BOOK CLUB KIT: Integrating Lessons on Identity, Justice and Action into the Middle School Classroom

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

A Learning Resource Module Centered Around All The Stars Denied

This is a curriculum learning module centered around Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s, All the Stars Denied to be used as a resource for educators so that they may build an in-depth lesson plan complete with reading materials, additional information and resources, individual activities, and group workshops.

This module contains:

  • Three anti-bias framework learning standard anchors; identity, justice and action, which are all present within the YA book, All The Stars Denied

  • A section dedicated to each standard that provides a brief description of the lesson’s intended outcomes, individual and/or group activities, as well as additional resources

  • Reflective questions that can be used to either facilitate a discussion, prompt a writing response or guide research

The intention of this learning module is to provide educators with engaging activities so that they may encourage students to interact with texts in more meaningful ways which will ideally get students to draw parallels between literature and real world issues.


All the Stars Denied is a story that was meant to be told. Author Guadalupe Garcia McCall in researching for her first historical novel, came across the La Matanza period, which took place in the summer of 1915. La Matanza is the story of repatriation, which is another way another way of saying deportation. The story is told through the eyes of Estrella del Toro Villa and her family who are American citizens, whose house is burned, whose family is separated by what appears to be local law enforcement, and who is deported to Mexico with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. It’s November. They are forced to “live” in an uncovered open air corral, one that you would see for horses or farm animals.

It is the heart of the Great Depression, and Texas is gripped by the drought of the Dust Bowl, and resentment is building among white farmers against Mexican Americans. All around town, signs go up proclaiming “No Dogs or Mexicans” and “No Mexicans Allowed.”

This story will break your heart, but it is a breaking which will allow the trials of humanity, perseverance, and love to get through the cracks. A book tailored for a younger reader holds a message that everyone regardless of age, should read.

Our Experience as Readers

Arieanna: All the Stars Denied was truly an amazing book that really pinpoints what it feels like to be a Mexican-American in this country. Although the time period’s are different, there is a familiar tone to the storyline that is unshakable and gives the reader a true sense of what it feels like to be targeted regardless of citizenship or not. With every chapter, the question of what does it mean to be an American flowed throughout my head because although this took place in the 1930s, this battle is still being fought. The entirety of the story is so well written that it’s not just a great book for middle and high schoolers, but any adult should get their hands on it too.

Tara: Being a part of the social justice book club was a great experience. It was delightful to be able to discuss with fellow classmates the storyline of All the Stars Denied. As I read through the book, the issue of power and justice kept coming up for me. Who had the power, was there justice or injustice in the situation, was it personal or systemic? In light of not being aware of much of the historical context that this story surrounds, I started digging around the internet. I was simultaneously shocked and unshocked of what I didn’t know regarding the historical relationship of Mexican Americans and the United States. The correlative relationship of what the del Toro Villa family go through has striking resemblance to what is currently taking place along our southern border. This story is timely.

Samantha: Garcia McCall does an amazing job in deconstructing and depicting complex topics such as economic depression, racial tension, Mexican repatriation, and the inherently unjust U.S. legal system. She depicts all of these topics in an approachable and relatable fashion so that her young readers will be able to follow along and the injustice of it all will still translate. The book contains strong themes of identity, race, nationality, family and law. While the All the Stars Denied is set back in the 1930’s, the horrific events that occur are, unfortunately, still relevant today making the lessons in this book/learning module not only relevant but crucial.

Learning Standard #1: Identity

This section aims to help teachers guide a discussion regarding identity so that students may begin to develop a deeper understanding of the term. It is likely that students are aware of some of their own identity groups and through this module the goal is to encourage critical thinking when it comes to considering intersectionality and social norms. To begin the conversation either as a class discussion or as an individual journaling prompt, pose some general yet thought provoking questions such as:

  • What is identity?

  • What are some characteristics that define your own identity?

  • How is identity developed?

  • How might our identity impact our relationships with others?

Once students are warmed up and are thinking about the complexities of human development and identity, share with them a list of identity characters

  • Gender

  • Ethnicity

  • Race

  • Religion

  • Socioeconomic status

  • Language

  • Marital/relationship status

  • Parent or childless

  • Family size and composition

  • Sexual orientation

  • Education

  • Career

Ask students to consider their own identity characters? Which are visible? Which affect how they interact with other individuals, perhaps from different identity categories? Which categories can you think of that might experience inequality? Who is treating people within these categories unjustly and why might the reason be?

