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“Nothing is ‘just cuz it is.’  It is cuz we make it so.” ~ D.I.


Instructor: Dominic Inouye (team teaching with Emily Schmidt)

Pronouns: he/him/his

Room: D127

Periods: 1, 2

Phone: 414-351-8175

Email: dominic.inouye@nicolet.us (this is the best way to reach me)


About the Instructor:

An English teacher for over 22 years, I have taught at Marquette University (5 years), as well as Pius XI High School (10 years) and The Prairie School in Racine (7 years), where I led both English departments.  After leaving TPS in 2016, I became the 2016-17 narrator-in-residence at The Pfister Hotel, founded ZIP MKE later that year (Best Grassroots Art Project 2017, Milwaukee Magazine), and became the City Organizer of Jane's Walk MKE in 2019.  In addition, I was a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine and now write a monthly column for Milwaukee Independent (Best Column 2019, Milwaukee Press Club).  This school year, as I begin my first part-time year at Nicolet, I will also be the lead artist for ArtWorks in Milwaukee in partnership with the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center


Course Description:

What are the values, scripts, and myths upon which the United States of America was built and with which individuals, communities, and institutions in the U.S.A. continue to define themselves?  Is there one set of beliefs, behaviors, and stories which define what it means to be "American"? Or do we, as 19th-century poet Walt Whitman said, “contain multitudes”? What are the benefits of holding certain things in common?  And what are, as Nigerian-American author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, the “dangers of a single story”? Is there even a thing as "American literature"?

These are some of the questions we will explore when we encounter a multitude of genres and voices in poetry and short stories, novels and memoir, nonfiction and drama, including two independent reading books of your choice.  We won’t stop there, however; in fact, the course might better be called American Studies. We will also encounter visual art, photography, music, and film throughout the year as we build class community, examine borders of many kinds, and navigate the American Dream and the nightmares that continue to nag and plague us, using multiple and often conflicting lenses.  You will engage in various modes of reading, discussion, writing, research, communication, and critical thinking skills, reaching toward your highest standard.

The myths which guide America, the dreams and nightmares which help and hinder us--all this will culminate in the spring with a focus on the metro Milwaukee area and its history, stories, and current strengths and struggles.



  • Chromebook and charger (keep charged)
  • Folder and/or binder (for keeping printed materials)
  • Notebook (for daily writings, etc.)
  • Looseleaf (for submitting handwritten work)
  • Pen and/or pencil (whatever you prefer)


Assessment Breakdown:

  • Formative assessments (practice): 10%
  • Summative assessments (proof): 70%
  • Final semester assessments (proficiency): 20%


Nicolet Grading Scale:




























Class Expectations:

During the first week of class, we will co-create a set of expectations.  We will then post those expectations in the classroom as a reminder to try to fulfill them “as fully as possible, as often as possible.”


Late Work, Tardies, Absences:

Late work, tardies, and absences will not affect your overall grade, at least in terms of formal deductions. However, they will affect your ability to participate in the life of the class and your own learning “as fully as possible, as often as possible.”  When late work becomes a pattern, we have so many people who can help you get to the root of the problem and offer strategies for success (e.g., me, of course, plus parents, counselors, Academic Support Team, etc.). So if there are circumstances you need to share with me or if you see this becoming a pattern/problem, please let me know.  I don’t bite.

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