7 years ago, my friend Monica Edinger and I made some points about young readers (and how we should not assume or presume) via a fun Horn Book Article called: CLAT Level III (Children’s Literature Application Test). It is archived on the Horn Book site and Monica wrote a reflection piece today confirming that much of what we thought still ring true today. I wonder if that’s other librarians’ and teachers’ experiences as well!
Listening to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man + Reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel == doubly impressed!
I did not get to read this article until today even though it was published last year — but What White Children Need to Know About Race should be a Must Read for anyone involved in the lives of our children — teachers, school administrators, librarians, and parents. Especially parents. Because, when it is all said and done, “professional” educators (like me, a middle school librarian) only have your kids in our hands part of the day, part of the week, and part of the year, and part of their lives while you (parents) influence your children all the time.
Actually, this article is also informative even for those who are NOT directly involved with educating children — it probably should just be called, What White PEOPLE Need to Know About Race (and how to engage in meaningful and courageous conversations!)
Listening to the audio book version of The Windup Bird Chronicle — feeling slightly removed because it is a reading (not by a native Japanese speaker) of a translated work from Japan and I can tell that the names are not pronounced well. However, the reader is very skilled in changing his voices/tones for different characters and the actual content of the book is fantastic. Only wishing that I were able to read in its original language.
Over at Read Roger (Horn Book,) a small word/ideology battle over female representation in children’s and young adult books. Gender by The Numbers. Take a look!
I posted a couple of responses — here’s the most recent one, in response to two other commenters:
Maia said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if having female authors or protags guaranteed that what was being written reflected a feminist worldview?”
Yes, wouldn’t it? From earlier March to now, one of my thoughts was: how many women writers who write stories with female protagonists have pretty much “subjected” their main characters to fit the negatively stereotypical young women mold? Vapid, romance-crazed, hyper-appearance-conscious (toward themselves, their peers, or their love-interests), etc.? I’d rather take Avi’s Charlotte Doyle or M.T. Anderson’s Violet (from Feed) over Stephanie Meyer’s Bella (Twilight Saga) or Cecily von Ziegesar’s Blair or Serena (Gossip Girl) any day.
So, the bottom line: numbers definitely do not always tell the whole story. If any of us wishes to engage in truly fruitful discussions on these issues, we all have to first do our homework and read A LOT of the books under examination and THINK carefully about our initial, intuitive responses and then THINK again and again about whether these responses have solid basis in reality — and then LISTEN to each other and CONSIDER the many other sides of the same issue.
And, by the way, as a middle aged woman who has lived in the States for the last 25 years, I must agree with Maia that, to me, rage, pent-up or otherwise, is never a good starting point to initiate a conversation and is definitely not a valid excuse to ignore facts or to lash out at random strangers. I am almost offended by Mike Jung’s sentiment that these women are somewhat excused for their bad behaviors because of their rage — would you excuse men the same way? Can they lash out at women? If not, then perhaps you are still thinking that women are not sensible creatures who should have the ability to engage in logical and reasoned discourses even when they feel wronged? Are we so unreasonably emotional that we cannot be held accountable for our actions?
Not quite in the mood for Independent Study, sequel to Testing. Switched to Magicians of Caprona – the one Christomanci books that I never got around to read. Ah… Diana Wynn Jones — you were such a witty and talented fantasy writer for young people. I can see why Neil Gaiman reveres you and your work. I’m always in awe. So, two fantastic fantasies this weekend: Shadow Scale + Magicians of Caprona!
Haven’t had a chance to read all the abusive words thrown at Andrew Smith that caused him to shut down both his twitter and facebook accounts. I did have the chance to read the VICE interview and saw what he had said (as published by VICE) and simply couldn’t fathom how an honest, although tongue-in-cheek, and quite humble remark such as, “I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though” would have been the cause of so much personal attack and pain. I read couple of responses that more or less match what I think: Andrew Smith is a brilliant author who deals with issues in his books mostly through male perspectives: raw, honest, frequently biased or myopic (because it IS raw and honest) — and is obviously aware of the criticism that he’s not fleshing out his female characters as much as his readers would have liked. I’m trying to make sense of all this… I have not read Alex Crow — but I did read 100 Sideway Miles and found Julia to be independent, mature, and an incredibly strong and positive influence over Finn — an entirely different female character from Shann in Grasshopper Jungle. I need to do a lot more digging to figure out why the outcry and also whether I find it justifiable to condemn a human being and his character simply by the characters they put in books and also by some sentences in an interview that, to me, seem to be interpreted to carry very different meanings than intended.
Here are links to the original interview and some responses:
The original interview:
An interpretation that states Andrew Smith, by saying (tongue-in-cheekly) that he’s ignorant of how women function, Andrew Smith is admitting that he considers women “LESS THAN HUMAN.” I can easily, by the same ignoring-all-logic-or-facts method used by Tessa Gratton here, claim that he is considering women “MORE THAN HUMAN” and thus harder to grasp and he’s trying to do a better job at learning how to WRITE THEM as characters. Sorry. Grrr…. :
A well-argued essay in response to the twitter witch hunt and Gratton’s attack
A long list of thoughts that present many ideas that I think about what Andrew Smith had said: