Copyright

Ch 7: Contemporary American Literature Essay Topics

About This Chapter

Use this teacher resource chapter for ideas on contemporary American literature essay topics. These thought-provoking essay topics can be accessed on any computer or mobile device, which helps you easily plan essay assignments and integrate them into your English curriculum.

Contemporary American Literature Essay Topics - Chapter Summary

If your students are studying contemporary American literature, take a look at these essay topics to assess their understanding of significant works and authors, such as Gillian Flynn, Richard Russo, The Big Sleep, African-American literature and more.

These convenient resources are available at any time of day or night. You can also use any Internet-connected device to access the essay topics. This flexibility allows you to easily incorporate the resources in your English classes and plan your essay assignments whenever it's convenient.

How It Helps

  • Helps with curriculum planning: You'll be able to easily incorporate these essay topics in your contemporary American literature curriculum.
  • Improves critical thinking skills: These suggested essay topics are designed to help your students think critically about a variety of novels, authors and works of literature.
  • Enhances your students' composition skills: Assigning these essay topics to your students can help them strengthen their writing abilities.

Skills Covered

By the end of the chapter, you should be able to:

  • Provide essay topics on Native Son, The Big Sleep, The Talented Mr. Ripley and When Harry Met Sally
  • Assign essay topics on works by Gillian Flynn and Richard Russo
  • Test your students' literary knowledge with African-American literature essay topics

81 Lessons in Chapter 7: Contemporary American Literature Essay Topics
The Big Sleep Novel Essay Topics

1. The Big Sleep Novel Essay Topics

~'The Big Sleep~', by Raymond Chandler, is an intricate and exciting novel filled with plot twists and complicated themes. This lesson offers a series of essay topics that will help your students think critically about the novel.

The Talented Mr. Ripley Novel Essay Topics

2. The Talented Mr. Ripley Novel Essay Topics

If your students are reading Patricia Highsmith's 'The Talented Mr. Ripley', you have a wonderful opportunity to engage them with contemporary American literature. This lesson offers essay topics that will help students make better sense of the novel.

Gillian Flynn Essay Topics

3. Gillian Flynn Essay Topics

When students are studying contemporary American literature, it helps to understand the life of the authors creating these works. Use these essay topics to help students write about the life and career of Gillian Flynn.

Richard Russo Essay Topics

4. Richard Russo Essay Topics

Richard Russo is an American writer whose works have achieved wide acclaim and who addresses a variety of important literary motifs. This lesson offers essays that focus on the life, books, and overall themes of Richard Russo work.

Native Son Essay Topics

5. Native Son Essay Topics

Richard Wright's ~'Native Son~' is an important work in American literature, dealing with themes such as race, politics, and coming of age. This lesson provides essay topics that will help your students think deeply about the novel.

American Sniper Essay Topics

6. American Sniper Essay Topics

''American Sniper'' is an autobiographical book that recounts the life and service of Chris Kyle. Use these essay topics to help students explore his life and accomplishments, as well as the social and political issues surrounding them.

This I Believe Essay Topics

7. This I Believe Essay Topics

Getting students involved in This I Believe essays can be a great way to help them express themselves. This lesson offers a series of This I Believe topics that will get your students going.

The Things They Carried Essay Topics

8. The Things They Carried Essay Topics

One way to help students navigate stories is to ask them to respond in writing. This lesson explains how to use essay questions in the classroom, and provides essay topic ideas related to the study of the novel The Things They Carried.

Invisible Man Lesson Plan

9. Invisible Man Lesson Plan

This lesson plan is intended for high school students who have completed ''The Invisible Man'' by H.G. Wells. Students will discuss the book's characters and themes, and use them as the basis for their own writing projects.

Small Great Things Discussion Questions

10. Small Great Things Discussion Questions

Teachers, use these discussion questions after or while students are reading 'Small Great Things'. Students will engage in thought provoking questions demonstrating their comprehension of the material and activating higher order thinking.

The Sympathizer Discussion Questions

11. The Sympathizer Discussion Questions

'The Sympathizer' is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen about a man who is living among leaders of the South Vietnamese army while spying for the Viet Cong. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this book.

