read, and then it has so much of an effect on you that you can put your own musical emphasis on it.”

Mike Hawkins, the lead mentor at YOUmedia, says the project is important because it can serve as a model for participatory learning and literacy programs.

“Not only are they reading books, but they are making these great projects, these media projects around books,” Hawkins told Spotlight. “The special piece of that, for me, is that it’s something that could be replicated in schools. I hope literacy teachers take heed and open up the doors of what it possible.”

Stay tuned for the next StudentSpeak webisode as YOUmedia teens showcase their projects and record their work to give to the author.

Plus: Morrison this week received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award from the Chicago Public Library and its foundation. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Morrison weighs in on her popularity, libraries and whether people are reading differently since the advent of e-readers: “I think they are. Quicker, faster. I have an iPad, which I love, but there are only certain kinds of books I want for that, books that I don’t have to dwell on. I like to write in the margins on books that are more substantial. Perhaps that’s an old editing habit.”

StudentSpeak, a video series produced by Spotlight, goes behind the scenes to show how teens use digital media in their daily lives. View previous webisodes here: http://spotlight.macfound.org/btr/category/studentspeak/

a Mercy (Showcase Slide Show)

iRemix: A Mercy (Photo Book)

   a Mercy Teen Showcase shots by Jalen


iRemix: a Mercy Mixtape

                

YOUmedia Production Teams in Action

Actors from the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble for readings from A Mercy. Bringing Morrison’s lyric prose to life, these readings focus on the journeys—physical, emotional, and spiritual—of the novel’s women, all braving life in early America. Martha Lavey, Artistic Director of Steppenwolf, leads a talk-back with the actors and the YOUmedia audience after the performance.


by Chicago High School for the Arts

by Chicago High School for the Arts