deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I spent two and a half hours yesterday in the ophthalmologist's waiting room with dilated eyes, like you do, so I ended up listening to several podcasts. And by pure serendipity, I had queued up two consecutive literature episodes, each with a children'sand YA lit focus, of non-literature podcasts.

First came the "Why Are Samosas In Every Single Book?" episode of the BuzzFeed podcast, See Something Say Something. (Accompanying recommended book list for See Something Say Something.)

Youth Lit authors Hena Khan and Sara Farizan talk about writing young Pakistani and Iranian characters, and wonder why every single book set in South Asia includes samosas. Plus, they give Ahmed some writing advice and read from their own work. Hena shares an excerpt from her forthcoming novel "Amina's Voice," and Sara reads from "Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel".

Then, by sheer coincidence, my phone decided to entertain me in the eyewatering, glaring boredom of the doctor's office with another BuzzFeed podcast: Another Round. The episode, "All Stars: Lit is Lit," isn't explicitly a children's lit episode. But it does feature Jacqueline Woodson, Marley Dias of #1000BlackGirlBooks, and asked a slew of adults when they first saw themselves in books, which led to a very children's and YA lit-centric conversation. (Accompanying recommended book list for Another Round.)

This week, you’ll hear from past guests - prolific writers & avid readers - answering questions ranging from, “When was the first time you saw yourself represented in literature?” to “Why are so many books about white boys and their dogs?" You'll hear from Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chirlane McCray, Jacqueline Woodson, Saeed Jones, Jeff Chang, and more. #protip: this is a great episode to suggest to a friend who's new to the show!
Both these episodes were fabulous: interesting, funny, and informative. They also gave me thinky thoughts about representation which I'll put in a second post because they got lengthy.
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
I like to start off my semester by talking to students about how you can love media you find deeply flawed; part of learning to think critically is being willing to put aside your affection or dislike for a text for a little while. (And then you need to be able to take your emotional reaction back, and see what happens to it when informed by critical thinking. I'm all about multilayered response.) The examples I use are usually texts which are deeply flawed vis-à-vis some axis of political oppression which touches me personally: feminism, usually. There are plenty of movies I love that have deeply ingrained misogyny. On another axis, there's Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy, a fabulous book with the despicable Jewish moneylender.

But it's easy to talk about the the books you love when you're in the group under attack; not so easy when reading the book makes you into an attacker-by-proxy. Over at the Kirkus blog, Vicky Smith writes "Guilt and Pleasure":

Do you ever love a book that you feel you shouldn’t? I'm not talking about a typical “guilty pleasure” sort of book--legions of smart, emancipated women find themselves tucking into Twilight and its spawn as if they were chocolate-covered nougats. A little shamefacedly, they confess that they find the sexual politics of so many of these books utterly retrograde but nevertheless hugely enjoyable. But that guilt is a light one, not the kind that a person really feels, well, guilty about.


And then Vicky talks about what it feels like, both as a reader and as a reviewer, to have enjoyed 13th Child. It's an interesting essay, I think. As a reviewer, I share the worry she addresses:

A colleague at another book review asked me that summer, "What are you going to do about Thirteenth Child?" Of course, we had already done it. Because of our ferocious pre-publication schedule, we had gone to press with a starred review before I ever became aware of the controversy. Certainly, I was a member of that presumed non-Native audience, and I lapped the whole book up without thinking twice.


I'm not sure I know anyone who deals with books -- whether reviewers, authors, teachers, or readers (and I assume folks in publishing, although they have tighter constraints on what they can say in public) -- who doesn't occasionally have deep regret over the public or private reactions they had to a work they later realized was deeply problematic, or about problems in their own fiction. And I'm not sure I know anyone who doesn't love some deeply troubling fiction. I tell my students that you can love something and find it troubling, as part of your job as a critical thinker is gaining the ability to reconcile those. But it's a lot easier for me to reconcile my feelings about great books with despicable Jewish moneylenders than it is for me to reconcile my love for, oh, A Horse and His Boy or A Little Princess. It's easier to forgive (the book? myself for loving the book?) when I'm not reading from a position of privilege.

This goes beyond Wrede to so much of our literature, both great and not-so-great. Every year children devour the Little House books despite their terribly hurtful depictions of Native Americans, for instance. Some of us give Laura Ingalls Wilder a pass of sorts, saying she was a product of her times, a forgiveness that we cannot extend to Wrede—and, depending on the reader, to ourselves, when we enjoy her series.


Read the piece, it's thought-provoking.
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