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FunTimes Magazine

The Reading Quilt: Untwine

May 24, 2024 10:00AM ● By Dr. Rachel Slaughter

The portrayal of twins in entertainment has indeed been a rich and varied mosaic, including stories ranging from heartwarming comedies to thrilling mysteries. "Sister, Sister," featuring Tia and Tamera Mowry, captured the hearts of audiences in the 90s with its humorous take on the unique bond between identical twins separated at birth. The show's success showcased the enduring appeal of twin dynamics in entertainment and how it can be used to craft engaging narratives that resonate with viewers.

Not all depictions of twin relationships in media or books are lighthearted or positive. Some stories delve into darker themes, exploring the complexities of twin connections in more sinister contexts. These narratives may involve themes of deception, betrayal, or even violence, showcasing the sinister side of the twin experience. Overall, the twin trope in entertainment serves as a versatile tool for storytellers to explore a wide range of themes and emotions, from joy and laughter to mystery and suspense. Whether portrayed as sources of comedy or intrigue, twins continue to fascinate audiences with their unique bond and the endless storytelling possibilities the experience offers.

 Each month “The Reading Quilt” provides a short review of a book that a teacher may use to spark conversations about culture and race, along with a learning activity that may help students understand human behavior. Using the acronym QUILT, the review offers readers information about the Quality of writing, Universal theme, Imaginative plot, a mini Lesson plan, and Talking points that stem from the book’s premise. This month’s selection is a book by Edwidge Danticat titled “Untwine” (Scholastic, 2015). 

Source: Library of Congress Life, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-born writer, was born on January 19, 1969. Danticat lived in Port-au-Prince until she was 12 years old. Edwidge found a creative outlet in writing at nine years old. Not long after, when she turned 12, she and her father emigrated from Haiti to New York. Rose, her mother, joined the family from Haiti two years later. Detailing her emigration experiences in a short story, Edwidge was a published writer before she reached her teens.  As she continued exploring the art of storytelling and other writing genres, Edwidge won many awards and honors including The National Book Critics Circle Award for “Brother, I'm Dying” in 2007.

Quality of Writing: In her gripping novel, Edwidge transports readers into the heart of a family teetering on the edge of calamity. With masterful storytelling, she skillfully immerses us in the idyllic world of Isabelle and Giselle, sixteen year old twins who love their parents and appreciate their safe and comfortable world.

Universal Theme: Within the pages of Edwidge's captivating novel unfolds a poignant tale of a close-knit Haitian family, guiding twin teenage girls to cherish the essence of kinship and companionship. With graceful prose, the author delves deep into the intricate web of relationships, exploring themes of friendship, love, and the profound weight of loss. In this unflinching narrative, Edwidge skillfully exposes the complexities of familial ties and the resilience required to confront the repercussions of concealed truths. 

Imaginative Plot: In the novel, Edwidge creates scenes of playful sisterly love that epitomizes the essence of their sisterhood. Yet, beneath their seemingly idyllic existence, storm clouds gather  as whispers of their parents' potential divorce linger in the air like a heavy fog. Despite the looming uncertainty, the twins find solace in each other's company, clinging to the belief that their sisterly bond will weather any storm. Little do they know, tragedy will soon strike, shattering their world and testing their bond of strength which was tight like twine. Soon, the girls will untwine in the most unimaginable way.

Lesson Plan: Exploring Nature vs. Nurture through Twin Studies - By the end of the lesson, students will be able to understand the interplay between genetics and environment by examining twin studies, particularly focusing on identical twins. Using relevant twin study articles, the teacher will begin the lesson by asking students to consider the following question: “Are we more influenced by our genes or our environment?" During the lesson, the teacher will explain that this question forms the basis of the nature vs. nurture debate, which is a fundamental concept in genetics and psychology. 

Talking Points: At the conclusion of the lesson, the students will be able to summarize the key points of the lesson, emphasizing the complex interplay between genetics and environment in shaping individual characteristics. The teacher should encourage students to reflect on how this understanding can inform various fields such as psychology, medicine, and education. Listed below are additional talking points that could also serve as topics for research papers.

  • Define identical twins and their significance in genetic studies. 

  • Discuss the concept of nature vs. nurture and how identical twins provide an opportunity to explore this concept.

  • Present recent studies highlighting the role of the environment in shaping differences between identical twins, particularly focusing on the epigenome.

  • Introduce classical twin studies and their historical significance in understanding inherited traits versus learned behaviors.

  • Research and detail the lives of famous African American twins and how their lives may underscore the studies of nature vs. nurture. Evaluate their ability to articulate the role of genetics and environment in shaping behavior and traits of the famous twins.

  • Explore examples of traits that are likely influenced by genetics (e.g., eye color) versus those influenced by the environment (e.g., language).

  • Facilitate a discussion on the implications of twin studies in the field of Behavioral Genetics, emphasizing the importance of understanding both genetic and environmental factors in shaping behavior and health outcomes.

 Dr. R. A. Slaughter’s (Doc) textbooks Turning the Page: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers to Multicultural Literature, and Turning the Page: A Guide to Securing Multicultural Literature for Schools, both published by Rowman & Littlefield and available in all bookstores, have brought Doc international recognition. Doc’s lecture on “Uncommon Literacies and BBIPOC Joy'' is often met with standing ovations. For more information, log onto or check out “The Reading Quilt '' Talk Show, every Monday, at 3:30 pm on Philly Cam.

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