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Adult Content Readings That Work for Adult Students

The are readings members of the Teaching Adult Writers in Diverse Contexts Special Interest Group have found to be effective in classes with adult learners. Please see also Readings for Adult Students?.

Please feel free to add additional suggestions and contribute notes on how the readings have or have not worked for you. To edit this page, use the password fa05ll (fall with the numbers 0 and 5 in the middle). If you have any questions, feel free to email Michelle Navarre Cleary (

Generational Issues

Rosen, Christine. “Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism.” The New Atlantis, Number 17, Summer 2007.
Deals with generational differences.
Smith, Zadie. “Generation Why?.” New York Review of Books. 25 Nov. 2010.
Addresses potential difficulties encountered by older adults composing online identities in an interface created by a 24 year old.

Bullying — This topic seems to work well in mixed-age classrooms.

Engel, Susan, and Marlene Sandstrom “There’s Only One Way to Stop a Bully.” The New York Times. 22 July 2010.
Magid,Larry.”Adults on TV Are Bad Role Models for Teen Bullies.” The Huffington Post. 4 April 2010.
Marcus, Ruth. “The Criminalization of Bullying.” Truthout. 6 April 2010.


Davidson, Adam. “Making It in America.” Atlantic Magazine. Jan.-Feb. 2012.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. “Down, But Not Out.” 7 May 2007.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. “Downward Mobility.” Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream. New York: Holt, 2005.
Hamper, Ben. Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line. Warner Books, 1992.
Kumar, Krishan. “Old and New: Work in the Information Society.” From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1995. 15–34.


Adler, Mortimer J. “Only Adults Can Be Educated” Interview by Max Weismann. 1995.
Presents in interview form content from “Adult Education.” The Journal of Higher Education 23.2 (1952): 59–67, 115.
Goodman, Paul. “Two Simple Proposals.” (Chapter 10, Compulsory Mis-Education, 1964)
Argues for a “maturing” period before college and for the abolition of grades.
Nussbaum, Martha. Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton University Press, 2010.

About Writing

Brandt, Deborah. “Sponsors of Literacy.” College Composition and Communication. Vol. 49, No. 2 (May, 1998), pp. 165–185. Article Stable URL:
Davis, Robert and Mark Shadle. “‘Building a Mystery’: Alternative Research Writing and the Academic Act of Seeking.” CCC 51.3 (2000): 417–446. (
Dee, Jonathan, Barbara Jones, and Larissa MacFarquhar. “Grace Paley: The Art of Fiction No. 131.” The Paris Review, No. 124, Fall 1992.
Lamott, Anne. “Shitty First Drafts.” Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

The manuscript pages that accompany Paris Review interviews are available online. These are always useful for combating the myth of the flawless first draft and reinforcing the importance of revision. Stressing revision can be especially important with older adult students, who often put a lot of pressure on themselves to produce only “A work” and thus are particularly vulnerable to writer’s block.

Personal Narrative

Adams, Scott. “A Year Without Fear.” Wall Street Journal. 31 Dec. 2011.
Dilbert creator Scott Adams reflects on his decision to confront fears instilled in his youth and take more chances.
Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives ( -<London, Jack. “What Life Means to Me.” Cosmopolitan, March, 1906.
Lubrano, Alfred, “Bricklayer’s Boy.”
O’Brien, Tim. ‘’The Things they Carried”
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Rose, Mike, “I Just Wanna be Average.” Lives on the Boundary
This I Believe (
X, Malcolm. “Saved.” The Autobiography of Malcolm X


Balshem, Martha. “Cancer in the Community: Class and Medical Authority”
King, Martin Luther. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail Cell.”
Skloot, Rebecca. ‘’The Immortal Live of Henrietta Lacks”


Boss, Ted. “Amidwives: Two Portraits.” (2011).
Collins, Billy. “Forgetfulness.” 1990. (not on memories, but a thought-provoking poem for multiple generations, I think, from a poet who teaches well to many groups)
Holm, Bill. “Earbud.” . 2008.
Lee, Li-Young. “This Room and Everything in It.” 1990.


Tobar, Hector. The Tattooed Solider.

Readers and handbooks that work for adult learners

Bartholomae, David and Anthony Petrosky, Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers
Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein, “They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing”

Open-Access Readers and Handbooks

Writing Spaces (
Other Open Access Textbooks (
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Page last modified on April 23, 2012, at 10:21 PM