Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emerging Scholars Summer Reading

I feel that the best book to present to these Emerging Scholars would be Black and White. First, my reasoning is academic. The other books that we have read and discussed in our Adolescent Literature class seem to be on a late elementary school and middle school reading level. Black and White seems like, while not necessarily a challenging read, but a more appropriate one. It would be insulting to dumb down the reading for these students would are ready to be challenged and enlightened.

Secondly, the topic is one the students will probably be able to relate to. Whether they've been in similar situations or a friend or family member has, they will probably be able to understand the bias that is targeted toward financially struggling households and prominently African American neighborhoods. My only worry is that they might be TOO biased toward Marcus's side, and wouldn't be able to appreciate Eddie's side of the story as well. This is perfectly understandable, and it would just have to be taught in with the curriculum with maybe another book for preventative action. The goal should be to recognize these biases and overcome them.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In the Ballad of Hua Mulan, I don't get a true sense of who Mulan is--as a girl or as a Chinese citizen--with the exception of what we see in her actions, which to me, except for the end when she purposely unveils herself as a female to her war comrades, doesn't seem too different than the Disney portrayal.

To me, Mulan is exceptionally similar to Ailin. Both are a bit silly in nature, and are probably both as close to a tomboy as China gets. Mulan tries to get out of her chores but likes to run around and spend time outside; Ailin also yearns to run free even as she grows into a young women. However, both are willing to step to maturity when duty calls. Both leave their family to do the right thing; Mulan hopes to bring honor to her family (as she couldn't seem to bring them honor as a female) by becoming an esteemed warrior, though if she was found out, she risked dishonoring them. In an almost opposite viewpoint, Ailin's actions initially brought dishonor to her family, however, her overall revolutionary character could cause her to be a hero. Thus, Mulan and Ailin seem very alike to me in how they are portrayed to a Western audience.

Honestly, I felt that male stereotypes were the most blatantly Westernized in Disney's Mulan. For instance, guy should be macho, so much so that if you punch one, you might cause a ridiculously exaggerated fight between all males in the area. The men are dirty, clumsy, and silly. I would think that a Chinese male would rather represent honor and humility. I feel though that these Western stereotypes weren't as much to get viewers to truly relate to Mulan's story, but rather for humor. These characters provided laughter through jokes that an American audience would understand and appreciate. They do take away somewhat from the culture of the film, but I don't think that this is at the fault of Mulan herself.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I wouldn't say at all that Black and White exploits any real-life experiences. I think it's good for this particular story to help readers fully understand the racial connotations involved with such a crime and the different perspectives of both Marcus and Eddie and their families.

My opinion might have been different if it weren't for the fact that Marcus and Eddie are completely equal in their guilt. If one had been more guilty than the other, I might have felt differently. Thus, no one race is targeted initially.

I do hate that Eddie and his family are so targeted later on in the book, but perhaps this is a sad but true circumstance. At least his sister, Rose, is presented as a fair and honest Caucasian character, so that it is not necessarily that white people are discriminated against. I am grateful though to see the side of Marcus and his family, and how he is so unfairly targeted and treated. It would have been so painful for him to watch his future go down the drain and Eddie's dreams come true and still not say a word, but his strength and loyalty are so admirable. It was also good to see Eddie's inner struggle as to what to do in such a case. His struggles were not only racial, but also concerned friendship and ethics.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wealth vs Race

In reference to Question 17 of the Black and White PowerPoint, it's difficult to determine whether or not Eddie's wealth helped him more or less than his race, because it seems that wealth and race seem to be work, unfortunately, hand-in-hand. While of course, as in any situation, there are many exceptions, there is quite a heavy poverty percentage in African American families. The stereotype is so strong that unfortunately, it's hard to separate Eddie's race and his financial situation. It just seems natural for his character to have both in his "favor."

I think if we could separate the two, it would be Eddie's wealth that was prominent. If minority races and poverty weren't so often paired together, race would perhaps not so much be a factor. I think that it's poverty that biases the portrayal of African Americans--the idea that they steal and act up because they grew up in a poor household and don't have a chance to better themselves. We are beyond thinking that any non-White race is beneath us because God deemed it so. It's a financial battle now; it's a matter of respect and disrespect because our culture is so hung up on money.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thompson and Sealey's article is an interesting example of analyzing English in a scientific way. Analyzed as a lab and presented in a lab report format, the two experiment to conclude the frequency between parts of speech in children's literature and adult literature, and the context of these frequencies.

