One of the major strengths of Adrienne Kisner’s book, Dear Rachel Maddow, is the depth of her main character Brynn. While the book could have focused solely on Brynn’s sexual orientation, it does not. Kisner could have made the focus Brynn’s learning disability, but she didn’t. The focus also could have been the family struggles with which Brynn is dealing. None of these are the sole focus of this 263 page book. Just like none of these define the people who possess similar identities. Brynn is a character with whom many teenagers can relate.
In Dear Rachel Maddow, a high school English assignment in Brynn’s Applied English class to write to a hero becomes an opportunity to share her life in email drafts that will, theoretically, never be seen. First love, new love, loss, and belonging all matter to Brynn and they are all addressed in this book. Brynn also discovers truths about politics that many of us would rather forget.
In many ways, this is a book that should be read for enjoyment alone. Brynn’s voice is raw and funny in all the right ways and I would not recommend picking it apart. However, there are many opportunities for discussion and writing that this book could inspire. Due to the depth of Brynn’s character, Teaching Tolerance’s Justice and Action Standards (listed below) are especially relevant. While letter writing is not specifically addressed in the Core, the prospect of writing to a hero is often an impetus for research and careful editing. Who knows, they might even get a letter back!
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards especially relevant to this book:
Justice 11: I relate to all people as individuals rather than representatives of groups and can identify stereotypes when I see or hear them.
Justice 12: I can recognize, describe, and distinguish unfairness and injustice at different levels of society.
Action 17: I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.