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CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Editors: Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Ph.D. and Sarah Park, Ph.D.

Tentative Title: Sliding Doors in a Pluralistic Society: Critical Approaches to and Intercultural Perspectives on Diversity in Contemporary Literature for Children and Young Adults

Publisher: ALA Editions

Youth deserve to encounter authentic and accurate representations of their cultures in books, libraries, and classrooms. Twenty-first century librarians and educators can be poised to meet the informational, recreational, and cultural needs of youth by providing high-quality children’s and young adult literature and literacy activities that reflect the culturally pluralistic society of the United States.

For our edited volume, we seek chapters that address the growing demands of school media specialists, public youth librarians, classroom teachers, and other educators for information on selecting materials and creating literacy and library programs to meet the needs of children and young adults in our culturally pluralistic society. We define diversity not only in terms of race and culture, but also in age, ability, religious preferences, family composition, and so on. By providing new critical and intercultural approaches to diversity in contemporary literature for children and young adults, this book will provide theoretical frameworks that consider the over-arching issues which continue to expand and break boundaries in youth literature. These approaches can assist librarians and other educators in choosing, evaluating, and selecting quality children’s and YA literature and using it to meet the literacy (informational, reading, cultural, etc.) needs of the increasingly diverse youth population in U.S libraries, classrooms, and homes. As well, the critical and intercultural approaches can help educators situate the books in their socio-political contexts in order to consider how the books may meet the social needs of youth. Finally, the title will provide ideas and examples of successful library and literacy programs that incorporate diverse children’s literature to meet the informational and recreational needs of all children and young adults.

We seek current and timely chapters on the following topics (each bullet represents a separate chapter):

  • Literature review of studies from various disciplines related to the topics of cultural diversity, cultural pluralism, cultural literacy, diversity, etc. as presented in children’s and young adult literature.
  • Understanding the politics and key concerns in selecting, analyzing, and using diverse literature for children and young adults.
  • Creating a working conceptualization of diversity that can be used with children and young adults to foster intercultural understanding and prepare young minds for interacting in the culturally pluralistic society of the U.S.
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing African American People and Cultures.
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Latino People and Cultures
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Asian American People and Cultures
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Indigenous People and Cultures
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Multiracial or Transnational Youth
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Describing Characters with Cognitive Dis/Abilities
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Describing Characters with Physical Dis/Abilities
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Religious Affiliations.
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Young Adult Literature Depicting Incarcerated Youth
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Depicting Homelessness
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Describing Transnational Adoptions
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s Books Depicting Gender Variance and Queer Families and Characters

Other Guidelines: Each chapter must be under 4,000 words, inclusive of all bibliographies and notes. The author(s) should include information about selecting books representing the cultural group, descriptions of “good” and “bad” books, and programming ideas/ strategies that have been tested with children and young adults in classroom and library settings. Chapters should be formatted according the Chicago Manual of Style.

Deadlines: If you are interested in contributing to this edited work, please send a proposal (approximately 500 words) by November 1, 2010, which outlines how you would address the topics in one of the aforementioned chapters. Proposals should include your name, affiliation, email, and phone number along with a current 2-page CV highlighting relevant publications related to your chapter. We will notify selected authors of our decisions by November 15, 2010.  Completed chapters are due by May 30, 2011.

Please send proposals by November 1st to slidingdoors9@gmail.com with “Chapter Proposal” in the subject heading.

Questions? Contact us at slidingdoors9@gmail.com.

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by Jacqueline Rose (1993)

“Perhaps talking about children’s fiction as commerce makes it too clear that what we are dealing with is an essentially adult trade.” (p. 88)

After all, we’re dealing with children’s fiction. Pure, innocent, harmless children’s stories.

If I were to rewrite the sentence:

“Perhaps talking about transracial/transnational adoption as commerce makes it too clear that what we are dealing with is an essentially adult trade.”

I think an awful lot of people would be uncomfortable.

by Emer O’Sullivan (Routledge 2001/2005)

When I read the title and the publisher’s review, I thought CCL was going to be about doing comparative critical analysis between and among distinct national children’s literatures.