Unfortunately, I found the report hard to read and pretty much useless. Words on the frequency lists were essentially identical, and were far too basic to make any true conclusions: the, of, man, etc etc.

Their main conclusion--that the two types of literature use essentially the same basic words but that they take on more abstract meanings in adult literature--is, at least to me, an obvious statement. The technical writing and tables/lists were convoluted and redundant, and the report lacked brevity. Just to count the frequency of such basic words and sequence structures without context do nothing to examine the difference in message between child and adult literature, or at least that's my opinion.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fairy Tales

As I'm sure is the same with many other girls my age, my experience with fairy tales came primarily through the film medium. I learned about princesses and their prince charmings, toads and trolls, dragons and wolves, all through Disney films or other kids' movies. Every once in a while, being a child who frequented the library, I would pick up a book version of a story I was well acquainted with, however this versions haven't stuck with me.

Like I mentioned in class, the one fairy tale that has stuck with me most is that of Thumbelina. I suppose the reason why I esteem this story more so than Disney adaptations is because of her troubling journey for home and her Prince Charming.

All heroines in such tales have a journey to complete, but Thumbelina's differs somewhat. To begin with, Thumbelina had a home and a mother she loved; she wasn't orphaned or stuck with a step-parent that hated her. She met Prince Charming very close to the beginning of the tale. She thinks her happy ending has occurred, and then BAM--she is kidnapped by a toad with a crush, and her world comes crumbling down.

Instead of journeying for happiness, she is attempting to return to happiness. All the while, she deals with tough challenges that are actually awesome metaphors for real life troubles. We aren't dealing with poison apples here. Thumbelina is kidnapped by a jealous frog, showing the troubles in love and relationships when there are more factors than just two people who are perfect for one another. She is later picked up by a Beetle who has her perform in his club as eye-candy (for once, a heroine is openly objectified) until the bugs who attend the club realize she isn't actually of their kind and call her ugly (the heroine being considered ugly? What?). Later, she finds shelter with a field mouse who wants her to marry a blind mole who is financially successful; the pressures of giving up the hope of true love and settling for security are argued.

With Thumbelina, we see a true heartbreak; one that is believable, even if it does involve a Prince Charming (this at least keeps the story in the fairy tale realm).

I suppose the reason why I enjoyed the fairy tales so much was not so much for the love story involved, but for the inclusion of personified animals and out-of-this-world situations that differed from the more reality-based books and stories. Fairy tales help us remember stories and morals using metaphors and imagery, just like anything else with literary merit.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Celebrity Authors & The Quality of Children's Lit

I must admit, I'm a bit stumped as to how to relate Linda Sue Park's article "Star Quality" can be discussed in terms of our previous readings. This is because none of our books were written by celebrities; thus, I will turn my attention to the care and detail with which these adolescent lit books were written.

Park claims in her article that the children's publishing industry edits their manuscript with care, and it should be so. To present children with sub par writing just because they wouldn't notice is an insult to their intelligence. Authors and publishers should provide high quality books to children so that they learn what good writing is.

On a general level, I'd say that the books we have read as a class fulfill this requirement. The quality of writing is good and acceptable; while not all of them could perhaps be considered great pieces of art, they do follow good grammar, syntax, and structure. They do not shy away from tough topics, as we see in Amari's rape in Copper Sun or the death of Gillian's mother due to AIDS in Something Terrible Happened.

There are certain things that could be fixed to improve the quality. One thing is something that I griped about in earlier blogs--Amari's mother's obvious show of theme: "We would never judge someone by the color of their skin." Lines should not be dumbed down force the child to understand what they're reading. If they are presented with a challenge, their analytical minds will grow deeper. Additionally, I think that these books could have offered more challenging vocabulary. Given the multi-cultural focus on much of these books, readers are given several words to consider from other languages--Spanish in Esperanza's Rising and Creole in Fresh Girl--but I do think more challenging vocabulary in the English language would be appropriate.

Overall though, I do think that quality of these books is proven through the fact that we, as a college class, can read and appreciate them (with the exception of Twilight and Harry Potter, which I do believe we read just to critique popular reading).