RESOURCES

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Updated: Mar 24


(ABRIDGED) YA READING GUIDE

GUIDED ANTI-BIAS/ANTI-RACIST READING | GRADES 8+

ABRIDGED OR FULL-LENGTH?

What we include in this blog post is the abridged version of the reading guide. If you'd like access to the full-length reading guide PDF with complete lists of discussion questions and extended resources and learning activities, please click above.


WELCOME + NOTE

This is a reading guide designed to accompany Bethany C. Morrow’s book for young adults, A Song Below Water. We recommend that grownups read the focus book and the reading guide content BEFORE reading with young readers. This guide will help you prepare your own questions for your young readers and choose vocabulary, history, and other related topics to integrate into your learning and discussion.


Lesson content was written by Zapoura Newton-Calvert and was designed to start or deepen anti-racist and anti-bias conversations in families and other learning communities.


THEMES

Friendship,Black Lives Matter, Fantasy, Identity, Justice, Diversity, Action


GET THE BOOK

Find the book at your local library, or shop our Reading Is Resistance Book Shop.


10% commission goes back into our organization for operating costs, and another 10% is donated to independent bookstores.


HOW WE DESIGN OUR READING GUIDES

This guided reading lesson is designed to be part of a larger life-long commitment to anti-racist teaching and learning for the student and the facilitator. Reading Is Resistance sees reading as an opportunity to seed deeper conversations and opportunities for action around racial equity in our communities. We hold the belief that being anti-racist is a process of learning (and unlearning) over time.


The Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards (focused on Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action) serve as guides for our work.



ABRIDGED SECTION ONE: CH 1-6


SUMMARY + VIDEO

We meet main characters Tavia (a siren) and Effie (who plays a mermaid at a summer Renaissance Fair). They are Black high school students in a predominantly white city -- Portland, Oregon.


Just a little way into the book, the news announces that Rhoda Taylor, a Black woman and possibly a siren, has been killed. We find out that there is a long history of sirens, all Black women, being silenced and violently harmed or murdered. We also discover that Effie has a mysterious secret and that Tavia’s voice is extremely powerful.


SAMPLE DISCUSSION QUESTION

  • Let’s talk about identity and how our identities impact the way we experience the world AND the way we may experience this book. IDENTITY.9-12.5

  • What do we learn about Tavia’s and Effie’s various group identities?

  • When/where are they most and least comfortable talking about themselves and their identities? Why?


ABRIDGED SECTION TWO: CH 7-12

SUMMARY + VIDEO

Tavia gets pulled over by the police and uses her siren call as protection. Of course, using her call also puts her in danger by revealing who she is. There’s a roller coaster of plot action when Rhoda Taylor’s boyfriend gets a not guilty of murder verdict, and Camilla Fox, a famous Black YouTuber, reveals that she is a siren. The section ends with Tavia finding a new siren call -- Awaken.


In this section of the book, Morrow critiques Portland’s white liberals in a chilling scene referencing Devonte Hart and the Hart family murders.


SAMPLE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Think about a few scenes Morrow uses to highlight the anti-Blackness perpetuated by non-Black the characters experience in this book. Make a short list. JUSTICE.9-12.13


<SECTIONS THREE & FOUR INCLUDED IN FULL-LENGTH PDF>


WHAT’S NEXT?


<RESOURCES INCLUDED IN FULL LENGTH PDF>


READ NEXT

  • A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

  • The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

  • Lobizona by Romina Garbert

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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