Instructor Spotlight: Erica Luo and Megan Amero
What inspired you to teach this course?
Megan Amero: Erica and I grew up together, and a huge part of our shared adolescence centered around YA dystopian literature. At this point in our lives, we’ve probably spent weeks reading and discussing books like The Hunger Games and Divergent. (Horribly nerdy, but true.) We’ve always wanted a chance to dive deeper into these fictional worlds. After taking an ExCollege course together freshman year, we knew that teaching a class would be that perfect opportunity.
Erica Luo: In high school, I always complained about our assigned readings because the books weren’t interesting or relatable. I always wished I could take a class where I got to talk about books I actually enjoyed. YA dystopian novels were a huge part of our middle school and high school experience, so teaching an ExCollege class is our chance to finally talk about the books that we love.
Would you consider yourself a rebel?
MA: Honestly, not really. We actually had a discussion about this in class a few weeks ago! For a lot of us, our obsession with rebellious literature seemed to be a way of vicariously living through characters who actually were rebels.
EL: I agree, I think I’m one of the least rebellious people I know. It’s kind of funny that reading and writing books about teenage rebels is such a mainstream thing to do.
What piece of Young Adult literature would you recommend everyone read?
EL: Obviously I have to plug the Hunger Games. I would not be teaching this class if I hadn’t read that trilogy. One series that I really love that we don’t get to cover is The 5th Wave trilogy by Rick Yancey. It tackles some really interesting questions about humanity, and there’s a very complicated chess analogy that I still don’t fully understand. I strongly recommend it if you enjoy a good tragic ending.
MA: In terms of personal favorites, I would recommend Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. Six of Crows is a book that I really admire in terms of characterization and pacing, as well as just being an amazing read. I really enjoy creative writing, and I feel like I’m always trying to emulate how effortless the character dynamics feel in that book.
What do you hope students will take away from this class?
MA: I want students to walk away from this course knowing that all media is worthy of analysis. Anything that we consume has an impact upon us in some way—even if we consider it to be “trash” or a “guilty pleasure.” There are reasons that we like what we like, and dislike what we don’t. Even though society might not consider a book to be “classic literature,” we can still recognize and acknowledge it as a work worthy of critical thought.
EL: We also want to show our students that you don’t have to be a certain type of person or study a specific subject to analyze literature. I’m studying biopsychology, so this class has nothing to do with my major. However, we’ve been able to pull in concepts from biology and developmental psychology to explain why teenagers resonate with the tropes from YA fiction. We’ve also pulled from sociology, gender studies, and linguistics.
What’s something that you are particularly excited to teach?
EL: We’re really excited for our week on representation in YA dystopia. Our students have already brought up some great ideas regarding how to write diverse characters, so I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say during our official class on representation.
MA: We also have a week coming up that we’re calling “How to Build a Dystopia,” where we’re asking students to consider the ways that dystopian society is constructed in a variety of books (The Maze Runner, Uglies, and Unwind). One of the goals of our class is to explore the building blocks of YA dystopia as a genre, and this is a week where that goal becomes explicit.
Megan Amero (she/her) is a junior pursuing a major in English and a minor in Linguistics. She is from Hamilton, Massachusetts. Besides teaching with the ExCollege, she is a member of Parnassus (Tufts’ creative writing club), and is a copy editor for the Tufts Daily.
Erica Luo (she/her) is a junior pursuing a major in Biopsychology and a minor in Linguistics. She is from Hamilton, Massachusetts. Outside of class, she is part of Women's Club Soccer, TASC (Tufts Asian Student Coalition), Breakthrough Research Magazine, and is a copy editor for the Tufts Daily.