Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees is set in South Carolina in 1964, the year the Civil Rights Act was passed. Lily Owens, a fourteen-year-old living with her violent father, T. Ray, and a housekeeper named Rosaleen, goes on the lam with Rosaleen, after the young housekeeper is beaten and jailed for an act of defiance against whites. With a honey jar label, featuring a black Madonna, in hand, the two head to Tiburon where the honey is made. They find the three Boatwright sisters: mournful May, wise August, and lovely June, devotees of the black “Mary in Chains,” their savior. They welcome the girl who supposedly is an orphan, and it is later revealed that Lily’s long-gone mother, Deborah, once took refuge with them as well. After a friendship between Lily and a black boy, named Zach, lands the young boy in jail, May commits suicide in despair. Zach is finally released, but T. Ray comes to claim Lily, though the sisters dissuade him and he finally leaves. As the story ends, Lily is firmly ensconced in the Boatwright family, and Zach has hopes of a better life. Kidd’s skillful exploration of racism and violence makes her novel suitable for high school readers.
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Curriculum guide for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; aligned to Common Core standards. Includes objectives, teacher notes, individual and small group activities, student handouts with suggested responses, culminating activities, and a quiz with answer key. Students research the setting, explore the influence of the 1960s civil rights movement, evaluate characters behavior and motivation, and recognize the use of imagery and figurative language. They also keep a reader-response journal and create a soundtrack that reflects the plot, setting, and theme of the novel. PDF format allows posting handouts directly to a LMS or to student devices. 10 Lesson Plans/40 Handouts