It is and it isn’t.

CCL
 is more about translations and less about nuances of national literatures for the sake of national literatures. It’s a fabulous book, well written (and well translated from German to English!) and definitely got me thinking more about studying children’s literature from and in different countries. It confirmed what everyone already knows: that the United States exports far more of its own literature to other countries than is willing to import from other countries.

“Internationalism, international children’s literature and international understanding through children’s literature have been amongst the most important and widely used terms in children’s literature discourse from the mid-1940s to the present day, but they frequently conceal the fact that there is no equal exchange of texts between all countries; rather, the border-crossing is extremely imbalanced.” (p. 65)

Would it be too much to consider this a form of the American empire’s cultural imperialism, carefully and skillfully shrouded in the guise of an ‘innocuous’ children’s book?

“.. they [children’s books] are devised with an eye to international exploitation from the first.” (p. 101)

How sad. Books lose their cultural/ethnic/national identity from conception. Illustrators draw illustrations in such a way as to make sure that any national/cultural markers such as native street signs are made more “international,” or by deleting the Eiffel Tower in the background.

If books become increasingly “globalized” and de-nationalized, how will children in Korea learn about children in France? How will children in Iraq learn about children in Nigeria? Why is it that Korean and Iraqi and French kids can read books about kids in the United States and Great Britain, but publishers in the US and GB feel that Korean, Iraqi and French books are too “foreign” for American audiences?

One of my favorite examples of a messed up translation is how the Mad Hatter’s tea party is changed to a coffee party in Germany because Germans drink coffee, not tea (p. 99). I mean, really?? Do they think German kids don’t know that some people drink tea?!

Another funny one – the French translators of Pippi Longstocking decided that French children had too much “common sense” to believe that Pippi could lift a horse, so they changed it to a pony. “[Astrid] Lindgren reacted to this curious argument that a girl was more likely to be able to pick up a pony than a horse by asking to see a photograph of a French child holding a pony in the air” (p. 84). Part of the magic of the Pippi stories is that she can do such outrageous things as lift a horse and defeat pirates. Taking out those elements destroys the integrity of the story.

“Instead of multiculturality based on knowledge and acceptance of differences between cultures, we have here an (allegedly) cultural neutrality, resulting in non-specific, levelled-out, international products. The mere fact that children’s literature is being translated or coproduced thus has no particular cultural value in itself.” (p. 103)

Ouch.

For the past semester, our YLIG (youth literature interest group) has been discussing international children’s literature. Actually, Jeffrey Garret points out that what we really mean is national literature, “for they are as national as ours are” (Gebel, Crossing Boundaries with Children’s Books, 2006). American exceptionalism. We think everything not American is international, and we think by celebrating other national literatures we’re being international.

Anyway, so last time YL and I spoke about Korean children’s books and children’s librarianship in Korea. Today MC gave a phenomenal presentation about children’s books in China. She told us about the Big 4 (post-1980s, meaning they were born after 1980) authors who published at very young ages, as well as the way Chinese materials for youth portray Japan and the US. She showed us images from a magazine that had instructions for cut-out figures of a South Vietnamese soldier attacking a US soldier, and another magazine that had song lyrics criticizing the American empire’s influence in China, the Philippines, and other countries that have undoubtedly been influenced by the US. 

She also told us about the incredible and increasing popularity of Japanese manga and the picture book in China – picture books no doubt modeled on the classic American 32 page picture book. And this is the part I find most interesting. MC found considerable instances of anti-Japanese and anti-US sentiment in Chinese children’s materials, yet at the same time in China there’s the popularity of Japanese manga and the American picture book. In my work, I observed that children’s books published in the US about Japanese colonialism in Korea and the Korean War are virtually silent about the role (or absence) of the US in modern Korean history. (These thoughts will be published in a book that’s coming out in April 2007 by Pied Piper – I’ll let you know when they tell me the title!)

Mimicry in children’s books. Fascinating.

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