Adolescent Literature: Tears of a Tiger

Andrew Jackson was not only the name of the seventh President of the United States, it was also the strong, universally accepted, name given to the young man, that is the main character of Tears of a Tiger.  

Andrew’s name is one of many topics that can be discussed about the book, Tears of a Tiger.  There are several indications of racial struggles throughout this book.  Andrew, Andy, and his father discuss his name near the end of the book.  Andrew’s father shares his own struggles with being labeled ‘black’ simply because of his birth name, Ezekiel Jeremiah Jackson.  He discusses that his name wasn’t white enough to be accepted by his white co-workers.  It wasn’t until he changed his name to his initials that he was able to go without ridicule in the corporate world.  When Andrew confronts his father about why he refuses to call him Andy like everyone else, he tells his son that he refused to call him Andy, because Andrew was a strong name that would be accepted by everyone.


The most obvious topic that students could discuss and explore is what they think should happen to someone that is responsible for the death of a friend.  When exploring this topic, the discussion of Shakespeare’s Hamlet that brings Andrew to leave the class could also be explored as a unintentional punishment for Andrew.

Consequences for all of the characters could also be explored after reading this book.  Each character struggles with the loss of Robert either from their own experience or through the experiences of others.  For example, Keisha struggles with her own experience with the loss of Rob while she also does her best to help Andrew cope his experience.  B.J., Tyrone, and Gerald all try to help Andrew and each other deal with the loss of their friend. Though each of the characters tries to help each other, Andrew is still overwhelmed with grief and takes his own life.


This story would be great for any student to read because everyone can relate to grief.   Many students may be lucky enough not to experience the loss of a fellow student but most are not.  Reading this book brought me back to my sophomore year in high school when a drunk driving accident took four students from high schools in my community.  I could remember not having one of them at football practice.  I could see the pain in the faces of the faculty and students that knew him better than I.  I could remember writing my own letter to help me with my own struggles.  I think having the students write their own letter to Rob or Andrew would also be a great project.


One thought on “Adolescent Literature: Tears of a Tiger

  1. This was one of the most popular books in my classroom library. It’s the first in a series (maybe a trilogy?) and once students were hooked by the first book, they had to keep reading. There is so much to discuss here–and so much that needs to be discussed.


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