The Bell Jar Discussion Questions

12. The Bell Jar Discussion Questions

'The Bell Jar' is a feminist novel by Sylvia Plath about a character, loosely based on the author, who is suffering from depression. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this story.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Discussion Questions

13. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Discussion Questions

'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' is a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer about a boy coping with grief after losing his father in 9/11. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this novel.

Tuesdays with Morrie Unit Plan

14. Tuesdays with Morrie Unit Plan

''Tuesdays with Morrie'' is a memoir of conversations between two men in different phases of life. This high school unit plan will help you guide students through the genre, literary devices, sage advice, and universal themes featured in this book.

The Namesake Discussion Questions

15. The Namesake Discussion Questions

'The Namesake' is a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri about an Indian immigrant that feels caught between his family's Bengali heritage and American culture. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this story.

The Language of Flowers Discussion Questions

16. The Language of Flowers Discussion Questions

''The Language of Flowers'' is a fictional novel about abandonment, communication, and finding relationships. These questions can help your students navigate these themes and deepen their understanding of this novel.

Killing Mr. Griffin Discussion Questions

17. Killing Mr. Griffin Discussion Questions

'Killing Mr. Griffin' is a young adult novel by Lois Duncan about a group of teenagers who seek revenge against a strict teacher by kidnapping him. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this book.

A Beautiful Mind Discussion Questions

18. A Beautiful Mind Discussion Questions

These discussion questions focus on the book ''A Beautiful Mind'', not the film it inspired. With these questions, you can help guide your students as they talk about the biography's content, structure, and meaning.

Project Mulberry Discussion Questions

19. Project Mulberry Discussion Questions

''Project Mulberry'' is a children's novel that explores themes of friendship, family, and identity through the eyes of a Korean-American girl. These discussion questions can help your students work through these themes and explore the book in greater depth.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Discussion Questions

20. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Discussion Questions

'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' is a Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Junot Diaz about American immigrants from the Dominican Republic. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this book.

The Round House Discussion Questions

21. The Round House Discussion Questions

''The Round House'' is a novel by Louise Erdrich, that deals in mature and intense themes. As such, it is best for older students. These questions can help your students work through the themes and plot of this award-winning novel.

Paper Towns Discussion Questions

22. Paper Towns Discussion Questions

'Paper Towns' by John Green is a young adult novel about the evolving relationship between two teenagers. This lesson will guide classroom discussions about this story.

The Chocolate War Discussion Questions

23. The Chocolate War Discussion Questions

''The Chocolate War'' is a novel written by Robert Cormier in 1974 that is still popular with young adult readers today. Use this discussion guide in your middle school class to help students think critically about the book.

No Country for Old Men Discussion Questions

24. No Country for Old Men Discussion Questions

'No Country for Old Men' is a novel by Cormac McCarthy about drugs and money at America's southern border. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this book.

Stand and Deliver Discussion Questions

25. Stand and Deliver Discussion Questions

'Stand and Deliver' is a 1988 movie by director Ramon Menendez about a teacher who inspires students in a low-performing school to learn calculus. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this film.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith Discussion Questions

26. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith Discussion Questions

''A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'' is one of the most popular American novels from the early 20th century. These discussion questions will help your middle and high school students dig deeper into the plot and themes of the book.

Warriors Don't Cry Discussion Questions

27. Warriors Don't Cry Discussion Questions

''Warriors Don't Cry'' tells the story of school integration from the eyes of its author, Melba Beals, a member of the Little Rock Nine. These questions are designed with high school students in mind and will require critical thinking.

Far and Away by Sonja Massie Discussion Questions

28. Far and Away by Sonja Massie Discussion Questions

''Far and Away'' by Sonja Massie is a novelization of the 1992 film of the same name. These discussion questions can help your students better appreciate this novel and their feelings about it.

Every Day by David Levithan Discussion Questions

29. Every Day by David Levithan Discussion Questions

''Every Day'' is a young adult novel about a protagonist who inhabits a different body every day. It's a thought-provoking read, and one that students will likely benefit from talking about.

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson Discussion Questions

30. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson Discussion Questions

In ''Snow Falling on Cedars,'' a Japanese-American man finds himself on trial soon after the end of World War II. This novel deals with themes of racism, justice, and personal prejudice, all of which are explored in the following discussion questions.

