Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Young Adult Teen Tuesday

The existence of multicultural teen literature had little if anything to do with developing a new literary form. It had a lot to do with the political and social movements of the 60's and 70's, and it came into its own as a way to give a voice in literature to the historically marginalized social groups as well as increase awarness of imbalances in our society.

For years this literary form stirred controversy and resentment. Many didn't like the threat that these books presented: the exploration of bias and prejudice, the questioning of established beliefs and attitudes--some so deeply held that until writers exposed them in their stories, mainstream readers didn't know they had them. Then there were the stories that exposed the writers' "unexamined assumptions and biases." What surprises those were to everyone, including the writers themselves, I'd imagine.

What is wonderful is that in a span of a few decades these books moved from the sidelines onto the shelves and won acclaim. They opened minds and enhanced our culture by connecting diverse people; they gave us different and amazing role models, moved us closer to a community that doesn't reject the "foreign," but appreciates how it enhances our understanding of the world.

Some books I've treasured for their role in cultivating multiculturalism for young readers are these:

Sounder by W.H. Armstrong
Almond Cookies and Dragon Well Tea by Chin-Lee

The Color Purple by A. Walker
Dragonwings by Yep
Encounter by Jane Yolan
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
Shooting Kabul by Senzai
A Single Shard by Park


So many more to list, but you must have several of your own. Add to my list, please.

16 comments:

  1. My son just read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and loved it. I'm reading it now.

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    1. I agree with your son. I heard Sherman talk at the LA SCBWI a couple of years ago. What he had to say about his growing up on the RES was chilling, yet he managed to put a humorous spin on it--especially in light of his success as a writer.

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  2. I recently read Bestest.Ramadan.Ever by blogger Medeia Sharif - it was a great book that introduced me to a culture I know very little about.

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    1. I haven't read that. It's now on my TBR list! Thanks.

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  3. I read the Color Purple years ago and thought it was a great book but I didn't like the way Alice Walker tied up all the loose ends at the end of the book; she could have left more to the reader's imagination.
    A couple of books I would suggest although they may not meeet your criteria in the strictest sense;
    The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank about a Jewish girl in hiding from the Germans (also called Diary of Anne Frank). Powerful stuff and the ultimate in what could happen if multiculturalism fails.
    And on a lighter note;
    The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. This is a collection of sci-fi short stories about a time when people from Earth are leaving to settle on Mars. Some of the stories really make one think about what it is to be human and moral and they are a great read. Bits have been condensed and made into films, plays and a great TV series with Rock Hudson. In the TV series (if memory serves me) the characters on Mars are continually looking for the vanished Martians and at the end Rock takes his family to see them. They look at their own reflection in one of the canals (I think this was written before we knew the canals were not water) and Rock tells them they are looking at the Martians. They have left Earth and live on Mars so they are now Martians. Possibly a bit deep for some teenagers but an intereting concept in the discussion of multiculturalism.
    Great blog by the way :)

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    1. Thanks for offering up more books with this theme, Christopher. And they're great books, too. I love that you've included Ray Bradbury's sci fi collection. Thanks.

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  4. A Single Shard by, Linda Sue Park and The Heart of a Samurai by, Margi Preus were both excellent!

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    1. I agree, Bish. Both get my vote of very read-worthy.

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  5. Great list - I will need to check some of these out for myself! :)

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    1. Thanks for the visit, Margo. Let us know what you think after you've read some of these.

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  6. Great list. The post shows a lot of thought. I don't remember reading any multicultural lit when I was a teen but I do remember coming across books where the protagonist was handicapped in some way. I loved those books.

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  7. Sad that I'm not familiar with any of the books on this list! I think I read the Color Purple, but I can't remember anything about it :((( Will definitely have to read some more. Oh, I did read some books by Toni Morrison that were wonderful and eye-opening! But this was a good reminder to seek out more multicultural books.

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  8. Egads, I've only read Sounder from your list!
    And I really, really want to read Sherman's book too!

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  9. Well, there's Catcher in the Rye, which if you ask me was YA before there was YA.

    Persepolis comes to mind when thinking of multicultural books. It's technically a graphic novel, though.

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  10. Sounder was one of my favorites as a kid. I have to admit, I haven't read any others on your list - I am adding them to my TBR list.

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  11. This is a wonderful post, Lee, and what a great list of books. I also loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. And what a great suggestion about The Diary of Anne Frank. Very powerful and moving. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (1970), but it's not a YA, I don't believe.

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