Now that students are considering social injustices based on identity characteristics, ask them to consider Estrella’s identity categories. What might some assumptions about Estrella based on her identity categories be? Which of Estrella’s categories were targeted within the book? How did her characteristics impact her experience? At this point begin to direct the conversation in the direction of discussing the intersection of race and gender. How were the events that took place within the story different for Estrella’s mother versus her father? What other examples of gendered behavior were portrayed? Is what Estrella and her family went through relevant today? If so, how?

Additional Books with Strong Identity themes:

Why Chicken Means So Much to Me by Sherman Alexie

Echoes by Pat Mora

Bone Black by Bell Hooks

The Misfits by James Howe

Identity Handouts

Teaching Tolerance Book Review Graphic Organizer

Teaching Tolerance Reading Diversity Checklist

Learning Standard #2: Justice

Throughout All the Stars Denied there are various degrees of justice and injustice weaved through the book. The following is reflective questions around justice and injustice in ATSD:

  • What is Justice?

  • Who has the ability to define what justice is?

  • What is a stereotype?

From All the Stars Denied:

  • If Estrella had not protested, what do you think would have happened or wouldn’t have happened because of it?

  • Would the story be different for Estrella and her family if they did not have the resources available to them in Texas, like the attorney or her uncle? How does having those resources change the story?

  • Is Estrella’s family story relevant today? Why or why not?

Videos on Repatriation, History of the Border, & Identity

Music is a large part of justice and civil rights movements

Links to music that Estrella could have sung:

Latinx Organizations in Oregon:

National Latinx Organizations:

Learning Standard #3: Action

One of the most prominent themes in the book, All the Stars Denied, is that of taking a stance - using some type of action to fight back the injustices happening to a marginalized group of people which in this case, it’s Mexican-Americans. Estrella’s use of action takes place at a school level which inevitably brings in the entire community around her causing a larger fight to the greater power. This is something that has also been done in recent years with youth taking over issues that affect them and their schooling.

Overall, the two main questions to think of when focusing on an action lens are below:

  • How can your actions lead to a greater change or shift in power?

  • What tactics would be the most effective and useful in regards to taking action on behalf of yourself, your peers, or your entire community?

Each of these questions should bring about a level of critical thinking skills that can ultimately tie in to today’s immigration issues that are very similar to what Estrella and her family endure in the book.

Additionally, following the theme of action, ATSD embodies a historical perspective given that the setting is during the Great Depression. With this lens, have students tie in current issues and compare and contrast between the two time periods to gain a deeper understanding of the influence of power structures in the United States as well as where organizations stem from given the documented history that may or may not be in their textbooks.

Here are some analytical questions to follow in correlation with All the Stars Denied:

  • How does this story connect with other events in history? In what other countries/time periods have people been treated in similar ways?

  • Has this happened during other times in the United States? What were the implications and effects?

  • Why was Estrella’s protest necessary in regards to helping her community as well as herself?

  • Other than Estrella’s protest at school, what are some other ways (subtle or not) that action was taken on behalf of acknowledging and challenging an injustice?

Below are some local organizations that make it their mission to rise up and take action for the Latinx population in Oregon

Adelante Mujeres

Given the strong female lead of Estrella and her mother, this organization focuses on “building a more just society by empowering Latinas to lead.” Not only is it empowering Latina women, but they also have a variety of programs that cater to the community in regards to youth, immigration, and early education to name a few.

Pueblo Unido PDX

A non-profit organization that supports Portland metro community members in the fight against deportation.

Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice

Another local organization founded in 2006 that accompanies and equips communities to advance immigrant justice through a variety of means.

Unite Oregon

Led by people of color, immigrants and refugees, rural communities, and people experiencing poverty, we work across Oregon to build a unified intercultural movement for justice.

ACLU Oregon

Book Recommendations: What to Read Next

  • Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garicia McCall

  • They Should Stay There: The Story of Mexican Migration and Repatriation During the Great Depression by Fernando Saúl Alanís Encisco

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