Multicultural children’s books • Focus on diverse or “parallel” cultures within one society. • Books showing diversity within (the US) • Books about “people of color” • Books in Taiwan about Haaka culture or aboriginal cultures
International children’s books • Books originating from outside the country where they are being read. These books are often translated. • Books by Jimmy Liao are International children’s lit when published or read in the US. • American, British, Australian literature is International lit in Taiwan. • They can help children gain an appreciation and understanding of our global society. • Translation & Quality • English text must be fluent and readable yet not too nationalized (Americanized for example). • A few regional words and phrases can provide a feel for the culture and language.
Definitions of multiculturalism • The doctrine that several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country • In literature, multiculturalism is the belief that literary studies should include writings, poetry, folklore, and plays from a number of different cultures rather than focus on Western European civilization alone. ... • A cynical definition (from people who think multiculturalism favors non-western cultures): Multiculturalism is a big word meaning, "The West stinks." The shorthand version is, "America stinks." Under multiculturalism, George Washington, a slave-owning white male with no accomplishments of note, is out, and Che Guevara, an anti-imperialist leader, is in.
Multiculturalism in the US • 1960s-70s after civil rights movement and with federal support, publishers and minority authors were encouraged to produce books about many different ethnic groups. Minority authors encouraged to write about their own cultures. • In late 1970swith reduced federal funding and poor sales in bookstores (also higher dependence on bookstore sales). Almost no new authors of color. • 1980s with clearer statistics and predictions about school demographics, more concern to multicultural lit again. • Still now • the books published about various cultures are still not representative of the population breakdown. • Some argue that we should read every text from a multicultural stance “seek to understand what race, class, and gender means in a story.”
Exotic Otherness • The US and other Western countries have a history of viewing people of color differently, often assuming them to be closer to nature, theoretically “better” because they are less civilized. (In much the same way Rousseau viewed children as “wise”). • Edward Said calls this “Orientalism”
Xenophobia • Some say that mistrust or fear of strangers or foreignersis at the root of our worldwide inability to live together in peace. • Parents and society often accidentally program children to mistrust, fear, or even hate certain groups of people who are unlike them. • Racial attitudes often crystallize by age ten. Literature is a powerful force to combat ignorance that breeds xenophobic behavior. • If the world changes according to the way people see it, then changing the ways people perceive others helps to change the world.
Essentializing • When people assume there is some identifiable trait or attitude or practice that is shared by all members of a culture, they are essentializing. • If one book about a minority culture is read in order to represent a culture, readers can think a book demonstrates the whole experience of that culture • Colonization of one country by another country was often justified by assuming there is a fundamental or essential difference between colonizers and colonized. • Both positive and negative essentializing denies the possibility of individual growth or change, or of different and equally valid was of being from a specific culture. • Essentializing leads to stereotypes.
Somecommon Stereotypes • African Americans are poor • Hispanics are lazy • French people are romantic • Asian are industrious and secretive • Jews are money lovers • Every group is made up of individuals who have their own set of personal values
Three kinds of books about people of color • Neutral – includes characters from cultural minorities but are essentially about other topics. Neutral books randomly place multicultural faces among the pages in order to make a statement about the value of diversity. • Generic – focuses on characters representing a cultural group, but few specific details are included that aid in developing a cultural persona. • Specific – incorporates specific cultural details that help define characters. Cultural themes are evident, if not prevailing. In picture books, the artwork expresses many of these cultural details.
Judging multicultural literature • Are characters stereotypes? • Are characters symbols of their culture or individuals within their culture? • Do characters achieve success by giving up aspects of their culture (melting)? • Do characters need people from the mainstream to help them solve problems? • Accuracy & Authenticity
Accuracy • When cultural details need to be represented accurately and in detail, readers can see how they belong to individuals and not just a culture. • Dialect and idioms (“the rez” singsong reservation accent) • Foods (flatbread) • Customs (Pow-wow, funerals,drinking, spending time together) • Clothing (Pow-wow outfit, pictures) • Religious beliefs and practices (referred to with disdain) • Subgroups within cultural groups • Not all Native Americans lived in TeePees. • (Not that different, but still different)
Cultural authenticity • Those within the culture should feel that the book has accurately and honestly reflected their experiences and viewpoints. • Should books about one group be written by someone from another group? • How can they know the nuances and precise feelings? • Do the unintentionally distort because of their own cultural biases? • The Case of The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter (really by Asa Earl Carter a former KKK member) • Only positive portrayals?