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ON BEYOND STONEWALL: Young Adult Literature with LGBTQ Content

Throughout its history young adult literature has offered too little representation of diversity in terms of its characters, setting, plot, and other narrative elements. The U.S. population has become more diverse by the day, yet white, middle-class, suburban-dwelling heterosexuals have continued to dominate all genres of YA literature. In her germinal work Shadow and Substance (NCTE) Rudine Sims Bishop was among the first to document the changing representations of African American characters in literature for youth. Since then – thanks in large part to the appearance of the ‘new realism’ in young adult fiction in the late 1960’s — other non-mainstream groups have slowly begun to appear in YA fiction.

The first young adult novel with LGBT content was published in 1969, the same year that the Stonewall riots marked the birth of the gay liberation movement. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people have come a long way since 1969, but depictions of LGBTQ people in literature for teen readers have moved at a glacial pace, going from invisibility to stereotypes to (finally) realistic characters portrayed with some degree of frequency, authenticity, and art.

Jenkins’ presentation will trace the roots of the literature, describe early work in the newly realistic world of 1960’s -‘70’s literature and examine the genre’s evolution through the 1980’s and ‘90’s. She will describe broad themes in this literature and highlight some milestone works and exemplars (both positive and negative) among individual titles published during this period.

During her presentation, Dr. Jenkins will

  • trace the roots of the literature
  • describe early work in the newly realistic world of 1960’s -‘70’s literature
  • examine the genre’s evolution through the 1980’s and ‘90’s
  • describe broad themes in this literature
  • highlight milestone works and exemplars (both positive and negative).

Q&A and reception to follow.

Highlights & Handouts

  • YALSA brochures and posters
  • LGBTQ book display
  • YA reading lists
  • Networking opportunities

 Dr. Christine Jenkins is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research includes:

  • YA literature with LGBTQ content
  • Representations of the “other” in YA literature
  • Censorship and intellectual freedom

October 3, 2011 • 6.30-8.00 PM
St. Catherine University Recital Hall

2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105
(#24 on the campus map • enter gate #3 • parking free after 5p)

Contact Dr. Sarah Park | spark@stkate.edu | 651.690.8791

Download the official SCU YALSA flyer

The event is free and open to the public.

I’m very pleased to announce Talk Story: Sharing Story, Sharing Culture, a literacy program put together by the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) and the American Indian Library Association (AILA). The American Library Association and ALA President Dr. Camila Alire launched this Family Literacy Focus initiative to encourage families in ethnically diverse communities to read and learn together (press release).

Talk Story: Sharing stories, sharing culture is a literacy program that reaches out to Asian Pacific American (APA) and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) children and their families. The program celebrates and explores their stories through books, oral traditions, and art to provide an interactive, enriching experience. Children and their families can connect to rich cultural activities through Talk Story in their homes, libraries, and communities. We welcome all ethnicities to customize Talk Story as needed for your community family literacy needs.

Talk Story: Sharing stories, sharing culture: http://www.talkstorytogether.org/

Happy reading, happy learning 🙂

You asked for it! These are the books I’m teaching summer 2010 in my Social Justice in Children’s & YA Literature course. I welcome your feedback.

Course Overview

Students in this course will learn how to select, read, evaluate and analyze depictions and aspects of social justice and injustice in children’s and young adult literature. Through various genres of literature intended for both the child and adolescent reader, students will develop an informed awareness of the complex perspectives, uses and boundaries of literature and will learn to recognize and analyze how adolescent and children’s literature depict stories related to social justice, tolerance, equality and social change.

We will engage in a variety of teaching/learning methods to cover the course material, including but not limited to: lecture, small/large group discussions, independent and group projects, written and oral presentations.

Course Objectives

  • To gain an understanding of the history of social justice-related children’s literature;
  • To become familiar with a range of authors, works, genres and media depicting social justice issues for youth;
  • To gain experience in discussing, evaluating and promoting children’s literature/resources that depict social justice issues;
  • To learn strategies for connecting young people with social justice literature;
  • To identify and discuss literary and societal trends and social justice issues (war, refugee, migration, class, gender, etc) represented in materials for youth.

By successfully finishing this course, students will be able to select, evaluate, and recommend a variety of materials depicting social justice issues for young audiences.