The Other Wes Moore Discussion Questions

31. The Other Wes Moore Discussion Questions

''The Other Wes Moore'' is a nonfiction book that examines how very similar lives can follow very different paths. These questions can help your students work through these ideas and consider the book's message in their own lives.

The Bean Trees Discussion Questions

32. The Bean Trees Discussion Questions

'The Bean Trees' is a novel by Barbara Kingsolver about a single woman who inadvertently becomes the adoptive parent of a Cherokee child. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this book.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman Discussion Questions

33. If I Stay by Gayle Forman Discussion Questions

'If I Stay' by Gayle Forman is a young adult novel about a girl making the choice of whether to live or die after a car accident kills her family. This lesson will guide classroom discussions about this story.

Gone Girl Discussion Questions

34. Gone Girl Discussion Questions

The novel Gone Girl spins a web of lies and duplicity. These questions will guide students through the deceptions to an understanding of the novel's main themes and concepts.

Ethan Frome Discussion Questions

35. Ethan Frome Discussion Questions

''Ethan Frome'' is a popular and highly lauded novel, but it can also present many challenging themes for students. These questions will help guide your class through a discussion about this story.

True Grit Discussion Questions

36. True Grit Discussion Questions

The ''True Grit'' films were based on a 1968 novel by the same name. These discussion questions are designed to help your students analyze that novel but can be adapted to help them appreciate the films as well.

The Last Lecture Discussion Questions

37. The Last Lecture Discussion Questions

Randy Pausch wrote ''The Last Lecture'' after a talk he gave at Carnegie Melon in 2007. The book is full of wisdom and insight on how to live your best life and achieve your goals.

The Nightingale Discussion Questions

38. The Nightingale Discussion Questions

'The Nightingale' by Kristin Hannah is a novel about two sisters who respond to Nazi occupation in France in different ways. This lesson will guide classroom discussions about this story.

Montana 1948 Discussion Questions

39. Montana 1948 Discussion Questions

''Montana 1948'' is a popular novella, but one packed with some intense themes. These questions can help lead your students through a discussion on the characters, plot, and themes of the story.

The Circle Discussion Questions

40. The Circle Discussion Questions

'The Circle' by Dave Eggers is a dystopian novel about the technology industry and one woman's attempt to navigate it. This lesson will guide classroom discussions about this book.

Still Alice Discussion Questions

41. Still Alice Discussion Questions

'Still Alice' shares the struggle of a middle-aged professor who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. These discussion questions will help confirm students' understanding of the storyline and allow them to integrate their opinions and experiences.

The Storyteller Discussion Questions

42. The Storyteller Discussion Questions

''The Storyteller'' is a Jodi Picoult novel that examines justice and consequences when a young baker learns that an old man in her town is a former Nazi. Guide your students through a discussion on this novel using these questions.

Go Set a Watchman Discussion Questions

43. Go Set a Watchman Discussion Questions

'Go Set a Watchman' is a sequel to the Pulitzer prize-winning 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee. This lesson will guide classroom discussions about this book.

The Well and the Mine Discussion Questoins

44. The Well and the Mine Discussion Questoins

''The Well and the Mine'' is a historical fiction novel set in the Depression-era South that explores a range of serious and important themes. These questions can help your students work through this engaging novel and its themes.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks Discussion Questions

45. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks Discussion Questions

''People of the Book'' is a work of historical fiction that asks us to consider human connections over vast swaths of time. These questions can help guide your students through a discussion on this and other ideas within the novel.

Digging to America Discussion Questions

46. Digging to America Discussion Questions

''Digging to America'' explores what it means to be an American and what it means to feel like an outsider. These questions can help facilitate a class discussion on this book and its themes.

The Birchbark House Discussion Questions

47. The Birchbark House Discussion Questions

''The Birchbark House'' is a children's historical fiction novel featuring an Ojibwe protagonist. These questions can help guide your students through a discussion on the book's themes, characters, and plot.

A Good Man is Hard to Find Discussion Questions

48. A Good Man is Hard to Find Discussion Questions

'A Good Man is Hard to Find' is a popular short story by Flannery O'Connor about a flawed family who encounters a murderer during a road trip. This asset provides discussion questions for classrooms about the story.

