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SEL with ALM: Who am I Without Him? by Sharon G. Flake

Posted by Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO on Sep 4, 2022 5:47:00 PM
Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO

Sharon Flake is a three-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, the YWCA Racial Justice Award-winner and has been named on numerous prestigious book lists. She has written nine novels, many short stories, plays and a picture book. She writes about African-American youth, focusing on difficult topics. She is a self-described "inner city baby at heart" and often includes that narrative in her work. She loves to speak with young people, so if you have a chance to attend a session, don't miss out! You can find out more at www.sharongflake.com


Who Am I Without Him? is a collection of short stories about girls and their relationships with boys, how they see themselves, how boys think about girls, and what might truly be important. I think we all can identify with at least one story in the collection, and have known girls who represent other characters as well. One of the stories that stood out for me was the last story titled, A Letter to My Daughter. It's about an absentee father who decides to write a letter because he feels guilty and he would like to leave something of value to her so he decides to leave her his knowledge of boys. He says, "'Cause it ain't just that girls don't pick the right guy. Shoot. They can't even recognize the wrong ones when they come along." p209. He then lists 10 things girls should look for and avoid. It's a powerful book that makes you think about your relationships, choices, and how you see yourself, whether you are a girl or a boy. Who am I Without Him? will generate powerful discussions in your Socratic Seminar and get students really thinking about relationships and themselves.

Socratic Seminar Questions

"He turns away from me and starts walking. But he don't get far - I don't let him. I apologize."p 3

  • Why do girls apologize when it's not their fault?
  • Why is what a boy wants more important than what the girl wants? 

"I try not to sweat Raheem when he gets a little rough with me or says he's coming over my house and don't show up." p 3

  • Why do girls accept poor behavior from boys but give no credit to girls?
  • Why would a girl accept a boy being rough with her?
    • Would you?

"Raheem's hand smashes the words back into my mouth.'Girl! Don't make me...'"p 5.

  • Why would a girl want to be with a boy who hurts her? 

"A boy like him can get any girl he wants. He ain't gotta take no stuff off nobody. 'Sorry,' I say, thinking 'bout how jealous girls be when they see me with him."p 5

  • What does this statement say about how she sees herself?
  • Where does she get her value?
  • Do you think this is right?

"I won't never win no beauty contest. But my body, well that's something else." p5 

  • What does she think is valuable about herself?
  • Why does she feel this way? 

"The redhead looks back my way, shakes her head, and just like that, I feel dirty - like somebody rolled me in chicken fat and left me outside for the birds to snack on."p6

  • Do girls have a "look" that the give to each other?
  • What does this "look" mean?
  • Why do girls judge each other?

"I lean over and stare out the window and see the readhead standing on the corner with Raheem."p7

  • Why would the redhead girl want to be with Raheem when she's seen how he treats his girlfriend?
  • Do you think that she thinks it will be different with her- that she'll somehow be able to have a better relationship with Raheem than his girlfriend does?
  • How can you explain this behavior?
    • What do you think she should do?
    • What should the girlfriend on the bus do?

"Tonight, when I see him, I'm gonna... I'm gonna... make him something nice to eat. I think. And act like I ain't seen nothing at all." p9 Why do you think that she's decided not to say anything? Is this a good idea? What would you advise her to do? What is the difference between how Raheem sees himself and how she sees herself? What messages account for these self-perceptions?

Emozi Lesson Connections

Grade 6alm-whoamiwithouthim1

Unit 1

  • Lesson 2: Understanding and Building Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem
  • Lesson 10: Decision-Making
  • Lesson 11: Values

Unit 2

  • Lesson 1: Self-Perception
  • Lesson 4: Identity
  • Lesson 7: Perspective Taking
  • Lesson 8: Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships 
  • Lesson 12: Jealousy and Envy

Unit 3

  • Lesson 9: Go for Your Goals
  • Lesson 12: Perseverance and Hope 

Grade 7

Unit 1

  • Lesson 3: Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Lesson 4: Confidence
  • Lesson 7: Morals
  • Lesson 10: Healthy Choices
  • Lesson 12: Self-Perception

Unit 2

  • Lesson 1: Showing Respect
  • Lesson 9: Bullying 
  • Lesson 10: Perspective

Unit 3

  • Lesson 1: Dealing with Disappointment
  • Lesson 6: Relationships
  • Lesson 7: Resilience

Grade 8

Unit 1

  • Lesson 2: Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Lesson 4: Problem-Solving
  • Lesson 7: Belonging and Rejection
  • Lesson 9: Identifying Mentors
  • Lesson 11: Goal Setting 

Unit 2

  • Lesson 1: Rules for Life
  • Lesson 4: Self-Talk
  • Lesson 8: Relationships 
  • Lesson 9: Conflict
  • Lesson 10: Apologies and Forgivness

Unit 3

  • Lesson 3: Healthy Relationships 
  • Lesson 5: Bullying 
  • Lesson 6: Rumors and Gossip
  • Lesson 7: Point of View
  • Lesson 11: Standing Up for Yourself

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Topics: Social and emotional learning, middle school, Emozi® Middle School, SEL Resources, relationship skills, Anna-Lisa Mackey, M.Ed., SEL and Literature, Socratic Seminar, SEL with ALM