Dr. Christine Jenkins at St. Kate’s

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.

A Narrative Compass: Stories That Guide Women’s Lives

What I’m reading now: A Narrative Compass: Stories That Guide Women’s Lives, edited by Betsy Hearne and Roberta Seelinger Trites (U Illinois Press 2009)

From the introduction:

Each of us has a narrative compass, one or more stories that have guided our lifework. This project invited women scholars from a variety of disciplines to identify and examine the stories that have motivated them and shaped their research. Telling the “story of her story” leads each of the essayists in the book to insights about her own methods of textual analysis and to a deeper, often surprising, understanding of the connective power of imagination. A scholar of “Beauty and the Beast” can see parallels between the fairy tale and her own journeys of scholarly maturation; an Alcott scholar perceives how Little Womenhas led to many of the literary and academic decisions she has made; a scholar of Chinese literature discovers at a crucial juncture that her intellectual and physical survival depends on Jottings from the Transcendant’s Adobe at Mt. Youtai. This process of storytelling about the stories that have inspired and haunted us brings to the surface the structures, themes, and language that seeded our work. 

… When people understand the relationship between text and context, they often do so because of their internalized knowledge of storytelling. But when the academy teaches us to silence our voices as storytellers—as women scholars often report has happened to them—the disjuncture that results makes us unable to use narrative itself as an analytical tool. This collection of essays demonstrates how the stories we have appropriated shape our interpretive abilities. 

Read the rest of the introduction here

May we all find our own narrative compasses.

Gender and Korea

It’s so interesting how two different news agencies report the same research findings.

S. Korea’s women’s empowerment ranked among world’s worst (Yonghap News)

GENEVA, Nov. 8 (Yonhap) — South Korean women are among the least empowered in the world, despite high access to education and a long life expectancy, according to a report released Thursday.

The empowerment ranking of South Korean women stood at 97th out of 128 countries, lagging behind other major Asian economies, the Gender Gap Report, published by the The World Economic Forum, said.


Korea Gender Gap Narrows – Slowly (Korea Herald)

The gender gap in Korea is getting narrower, according to a report by a global research institute that was released yesterday.

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum issued its 2007 Global Gender Gap Report, which revealed Korea’s ranking in 97th place among the 128 countries surveyed. The Gender Gap Index assesses countries regarding how well and equally they are dividing their resources and opportunities among males and females.

In terms of a year-on-year ranking, Korea is in 88th place among 115 countries; up four places from a year ago, the data showed, and is good news, as it indicates a sign of slow but steady improvement regarding gender disparities.

Korea’s Gender Gap Index went up to 0.641 this year from 0.616 a year earlier. The WEF measures gender equality on a scale of zero to one, one being the status of equality. The study measured the degree of gender inequality according to the economic, political, educational and health-based criteria, the organization said.

“Korea is still one of the countries with a big gender gap, but it has shown progress in the areas of wage equality and labor force participation,” the WEF explained.

Korea topped all other countries, in terms of life expectancy and enrollment in secondary education, as it had last year. However, it was far behind in other areas such as the sex ratio at birth, and the number of women in parliament and ministerial positions. In these categories, Korea ranked in 120th and 110th place.

Nordic countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland kept the top four spots, just as they did last year. Countries like Latvia and Lithuania made a big leap to 13th and 14th place, from in the 20s last year, the data showed. Korea’s neighboring countries, including China and Japan, were listed in 73rd and 91st place, respectively.

Saadia Zahidi, head of the WEF’s Women Leaders Program, urged countries to make greater endeavors to achieve gender equality. “Even the countries with the smallest gap recorded 0.8 in index, and the gap between the bottom countries was about 0.43 point,” she said.

“Narrowing the gender disparities is directly linked to economic growth and profitability,” she added, emphasizing that inequalities in pay and employment opportunity are still prominent and even increasing in developing countries.

By Jeong Hyeon-ji


What’s interesting is how Yonhap’s first sentence is “South Korean women are among the least empowered in the world” and the Korea Herald’s is “The gender gap in Korea is getting narrower.” The Korea Herald says it’s “good news” and that Korea is making “slow but steady improvement.”

The Korea Herald piece also says, “However, it was far behind in other areas such as the sex ratio at birth, and the number of women in parliament and ministerial positions.” Yes, absolutely, I’d like to see improvements in those areas, and for those improvements to translate into progress in other areas, such as in the family sphere. One area where Korea ranks highly is that it exports the highest proportion of its children for overseas adoption. Adoption researcher Peter Selman writes, “But many observers, including myself, have noted that intercountry adoption is an anomaly in a rich, low-birth-rate country like South Korea… The birth mothers of children placed for adoption in Korea (whether domestic or international) are predominantly young unmarried women facing the stigma of an illegitimate birth in a society which offers no support for the single parent.” (“The Rise and Fall of Countries of Origin,” Proceedings of the First International Korean Adoption Studies Research Symposium, 67).

In my humble opinion, even if Korean women begin to make the same as men (I purposely don’t say “earn the same wages” because I’m sure they work just as hard, if not harder, than men), many would probably still be and feel pressured to “give up” their children for adoption because of persistent social stigmas.

Korea still has a long way to go in terms of empowering women.