Threshold in the Classroom

Teenage friends spending time together
Teenage friends spending time together

Threshold will be read at Tanque Verde High School this month. It is also being reviewed by Green Teacher Magazine.

Several educators have encouraged me to use sections of Threshold to develop lesson plans for high school students. One elementary teacher will read to her students and plan an activity and discussion around the story. I am very encouraged about this way of extending the story.

Three adolescents from Threshold emerge as strong characters–youth you feel will become leaders. However, each is working out certain personal challenges and social realities.  Below are excerpts to give you a window into the layered stories:

Enrique Santos: 

Enrique lifted his grandmother, thinking she felt even lighter than last time, like a ghost in his arms. But he felt blood coursing in her legs, and heard the rasping sound in her chest. She was barely able to sit herself on the commode.

In the kitchen he opened the cabinets and refrigerator, surveying what he could scrape together for a snack and what his mother had cooked for dinner. Refried beans and rice, a package of tortillas. He’d hoped for a fresh tomato or onions, but the vegetable bins were empty. It was close to payday for his mother.

“Enrique?” his neighbor’s voice called through the screen door.

Mrs. Carrillo held a hot dish in a towel. “I brought you all some burritos.”

His stomach growled as he opened the screen door to let her in. She heard it and laughed. “Boys are always hungry,” she said with the same grace with which she did most things. She knew what kind of hunger Enrique really experienced.

Enrique thanked her and followed Mrs. Carrillo into the kitchen, where she set the dish on the counter, looking around. She turned to Enrique and said, “Be sure to leave some for your mother, and refrigerate these after you and granny eat, okay?” she touched his arm with affection.

Enrique smiled shyly. Mrs. Carrillo noticed his long eyelashes. Then she eyed his tattoos. His gaze followed hers. He looked up and she said, “Why do you kids ruin your bodies with these marks?”

He shrugged and smiled, “I dunno.”

Luna Lopez:

Luna loved both summer seasons—the hot, dry time from March through June, and the wet, humid season from July to September. Like clockwork, right after the Fourth of July, the rain clouds appeared over the Santa Rita Mountains. Luna anticipated the cold dollops of summer rain, the torrents of water running in the washes, and the scent of the creosote bushes after the storm. She loved to be inside when the giant cloud beings grumbled and heaved their lightning swords onto the earth.

But in this twelfth year of her life, the elders were perceiving a pattern change—a pattern that had governed life on desert lands for thousands of years. The monsoon was late. July stayed dry. Rains came, but they were often more like the other rainy season—the gentle, steady winter rains. The people who gardened in the old ways, letting basins fill with summer storm water, noticed first.

 Daniel Flanagan

After they had finished the gray-water system, Daniel excused himself to shower. As the trickle of cool water spattered on his hot skin, he thought about the sudden turn of events in his life. A woman was now in the picture. It was like a bomb had dropped from the sky on the brokered peace he’d managed to create for himself since his mother died. He realized suddenly that his father, as clueless as he could be, might actually be moving on. It was shocking to Daniel. He felt a knot of resentment in his gut. But shouldn’t he be glad? Living with his father this year had been like living with a stone statue. Was it possible a woman had moved his father’s broken heart? He wondered what she was like. What if he didn’t like her?

2 thoughts on “Threshold in the Classroom

  1. This is such crisp, good writing. I am so pleased to see the good use being made of your novel. You should be encouraged by this reception. I am sure it is just the beginning of more recognition of the value of your work.

  2. Thank you, Larry. This is a new idea and one that I believe I will pursue with educators as writing partners. I am even thinking about a companion workbook for grades 8 – 12. Your opinion is especially important to me. Thank you!

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