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Years ago, the idea of “the American Dream” entered the national dialogue as an ideal and achievable goal. It represents the notion that in the United States of America, everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and prosper, regardless of class or origins, with hard work and determination. In subsequent years, while people continue to believe in and aspire to achieve “the American Dream,” transcending social barriers that may operate elsewhere, the dream remains more of an ideal than a reality for many. This audio story collection explores the theme of the American Dream through the perspectives of various individuals, inviting consideration of how the dream manifests in reality for people of different backgrounds.
In the USA in 2019, 23 million Americans identified as having Asian or Pacific Islander roots. They represent connections to many of the 61 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, each with a unique history and culture. As a result, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is very diverse, from how they personally identify, to the religions they practice, to the food they eat. Yet, despite their differences, they share many experiences. AAPI people have been in the territory that has become the U.S. since the 16th century, and they share rich, intertwined histories including both triumphs and persecution. This audio story collection explores a selection of stories relating to AAPI history, experience, and identity. Listen to learn more about a range of topics, including how different communities celebrate prominent holidays, how individuals have developed their identities, and how AAPI people have experienced prejudice and racism in the United States.
Those who identify as Black or African American make up just over thirteen percent of the U.S. population, and their stories are a valuable asset to American culture. This community’s influence is evident across a wide variety of fields, including politics, agriculture, medicine, literature, sports, fashion, comedy, and music. We celebrate revolutionary historic Black heroes like Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr., and contemporary ones like Simone Biles and Barack Obama because they represent the ideals of the American dream. In these figures, we see resilience and ingenuity because a history of inequality has not stopped Black people from working to achieve personal success and social progress. There are many other stories of lesser known individuals whose experiences also both inform and reflect American society. This audio story collection features stories of Black people whose success and struggles are a reflection of our country’s values, and its rich and complex history.
The modern Black Lives Matter Movement continues the legacy of the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement. In the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others led Black civil rights activists and their allies to take nonviolent action in their fight for voting rights, an end to segregation, and living wages. They marched, participated in sit-ins and boycotts, and traveled to register black voters. Despite violent opposition, their efforts led to legislative victories that promoted a more equal society. Twenty-first century police brutality and discontent with systemic racial inequality has fueled new generations to protest civil rights violations and work for change through the Black Lives Matter movement. Though viral videos, online organizational efforts, and non-traditional leadership make today’s civil rights movement different from those of past eras, the Black Lives Matter movement’s worldwide visibility and record-breaking protest attendance suggest that their demands for racial equity may be just as revolutionary. This audio story collection features stories about the events, efforts, and people involved in both the historic and contemporary Black civil rights movements.
Slavery began in the United States in 1619 when the first African slave ship arrived. Although Congress outlawed the slave trade in 1808, domestic slave trading continued, and the population of enslaved people grew to nearly 4 million by 1860. The enslaved people’s brutal experiences during the transatlantic slave trade and in homes and plantations throughout the U.S. continued until the 13th amendment was passed in 1865. During the reconstruction period between 1863 and 1877, the U.S. government took steps to integrate formerly enslaved people into society and reunify the nation after the Civil War; however, the reconstruction process was difficult, and some may say unfinished. This audio story collection features stories about slavery and reconstruction, including narratives of enslaved people and their involvement in early U.S history, important figures of the abolitionist movement, efforts toward reparation, and life for free black people after emancipation.
A coming-of-age story in literature (also known as a Bildungsroman) focuses on the personal transformation of a young character growing up and learning life lessons along the way. Well-read novels such as Jane Eyre, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Kite Runner are classic examples. The protagonist typically experiences a loss of innocence along with personal growth and develops a deeper understanding of the complexities of adult life. Many real-life stories also follow a similar arc of self-realization and personal development. Most of the stories in this audio story collection feature teens describing their lives, their challenges, and their triumphs and they grow up in a complicated world.
The power of the human connection can turn small acts of kindness, courage, or friendship into life-changing events. This audio story collection explores the potential effects of seemingly simple human interactions on others, illustrating that these exchanges are not really simple at all, but rather they can ripple through people’s lives in ways that may have lasting impact. Together, the stories in this collection demonstrate that people are linked by their need to make meaning in their lives through relationships with others. Across many different contexts, the intersection of individual lives can significantly influence their trajectories.
The Latino/Hispanic community represents a significant portion of the U.S. population and continues to grow. Its diverse members hail from a wide variety of countries of origin where the Spanish language is spoken. Whether community members identify as Latino, Latina, Latinx, Hispanic, Chicano, by nationality, by ethnicity, or otherwise, their stories are part of the American story. This audio story collection highlights the voices and experiences of Hispanic people in the U.S., including documented and undocumented immigrants, as well as people whose families have been U.S. citizens for generations. They capture cultural traditions like celebrating a quinceañera, accomplishments like working on the Mars rover or winning a prestigious scholarship, and emotions surrounding separation from or reunification with family members during the course of immigration. Listen to these stories for a sampling of Latino culture, history, and perspectives on identity and the American experience.
The LGBTQ+ civil rights movement started in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, where riots were held in protest of a police raid. This uprising paved the way for an ongoing fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, whose members have experienced prejudice, discrimination, harrassment, and violence based on who they are. This audio story collection highlights the positive work of the LGBTQ+ community, advocates, and allies who have stood up and taken action to fight for equality and liberation. These stories address policy issues such as legalizing same-sex marriage and protecting the rights of LGBTQ workers, as well as voicing perspectives on topics such as growing up gay or using gender-neutral pronouns. This audio collection can help listeners feel connected to the LGBTQ+ community and empowered to speak up as members or allies.
