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White Bread

Weaving Cultural Past into the Present

2015 - 300 pages

Christine Sleeter

ISBN Paperback: 9789463000659 ($ 28.00)
ISBN Hardcover: 9789463000666 ($ 99.00)
ISBN E-Book: 9789463000673

Subject: Teacher Education, Social Fiction, Race, Race Education, Multicultural Education, Culture and Education

Number 17 of the series: Social Fictions Series

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White Bread

“Read it and use it with your students! … Sleeter has provided another breakthrough for critical multicultural research with pedagogical novel … Sleeter provides a synthetic representation that drives at pedagogical insights from the most up-to-date White teacher identity research, sometimes called second-wave White teacher identity studies. Teaching the novel to preservice and in-service teachers provides teacher educators with the opportunity to engage their students in the most recent pedagogical insights from White teacher identity studies.” – Multicultural Perspectives 2016

In White Bread, readers accompany Jessica on a journey into her family’s past, into herself, and into the bicultural community she teaches but does not understand. Jessica, a fictional White fifth-grade teacher, is prompted to explore her family history by the unexpected discovery of a hundred-year-old letter. Simultaneously, she begins to grapple with culture and racism, principally through discussions with a Mexican American teacher. White Bread pulls readers into a tumultuous six months of Jessica’s life as she confronts many issues that turn out to be interrelated, such as why she knows so little about her family’s past, why she craves community as she feels increasingly isolated, why the Latino teachers want the curriculum to be more Latino, and whether she can become the kind of teacher who sparks student learning.

The storyline alternates between past and present, acquainting readers with German American communities in the Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s, portraits based on detailed historic excavation. What happened to these communities gives Jessica the key to unlock answers to questions that plague her.

White Bread can be read simply for pleasure. It can also be used in teacher education, ethnic studies, and sociology courses. Beginning teachers may see their own struggles reflected in Jessica’s classroom. People of European descent might see themselves within, rather than outside, multicultural studies. White Bread can also be used in conjunction with family history research.


Using her own experience of exploring her family’s immigration history, renowned educator Christine Sleeter has crafted a captivating story that weaves together interrelated themes: investigating family histories, teaching children of diverse backgrounds, and forging personal relationships across lines of race and culture. After reading this engaging novel, readers may be motivated to delve into their own family histories and, along the way, to reflect on what it means to be an American in our complex, multicultural and multilingual nation.Sonia Nieto, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, author of What Keeps Teachers Going?

This is a provocative and moving story about how coming to know oneself, including one’s own family history, can lay the foundation for acting in solidarity with others. Addressing the complex topics of teaching, identity and community, White Bread will serve as a valuable resource for pre-service and practicing teachers, as well as for teacher educators. In fact, I can’t wait to use it in my own courses that aim to advance learning about the challenges and joys of teaching in today’s increasingly diverse schools. I highly recommend this book!Jamy Stillman, University of Southern California

Sleeter imaginatively engages family history as a tool of critical collective reflection, recovering community cultural wealth as a matter of urgency in our classrooms and beyond.Tara J. Yosso, University of California Santa Barbara, author of Critical Race Counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline

With White Bread, Sleeter artfully explores the challenging topics of race, culture, history and identity critical to the success of white teachers in multicultural settings. That she manages to do this in a page-turning, multigenerational novel complete with mystery and romance makes this a must-read not just for teachers, but for everyone.Bree
Picower, Montclair State University, author of
Practice What You Teach

Refreshingly innovative, creatively telling, and heart-wrenchingly intelligent, White Bread not only captures the everyday minutiae of teaching in culturally diverse U.S. classrooms, it also documents the emotional, psychological, and spiritual transformation one undergoes when self-investing in racial justice. Through the humanistic characterization of Jessica, a white, middle class school teacher, Sleeter provides a concrete answer to how the historical nuances of white privilege influence identity, society, and, in particular, education. A must read for the almost 90% white teaching force in the United States!Cheryl Matias, University of Colorado Denver

Jessica’s questions, her history, and the situations she finds herself in enable the reader to reflect on the challenges many of us find in the classroom and in our lives on a daily basis. Thoughtful, engaging, compassionate and reflective, White Bread is one of those books that’s easy to read, and go back to, again and again.William G. Tierney, University of Southern California, author of Academic Affairs: A Love Story

In White Bread, Christine Sleeter has woven together a wonderful narrative of life in America, one that includes multiple layers of identity, ever-shifting and forever shaping the deeply entrenched experiences of everyone. The book seamlessly floats back and forth between a time more than a century ago that was not fully documented, and aimed to assimilate a white German past, and a contemporary time in which Mexican-Americans are facing similar concerns. The narrative and characters are delightful, real and compelling. This very thoughtful book presents an engaging vision of social justice. I very much enjoyed reading it.Paul R. Carr, Université du Québec en Outaouais, author of Revisiting the Great White North?

White Bread tells a wonderful story of how a young, white, novice teacher comes to critical consciousness around issues of race as she studies her own family history and learns to connect with her Mexican American students. White Bread should be read by everybody, but especially teachers and teacher educators as they work to transform their practices to reach our increasingly diverse student populations. In particular I think White Bread has the power to help white teachers explore their own identities and better understand how legacies of racism and oppression impact communities of color. – Wayne Au, University of Washington Bothell, author of Pencils Down!


Social Fictions Series Editorial Advisory Board

Carl Bagley, University of Durham, UK

Anna Banks, University of Idaho, USA

Carolyn Ellis, University of South Florida, USA

Rita Irwin, University of British Columbia, Canada

J. Gary Knowles, University of Toronto, Canada

Laurel Richardson, The Ohio State University (Emeritus), USA



Christine Sleeter, Ph.D., Professor Emerita at California State University Monterey Bay, is internationally known for her work in multicultural education. Her nineteen books include Power, Teaching and Teacher Education. In 2009, she received the American Educational Research Association Social Justice in Education Award, and in 2011, her co-edited book Teaching with Vision was named Choice Outstanding Academic Title. White Bread is her first work of fiction.

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White Bread