SF State News {University Communications}

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Modern Language Association honors faculty members

December 11 , 2009 -- Research conducted by Associate Professor of English Jennifer Seibel Trainor will be recognized with a national award from the Modern Language Association (MLA).

Cover of Rethinking Racism

Trainor will be awarded the 2009 Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize for her book, "Rethinking Racism: Emotion, Persuasion and Literacy Education in an All White High School," which explores the effect of multicultural literature on white student beliefs and attitudes about race.  The prize is awarded for an outstanding book in the fields of language, culture, literacy or literature with strong application to the teaching of English. It is the top book prize in the field of Rhetoric and Composition.  
An instructor of graduate program composition at SF State, Trainor began research on racism, whiteness and literacy early in her career when she taught composition and introductory courses in literature simultaneously at two distinctly different junior colleges. "I was fascinated to find that the reactions to the same piece of literature were so strikingly different between the racially mixed students at an urban campus and the predominantly white students at a suburban campus," she said.
The book focuses on Trainor’s observations made during a year-long study of junior and senior English classes in a 99 percent white, suburban high school. Classroom discussions and written assignments about multicultural texts by both black and white authors suggested that the students were caught between the expectations of their teacher, who wanted them to think about racial injustice, and the wider culture of the school, which insisted that students always focus on the positive.
“’Rethinking Racism’ lives up to Mina’s fierce commitment to higher education’s role as a path to social justice for all students,” said Dean of Humanities Paul Sherwin, who was a close colleague of the late educator Mina P. Shaughnessy, for whom the award was named. “This is a rare scholarly book that should be read, then reread for a proper appreciation of the extraordinary complexity of Trainor’s argument, design and methodology.”
Trainor, who devoted her doctoral dissertation to how white students read multicultural text, is a recipient of the Promising Researcher's Award from the National Council of Teachers of English. Previous research was published in the journals, College Composition and Communication, College English and Research in the Teaching of English.
She will accept the Shaughnessy Prize, which includes a cash award and membership in the Modern Language Association, at the MLA's annual national convention in Philadelphia in January 2010.
"Rethinking Racism: Emotion, Persuasion and Literacy Education in an All White High School" was published by Southern Illinois University Press.

-- Denize Springer


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