The Devil in the White City Discussion Questions

49. The Devil in the White City Discussion Questions

'The Devil in the White City' is a historical novel by Erik Larson that describes the events of the 1893 World's Fair held in Chicago, Illinois. Use these questions in your high school classroom to help students think critically about the book.

Out of My Mind Discussion Questions

50. Out of My Mind Discussion Questions

''Out of My Mind'' is a children's novel about a girl with cerebral palsy, narrated from her perspective. These questions can help guide students through a discussion about this novel and how we view and talk about disability.

Life As We Knew It Discussion Questions

51. Life As We Knew It Discussion Questions

''Life as We Knew It'' is a young adult novel about a world that collapses as the Moon is pushed closer to Earth. These questions can help guide your students through a discussion on the novel's themes, plot, and characters.

The Art of Racing in the Rain Discussion Questions

52. The Art of Racing in the Rain Discussion Questions

Use the following discussion questions to guide students through reading and discussing Garth Stein's ''The Art of Racing in the Rain''. These questions can be used as you go through the novel or can foster an overarching discussion after reading.

A Piece of the World Discussion Questions

53. A Piece of the World Discussion Questions

''A Piece of the World'' is a fictional novel based on a real work of art, which itself was based on a real subject. As a result, there are many ways to approach this discussion. These questions can help provide a guiding framework.

The Blue Orchard Discussion Questions

54. The Blue Orchard Discussion Questions

''The Blue Orchard'' is a novel that examines women's lives and abortion in the mid-20th century. The following questions can help guide your class through a discussion on this book and its sensitive themes.

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva Discussion Questions

55. The Black Widow by Daniel Silva Discussion Questions

''The Black Widow'' is an intriguing spy novel by Daniel Silva, so there's a lot that students may want to discuss about it. These questions can help guide that discussion about plot, characters, structure, and themes.

A Secret Gift Discussion Questions

56. A Secret Gift Discussion Questions

''A Secret Gift'' is a nonfiction book that explores mysterious $5 checks donated to struggling individuals in the Great Depression. These questions can help guide your students through a discussion about this book.

The Gangster We Are All Looking For Discussion Questions

57. The Gangster We Are All Looking For Discussion Questions

''The Gangster We Are All Looking For'' is a novel about a young girl's life as a Vietnamese immigrant in the United States, told in a fragmented first-person narrative. It's an engaging book with ample topics for class discussion.

Redeeming Love Discussion Questions

58. Redeeming Love Discussion Questions

''Redeeming Love'' is a work of historical fiction by Francine Rivers. These questions can help facilitate a class discussion on this story, its characters, and its major themes.

Land of Love and Drowning Discussion Questions

59. Land of Love and Drowning Discussion Questions

''Land of Love and Drowning'' is a work of magical realism set primarily in the U.S. Virgin Islands. These questions can help facilitate a class discussion on the novel's themes, plot, characters, and genre.

We Band of Angels Discussion Questions

60. We Band of Angels Discussion Questions

''We Band of Angels'' is a work of historical nonfiction focused on nurses in Bataan during World War II. These questions can help get your students talking about the book's ideas, argument, and evidence.

Saving Zasha Discussion Questions

61. Saving Zasha Discussion Questions

''Saving Zasha'' is a children's novel about a boy and a dog set in post-World War II Russia. These questions can help facilitate a class discussion on the book's plot, structure, and themes.

Before the Fall Discussion Questions

62. Before the Fall Discussion Questions

If you're looking for a fast-paced novel with engaging characters and thought-provoking action, try Noah Hawley's 'Before the Fall.' Use these questions about story, literary elements, social issues, and personal response to discuss it with your class.

All I Love and Know Discussion Questions

63. All I Love and Know Discussion Questions

Teaching Judith Frank's 'All I Love and Know' to your high school students can be a fascinating journey through love, grief, and politics. Use these discussion questions to guide your students as they dissect the novel's complex themes and characters.

Maud's Line Discussion Questions

64. Maud's Line Discussion Questions

Teachers, use these discussion questions about 'Maud's Line' by Margaret Verble during or after students read the book. Students will find these questions engaging while improving their critical thinking skills.

