Like most ELA teachers, I love me some Edgar Allan Poe. His work meets the English teacher pinnacle of being rigorous yet engaging, high Lexile yet high interest, short yet deep. Poe’s short stories and poetry also provide fun opportunities for room transformations and engaging activities—especially during spooky season. However, adding culturally diverse short stories to the Halloween mix can make your middle school or high school classroom even more thrilling!
Here is a roundup of diverse short stories for the spooky season. Please note that while I use the term “diverse short stories” several times in this post, no single story is diverse. Creating a diverse and dynamic ELA curriculum comes with incorporating lots of different viewpoints and cultures to make your ELA selections more inclusive and interesting. This is something I have learned and continue to work on as an ELA educator so wanted to pass along.
Diverse Short Stories for Spooky Season
Short Story “Who Haunts” by Anelise Chen
I will start with my favorite new-to-me spooky short story. If you only preview one short story from this list, let it be this one! Conveniently, Chen’s short story “Who Haunts” is read on the Smithsonian podcast so you have a built-in narrator. Just hit play, take a walk, and enjoy this poignant short story by Asian-American author Anelise Chen. Without the ads at the beginning or the commentary at the end, this culturally diverse short story is only around 15 minutes long, but wow SO MUCH rich ELA material is packed into these 15 minutes!
The ghost is an extended metaphor that haunts this coming-of-age memoir so it’s not a traditional ghost story but more of a psychological one (Poe pairing alert!). It’s difficult to offer a summary without giving it away because my words could never do the language or cultural nuances justice. However, I will give one tiny disclaimer. The story does have a line about “getting her period” and her grandmother accusing her of being “sexually charged,” but these are NOT the focus of the story at all.
Rather, this story provides deep discussion topics about traversing traumatic family ties, overcoming damaged egos, and finding oneself apart from the bloodline that streams through our veins.
If you want more spooky season podcast episode suggestions, find those here: Spooky Podcast Episodes for the ELA classroom
Short Story “Us and Them” by David Sedaris
As a faithful David Sedaris fan, the short story “Us and Them” isn’t new to me, in fact, it’s one of my long-time favorites! Though it sounds silly, when I talk about David Sedaris, I tell people that he was my first gay friend. I started reading his work in college and will forever be grateful to the college professor who assigned one of his short stories. I had never read anything like it. He is both hilarious and profound. In 2019 I had the opportunity to see David Sedaris perform his stories in Knoxville, Tennessee and that will go down as one of the most memorable and meaningful events of my life. Needless to say, I was delighted to discover his classroom appropriate short story “Us and Them” is available online through NPR and makes a perfect pairing for Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian.”
Though not overtly spooky-themed, this memoir short story set on Halloween addresses themes of misfits, greed, and technology in that comical yet insightful style Sedaris does so well.
“Us and Them” by David Sedaris can easily be a standalone text, but if you want a lesson plan for this diverse short story pairing, click here: The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury and Us and Them by David Sedaris Comparison
Short Story “The Bus Ride” by Sahar Sabati
In our book Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning, Staci tells a story about how she was inspired to add culturally diverse short stories to her classroom in the Freedom Section of the book. One of the texts she added to her short story unit was “The Bus Ride” by Sahar Sabati. I had never read this story until today and let me tell you, it’s creepy with a capital C! I like that it has a modern, city-life setting that contrasts with the typical dark, secluded settings of canonical horror short stories. Sabati does a fantastic job of capturing the mental tug-of-war that happens when you want to trust your instincts but also don’t want to make a scene. I loved it!
Read.Write.Think provides the story plus vocabulary here: Read “The Bus Ride” by Sahar Sabati and Staci from The Engaging Station provides a detailed lesson plan for “The Bus Ride” here: 5 Short Stories to Start Your Year under number four on the list.
Crowdsourcing Diverse Short Stories for Halloween
To continue adding to your culturally diverse short story selections for the spooky season, I want to direct you to two helpful blog posts by fellow ELA educators:
Replace or Supplement the Canon with a Diverse Curriculum by Amanda at English Elixir
This is a fantastic post full of ideas for adding culturally diverse short stories, and she has an entire section devoted to Poe which is fitting for October ELA lesson plans!
A specific story she linked was also recommended several times on IG as I was crowdsourcing this post. “El almohadón de plumas / The Feather Pillow” by Horacio Quiroga is a short story about a young newly wed who becomes deathly ill under mysterious circumstances. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming and think this story would create a buzz when paired with informational texts like these: The Top 10 Deadliest Parasites in the World , Five deadly parasites that have crossed the globe , and 10 deadly parasites (the headings in this one are so creepy!)
I also found this commentary on this spooky short story helpful: The Feather Pillow Commentary
Even More Diverse Short Stories for Spooky Season
Another post full of ideas for culturally diverse short stories for the spooky season is by Danielle at Nouvelle ELA. You can read it here: Horror and Suspense Inclusive Short Stories and Texts
In this post she links to another recommendation that several people on Instagram suggested – the His Hideous Heart anthology which is a collection of Poe stories retold by diverse authors. I actually have this book but forgot about it, so it’s time to pull it off the shelf for spooky season! Looks like my weekend is all boooooked! 😉
For more spooky season lesson plan ideas that can work with ANY of these texts, continue reading here:
To get a jump start on your holiday ELA lesson plan ideas, continue reading here: Diverse Christmas Short Story Pairings