Reading List

  1. Alarcon, Francisco X.  Animal Poems of the Iguazu.  Children’s Book Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0892392254
  2. Anderson, M.T.  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I:  The Pox Party.  Candlewick Press, 2006.  ISBN 978-0-7636-3679-1
  3. Barakat, Ibtisam.  Tasting the Sky:  A Palestinian Childhood.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.  ISBN 978-0374357337
  4. Bausum, Ann.  Denied, Detained, Deported:  Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration.  National Geographic Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-1426303326
  5. Bausum, Ann.  With Courage and Cloth:  Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote.  National Geographic Children’s Books, 2004.  ISBN 978-0792276470
  6. Brannen, Sarah S.  Uncle Bobby’s Wedding.  Putnam, 2008.  ISBN 978-0399247125
  7. Boyne, John.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  David Flicking Books, 2007.  ISBN 978-0385751537
  8. Bruchac, Joseph. Sacajawea.  Graphia, 2008.  ISBN 978-0152064556
  9. Burg, Ann E.  All the Broken Pieces.  Scholastic, 2009.  ISBN 978-0545080927
  10. Cali, Davide and Serge Bloch.  The Enemy.  Schwartz and Wade, 2009.  ISBN 978-0375845000
  11. Carlson, Nancy Savage.  The Family Under the Bridge.  HarperCollins, 1989.  ISBN 978-0064402507
  12. Choldenko, Gennifer.  Al Capone Does My Shirts.  Puffin, 2006.  ISBN 978-0142403709
  13. Cottin, Marena.  The Black Book of Colors.  Groundwood Books, 2008.  ISBN 978-0888998736
  14. Curtis, Christopher Paul.  Elijah of Buxton.  Scholastic, 2009.  ISBN 78-0439023450
  15. Engle, Margarita.  The Surrender Tree.  Square Fish, 2010.  ISBN 978-0312608712
  16. Gonzalez, Lucia.  The Storyteller’s Candle.  Children’s Book Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0892392223
  17. Haskins, Jim.  Delivering Justice:  W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights.  Candlewick Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0763638801
  18. Hoose, Phillip.  Claudette Colvin:  Twice Toward Justice.  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009.  ISBN 978-0374313227
  19. Lester, Julius.  Let’s Talk About Race.  Amistad, 2008.  ISBN 978-0064462266
  20. Lester, Julius.  Sam and the Tigers.  Puffin, 2000.  ISBN 978-0140562880
  21. Lloyd, Saci.  The Carbon Diaries 2015.  Holiday House, 2009.  ISBN 978-0823421909
  22. Lord, Michelle.  A Song for Cambodia.  Lee & Low Books, 2008.  ISBN 978-1600601392
  23. Lowry, Lois.  The Giver.  Delacorte Books, 2006.  ISBN 978-0385732550
  24. Lyon, George Ella. You and Me and Home Sweet Home.  Athenuem/ Richard Jackson Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-0689875892
  25. Mahy, Margaret.  The Seven Chinese Brothers.  Scholastic, 1992.  ISBN 978-0590420570
  26. Messinger, Carla.  When the Shadbush Blooms.  Tricycle Press, 2007.  ISBN 978-1582461922
  27. Mochizuko, Ken.  Baseball Saved Us.  Lee & Low Books, 1995.  ISBN 978-1880000199
  28. Myers, Walter Dean.  Autobiography of My Dead Brother.  Amistad, 2006.  ISBN 978-0060582937
  29. Nivola, Claire A.  Planting the Trees of Kenya:  The Story of Wangari Maathai.  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.  ISBN 978-0374399184
  30. O’Brien, Anne Sibley.  After Gandhi:  One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance.  Charlesbridge Publishing, 2009.  ISBN 978-1580891295
  31. Park, Linda Sue.  When My Name was Keoko.  Yearling, 2004.  ISBN 978-0440419440
  32. Perkins, Mitali.  Rickshaw Girl.  Charlesbridge Publishing, 2008.  ISBN 978-1580893091
  33. Pinkey, Andrea Davis.  Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride.  Hyperion, 2009.  ISBN 978-0786807673
  34. Ryan, Pam Munoz.  Esperanza Rising.  Scholastic, 2002.  ISBN 978-0439120425
  35. Sanchez, Alex.  Rainbow Boys.  Simon Pulse, 2003.  ISBN 978-0689857706
  36. Shea, Pegi Deitz.  Tangled Threads:  A Hmong Girl’s Story.  Clarion, 2003.  ISBN 978-0618247486
  37. Tingle, Tim.  Crossing Bok Chitto.  Cinco Puntos Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-19336932
  38. Tohe, Laura.  No Parole Today.  West End Press, 1999.  ISBN 978-0931122934
  39. Weatherford, Carole Boston.  Moses:  When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.  Hyperion, 2006.  ISBN 978-0786851751
  40. Woodson, Jacqueline.  From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun.  Scholastic, 1995.  ISBN 7807300599
  41. Wright, Bil.  When the Black Girl Sings.  Simon Pulse, 2009.  ISBN 978-1416940036
  42. Yep, Laurence.  The Traitor (1885):  Golden Mountain Chronicles.  HarperCollins, 2004.  ISBN 978-0060008314
  43. Yoo, Paula.  Shining Star:  The Anna May Wong Story.  Lee & Low Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-1600602597