State of Wonder Discussion Questions

65. State of Wonder Discussion Questions

'State of Wonder' by Ann Patchett explores moral and ethical actions of practitioners in the medical field. Due to the mature content, use the following questions for middle school age students and up.

A Tale for the Time Being Discussion Questions

66. A Tale for the Time Being Discussion Questions

'A Tale for the Time Being' by Ruth Ozeki is an intriguing journey from history to the present day. These discussion questions can help you guide your high school students through an exploration of theme, character, setting, and point of view.

Sycamore Row Discussion Questions

67. Sycamore Row Discussion Questions

'Sycamore Row' is a legal mystery that takes readers on a journey through the complicated family dynamics of a small Mississippi town. These discussion questions will help you guide high schoolers through the novel's characters, setting, and plot.

The Postmistress Discussion Questions

68. The Postmistress Discussion Questions

'The Postmistress' is a new perspective on a World War II story and a book that combines strong characters and current-sounding events. Use these questions to discuss the story, literary elements, social issues, and personal responses.

A Land More Kind Than Home Discussion Questions

69. A Land More Kind Than Home Discussion Questions

'A Land More Kind Than Home' is a sordid tale of deceit, murder, and fanaticism that plagues a small community in the 1980s. These discussion questions will help you guide your high school students through the novel's characters, theme, and plot.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins Discussion Questions

70. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins Discussion Questions

Teaching 'The Girl on the Train' to your high school students can be a thrilling adventure of intrigue, mystery, and suspense. These discussion questions will help you guide students through an analysis of the novel's characters, plot, and themes.

Crossing to Safety Discussion Questions

71. Crossing to Safety Discussion Questions

'Crossing to Safety' is a semi-autobiographical novel by Wallace Stegner about two couples in an enduring friendship. The questions in this asset support classroom discussions about this novel.

The Last Midwife Discussion Questions

72. The Last Midwife Discussion Questions

'The Last Midwife' is a 2015 novel by Sandra Dallas. This resource provides discussion questions that will enhance student understanding of the book and require students to think critically about its themes.

The Signature of All Things Discussion Questions

73. The Signature of All Things Discussion Questions

'The Signature of All Things' can help you take upper high school students on a journey in which the natural world and human complexity collide. Use these discussion questions to spark conversation about the characters, settings, and plot of the book.

The Unseen World Discussion Questions

74. The Unseen World Discussion Questions

Read 'The Unseen World' by Liz Moore with your middle or high school students to take them on a thrilling journey as Ada unravels her father's life. Use these discussion questions to help students analyze character, themes, and plot.

Marley and Me Book Discussion Questions

75. Marley and Me Book Discussion Questions

'Marley & Me' is an autobiographical novel by John Grogan about his family and their dog. This resource provides discussion questions for a novel study about this book.

Necessary Lies Discussion Questions

76. Necessary Lies Discussion Questions

'Necessary Lies' is a historical fiction novel by Diane Chamberlain about the American eugenics program in the mid-1900s. This resource provides discussion questions for classrooms reading this novel.

Inferno by Dan Brown Discussion Questions

77. Inferno by Dan Brown Discussion Questions

Teaching Dan Brown's 'Inferno' to your high school students can be a heart-pumping adventure. Use these discussion questions to help them fully understand the characters, plot, and symbolism in this novel.

The Almost Sisters Discussion Questions

78. The Almost Sisters Discussion Questions

These discussion questions based on 'The Almost Sisters' by Joshilyn Jackson will challenge students' critical thinking skills and confirm what they have read in the book.

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron Discussion Questions

79. A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron Discussion Questions

'A Dog's Purpose' by W. Bruce Cameron is a humorous and philosophical examination of life from the perspective of a reincarnating dog. This asset offers discussion questions to use with secondary students who are reading this novel.

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda Discussion Questions

80. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda Discussion Questions

''Secret Daughter'' by Shilpi Somaya Gowda is a fiction novel about an Indian mother who gives up her daughter for adoption and the California mother who adopts the child. This asset provides discussion questions about this novel.

Appointment in Samarra Discussion Questions

81. Appointment in Samarra Discussion Questions

'Appointment in Samarra' is a 1934 novel by John O'Hara about the social decline of a successful salesman. This asset provides discussion questions for students about this novel.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
Not Taken
Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
Not Taken

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Support