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The textbook is designed to be used along with Kindred, a novel by Octavia Butler (published by Beacon Press), which tells the story of a young black woman who disappears from her home in 1970s California to save the life of her white slave-owner ancestor in the early nineteenth century. Through the novel and textbook, students learn about nineteenth-century American life, the origins of slavery in America, the conditions under which slaves lived, the Underground Railroad, important historical figures (like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass), and the civil rights movement of the twentieth century.
Each of the six units begins with a preview of the reading and free writing topics, followed by exercises that improve comprehension and vocabulary building. Students use response journals to think about their personal connection with the novel. They are encouraged to discuss different topics and then write about what they've discussed. The Beyond the Novel section in each unit introduces factual background information in which students learn about slavery and other material mentioned in the novel. Puzzles and out-of-class activities are also included at the end of eachunit.