Be Cool or be Cast Out by Michael Chabon
I really like this essay about the author's middle-school age son wanting and getting a pea coat for Christmas but not wearing it to school because people made fun of it. The first half of the essay recounts Chabon's own youthful days as a 13 year old and going to a t-shirt shop at the mall and getting a t-shirt with the word "Libertine" stenciled across the chest. It was his youthful act of defiance or churlishness or attempt at non-conformity. I remember throughout junior high and even high school I would buy blank trucker hats with different color mesh backs and bills and have the screen shop put my first name on the front of the hat. It would just say "BEN" across the front. I thought it was so stupid it was clever but in hindsight it was probably just stupid.
Essay: 9 of 10
This was a good read. It started strong about himself and his "Libertine" shirt and then it ended equally strong with the story about his son's pea coat (I wore a pea coat in high school and thought I looked damn good in it). Chabon is a very talented writer.
Teachability: 10 of 10
I think kids would love this essay and it would create some seriously riveting discussion. The essay could also serve as an excellent model essay for the students to write about a time they were brave or a time they tried to break from convention. Or even a non-personal narrative essay could be written about conformity in general. This essay could be an excellent jumping off point.