My Life as a Diamond
Summary: Caspar “Caz” Cadman loves baseball and has a great arm. He loves the sounds, the smells, and the stats. When his family moves to a suburb of Seattle, the first thing he does is try out for the local summer team. Caz is thrilled when he makes the team, but he’s worried because he has a big secret.
No one in this city knows that Caz used to go by the name Casandra. It is nobody’s business. Caz will tell his new friends when he is ready or at least that was the plan.
Author: Jenny Manzer is a writer in Victoria, British Columbia and is the author of SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN, which was nominated for the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize. She has a degree in Creative Writing and was a finalist for the 2013 CBC Creative Non-Fiction Prize, one of Canada’s most prestigious literary competitions.
WITS LEADerS Connection: Look and Listen, Explore Points of View, Act, Did it Work? Helping and Seeking Help.
Pre-reading discussion: Let your students know that you are going to read a book to explore the important topic of gender identity because you want all your students to work together so that everyone can be who they are, wear what makes them happy, and be included in play without being teased.
- Look at the book cover of My Life as a Diamond and describe what you see.
- Can you guess what the book might be about? What are some of the challenges that might lie ahead for the child on the cover of the book?
- The main character in this book loves to plays baseball, do you play or watch any sports? Which are your favourite?
- The title of the book My Life as a Diamond is a metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison between two things that aren’t alike but have something in common. Why do you think the author used this metaphor for the title of the book?
Conflict: Stories are usually based on a conflict. The conflict may be a problem to solve or a goal that the main character wants to reach.
Types of conflicts in stories are:
- Person vs Person
- Person vs Self
- Person vs Nature
- Person vs Society
- Person vs Technology
- Person vs the Supernatural
POST-READING QUESTIONS: Conflict and Feelings
- Who is the main character of the story and what are the conflicts in the story?
- How does Casper “Caz” feel once other students learn about his secret?
- Caper used a variety of strategies to deal with bullies. What were they?
- Talk with your students about how characters are affected by stereotyping and bias. For example, talk to your students about how in My Life as a Diamond, Casper is treated differently, teased and bullied when playing baseball because he was born girl but feels like he is a boy and prefers to looks like a boy. How did this make Caspar feel? What can students and teachers do to stop this?
- Discuss the following terms and their meanings with your students: gender, bias, stereotype.
On chart paper or whiteboard write the word “gender”. Ask students to talk about what that word might mean and share out their responses. Usually, young children will say that gender is if you are a boy or a girl. Let students know that there are lots of genders and that gender can be defined as she, he, a blend of both or neither.
Also let students know that there are many, many ways to be a girl, boy, both or neither.
Write the words “gender stereotype”. Ask students what the word “stereotype” means.
o Stereotype definition. Let students know that a stereotype is a way of thinking about a group of people that is often negative and not true. Also, that stereotypes can also be positive and not true (i.e., Tall people being good at playing basketball).
o Let students know that a gender stereotype is a message that there is a certain way you have to be if you are a girl or boy.
Explain that there are many ways to be a girl, boy, blend of both or neither, but that often we are told that certain things or ways to be are for boys or girls. For example, “All girls like dolls, and all boys like to play sports.” Ask your students if that is true or false.
o It is also important to let students know that your gender is how you feel. We do not know someone’s gender until they share that with us.
Gender Spectrum: http://www.genderspectrum.org
Trans Care BC: http: //transhealth.phsa.ca/trans-101
- Includes a page of terms and information that is helpful no matter where you live
Trans Lifeline: https://www.translifeline.og/ in Canada or the U.S.A.
Talking About Gender – Explain to students that you are going to talk about ways that people are expected to behave. Sometimes how you are expected to act can be different depending on whether you are in school, at home, at the playground, in the library, with your friends or other situations.
- Ask: “What are some ways that children are expected to behave in school?” (Possible answers may include: friendly, respectfully, being good listeners, following teacher’s directions, etc.)
- Ask: “What are some ways that children are expected to behave outside with their friends?” (Possible answers may include: running around, using loud outside voices, playing nicely, following playground rules, etc.)
- Ask: “Are there some ways that people expect children to behave based on their gender? Gender usually means whether you are a boy or a girl.” (Possible answers may include: Boys are expected to run faster, like sports, and play superhero; girls are expected to like pink, not run as fast and to like to play princess, etc.)
- Ask students: “Does the job a person has, or what they wear mean the person is a man or woman?” (No) “Do the activities someone likes to do for fun or what they wear mean they are a boy or a girl?” (No)
- Ask the children to consider why it is that some people make decisions about what children can and can’t do.
- Discuss that children and grown-ups have choices and may like to do all kinds of things.
- Ask what might make people not choose an activity that they might really like to do. For example, a girl playing baseball or a boy taking dance class.
Note to the Teacher: If students are stuck, prompt them with some examples such as “What might make a boy decide not to put on nail polish even though he wants to? What might make a girl decide not to wear a Spiderman costume even though she wants to?”
- Ask students, “What are some things you can say to a friend who feels like they can’t do or try something because it’s not for their gender?”
- Ask students to create a poster with these positive messages.
- Read other WITS LEADerS books about gender identity: A Boy Named Queen, and No Girls Allowed.
This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.
Ce projet a été rendu possible en partie grâce au gouvernement du Canada