People have lived on the land that is now the U.S. for thousands of years, many of them Native Americans belonging to over 600 different tribes. Over time, the Native population has drastically decreased and endured significant hardship. However, Native Americans continue to persevere and remain an integral part of the American population today. It is important to learn about people who lived on the continent before Columbus arrived, their history on North American land, and how they have fought for the survival and prosperity of their culture. This audio story collection features a sampling of stories focused on Native American identity, culture, and experience, past and present.
The path to success is not always smooth, and sometimes society, nature, or chance circumstances can create hurdles that appear insurmountable. This audio story collection explores various examples of people facing adversity who persist in the face of significant challenges and persevere to reach their goals. Rather than giving up or losing hope, even when triumph seems unlikely, the protagonists of these stories exhibit determination, persistence, and hard work as they pursue their aspirations. These stories of individual journeys of accomplishment, full of twists and turns, speak to the power of perseverance, no matter what obstacles threaten to block the way.
Fear is a powerful motivator. As a basic animal instinct, it can help to protect people from danger, but it can also inspire behavior that is harmful. Fear manifests in many ways, and it can spread quickly and easily. Fear can be used as a tool to abuse power through exclusion, intimidation, or force. The embers of natural anxiety can be fanned into flames of irrational fear, driving people to act in ways that hurt themselves or others. A hint of fear can also be exciting, and many people seek amusement that offers the opportunity to vicariously experience the thrill of danger. This audio story collection includes tales that illustrate the power of fear in a range of circumstances, including its origins and its consequences.
Justice is not a destination, but a journey of struggle to right societal wrongs. This audio story collection features examples from recent history of quests for justice by many different groups in a variety of contexts. These stories explore what justice might entail, and, more often, what the absence of a just society means for the daily lives of those who have been oppressed and marginalized. These stories span multiple countries, decades, and causes, but the common threads tying them together are the shared struggles and the importance of advocacy by and on behalf of people suffering injustice of any kind.
A person’s identity has many facets, and it develops over time. For example, one’s interests, personality, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, politics, and nationality all influence one’s identity. In certain contexts, particular aspects of one’s identity may be more prominent, while in other situations, people may feel pressure to hide parts of who they are. Experiences shape one’s identity, and identity inevitably shapes one’s experiences. This audio story collection focuses on individuals who feel conflict among aspects of their identities. They may be torn between who they are and who others want them to be. Ultimately, by embracing their own personal stories and the complexity of their identities, these figures ultimately come to accept themselves for who they are and make deliberate choices about who they want to be.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is essential to students’ growth, well-being, and success, both academically and personally. CASEL defines SEL as learning to “understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” These stories feature the voices of people who are working to develop these important life skills in a variety of circumstances, from being teased in a school hallway to sitting in a prison cell to rowing across the frigid Drake Passage. Their reflections on the challenges and benefits of actively grappling with the everyday dilemmas of being human are heartening, illuminating, and inspiring.
Every body is different, as is every brain. Everyone has strengths and challenges that impact their daily lives, and some are more outwardly visible than others. This collection features stories of people with diverse abilities and health conditions. Many of these audio stories offer examples of how being different, while sometimes challenging, can also be a source of strength. The collection illuminates the experiences of people who are neurodiverse or differently abled. It includes stories of how individuals with disabilities advocate for themselves, lead fulfilling lives, and combat stigmas surrounding ableism.
The survival instinct is basic and powerful. People manage to endure all kinds of life-threatening situations, including dangerous accidents, natural disasters, war, and genocide. This audio story collection looks to survivors of harrowing experiences for insight into how such events affect the human body and mind, and how a singular uncontrollable event can impact the rest of a person’s life. These stories illuminate how survivors of dire circumstances must rely on their mental fortitude to move through the experience and, ultimately, beyond it.
Throughout history, women have always had to fight for the rights that are naturally given to men. Women in different countries and of different races face distinct inequality and injustices every day. This audio collection features stories of many different women advocating for themselves and advancing their causes. Whether in politics, education, science, sports, or entertainment, these women have broken boundaries and created opportunities for the next generation of women. Understanding how these women have made history can offer inspiration and hope for successive generations to keep fighting for equality and standing up for what is right.
Kids and teens are not afraid to take on the challenges facing society. With more opportunities to connect with others and seek out information, today’s youth are using their voices to promote positive change. This audio story collection features kids and teens who are leading the way to solve problems in their communities, their country, and the world. Their stories are impressive and inspiring.
Young people use their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to turn their dreams into reality. Keeping their goals in mind, some kids capitalize on their talents and hobbies to launch successful businesses. Others notice what adults have missed and make big discoveries. Still more have taken the lead in media and technology innovation to address problems that matter to them and their peers. This audio story collection features kids and teens whose actions show leadership and ingenuity.
Youth culture often shapes popular culture, and young people’s interests and beliefs are a preview of what society will become. In today’s world, technology has amplified youth voices more than ever before. This audio story collection features kids and teens sharing their perspectives on topics like literature, adults, and trends. These stories showcase this generation’s influence, self-reflective nature, and resilience.