I’m re-reading an article by Junko Yokota titled, “Asian Americans in Literature for Children and Young Adults” (Teacher Librarian 36:3  Feb 2009) in preparation for giving a guest lecture tonight in Dr. Thomas Crisp’s children’s literature class. Today, this part of Yokota’s words stood out to me:

Representation does not mean looking for the ideally authentic book to represent a culture; no one book can be “the best book” for representing Asian American literature. In fact, it takes many books to create a multidimensional look at a culture.

Whenever I talk about Korean American children’s books or Korean adoption in children’s books, people inevitably ask one of two questions:

  1. Do you plan to write a children’s book on this topic? (No.)
  2. What one book would you recommend?

I find it almost insulting, after giving a presentation on the great variety of experiences and depth of history of the Korean diaspora, and representations of such in children’s literature, to be asked what one book I would recommend. For what time period? From whose perspective? For what age level? In what genre(s)? In which region(s)? On what topics/issues?

Rather than ask, “What is the best book for Korean American youth?” how about asking, “What are some books that represent a range of Korean American experiences for XYZ age group?”

I am much better able to answer the latter question than the former one.

So much to update, so little time. For now, some awesome reads:

Structural Violence, Social Death and International Adoption: Part 1 of 4 by Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death and International Adoption: Part 2 of 4 by Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death and International Adoption: Part 3 of 4 by Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death and International Adoption: Part 4 of 4 by Jane Jeong Trenka

Some quotes from Trenka’s article:

It has been estimated that there will be no more Koreans left in South Korea by the year 2305; there are not enough babies being born to replace the elderly who are dying.(1)

The Korea Times quoted the minister, whom it dubbed the “Minister of Ingenuity,” as saying, “It is obvious that my primary and ultimate goal as family minister is to lift the birthrate.” Yet this is the very same ministry responsible for sending up to 200,000 children overseas for international adoption (2), with 90 percent of the 1250 Korean babies sent for international adoption in 2008 being the children of unwed mothers.

It seems that the ministry is not interested in raising the birthrate by simply allowing the children who are already born in Korea to live there, or by extending the “choice” of raising one’s own child to everyone. Even while she talks about adopting the model of family-friendly policies used in France (where people no longer find it necessary to marry to have and raise children), the minister is interested in encouraging only married people to have children. Children who fall outside the “norm” of Korean society have been systematically shipped out ever since the end of the Korean War. (3)

Although there may be up to 1 million Korean family members directly affected by international adoption, these family members are rarely heard from(4); the adoption program that presumably “saved” children from miserable lives in Korea and that now “saves” unwed mothers from raising their own children has also rendered them socially dead in the process. These social deaths, accomplished by dis-embedding children from their families, exiling them from their country, and changing their names, birthdates, hometowns, and social histories, have been facilitated by the “justice” ministry and the ministry of health, welfare and “family,” as well as the adoption agencies’ web of orphanages, unwed mother’s homes, and the Korean healthcare providers who pressure women into relinquishing children and who have the power to cover up the adoptions. (5)

And FINALLY! It’s HERE: A Visual History of Adopted Koreans in Minnesota !! From the Yeong & Yeong website:

Why HERE? Our story: Minnesota has one of the highest number of adopted Koreans, per capita, in the world, and yet there is nothing in our state’s annals to document this. This book was conceived to recognize the 13,000–15,000 of us who have immigrated to Minnesota, and to celebrate our existence, experiences, and perspectives, which are as diverse as our faces. We are everyday people, yet unique. We are girls, boys, women, men, babies, teens, and adults; singles, partnered, married, gay, straight, and transgendered; sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. We are a living, breathing part of Minnesota history. This book has no agenda—it is neither for nor against international adoption. We merely present the spectrum of our adopted community and how we have altered the face of Minnesota since the 1950s. Most important, we felt the urgent need to create this book as a resource not only for the present population, but also for future adoptees. After all, many of us do not have access to our Korean families and ancestry, and this book may provide the only touchstone many of us will ever have.

Congratulations to Kim Dalros and Heewon Lee for making this book a reality!

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