Post-Foki!

Introduction

Wow! I would have never imagined how much I would have changed over the course of a semester. I’ve made such progress with the use of technology and gained so much respect for YA literature in such a short amount of time. I can say that I’m no longer afraid of what I might experience in teaching with YA lit in the classroom. And though I’m leaving the class with even more questions (that’s a great thing), I feel so refreshed and energized and ready to get into a classroom and teach students about the joys I feel for literature. 

Achievement Goals

Professional – Professionally I want to gain some knowledge and experience when it comes to teaching literature in a classroom setting. Well, even though I didn’t get the chance to make it into a real classroom, I did learn a lot about what it means to be an engaging teacher from the literature perspective. My ALP showed me that I really do like interacting with teens in an academic setting and that I think I’ll do fine in a classroom.  Though I have a tiny bit of teaching experience, it focused mostly on language in a one-to-one format. I think that it is important for me to learn how to interact with a larger group of students at one time and how to engage them into the study and discussion of literature, along with its meaning to society. I feel that to engage students I will need some skills that I currently do not have or have not developed. I can now say that I have some skills! Of course it isn’t the same as an in-person experience, I have had a chance to see how students think of World Literature, and how brilliant they can be! 

Literate – Like I’ve mentioned above in my description of my self, I don’t have a terribly impressive amount of experience with the growing popularity and themes in Young Adult Literature. I was so surprised to actually enjoy all of the books that I’ve read this semester! I was expecting things that were less engaging and more “pop-y” if that makes any sense. I can now see that many YA readers have an interest in dystopian lit. and speculative fiction, and thanks to J. Maberry, among other things, I have a better understanding of why that might me.  I am aware of some trends that have developed in terms of zombie/vampire and  dystopian novels and novellas. See that above. I think that gaining some knowledge of what is trending and how students will react to these trends will be helpful in the development of my Literate Self. I comfortably think that I have a much better understanding of what is trending in literature and why that might be the case. I think that my literate self has grown much more versed. I hope that I can keep expanding my literate self beyond what it is today as well. 

Virtual – As seen above, I have very little experience with some of the more prominent aspects of the virtual self. As a basically clean slate I am open to anything and hope to grasp some basic understanding on how to use some of these technologies that will help in connecting with and educating my future students. I’m no longer green, even though I’m writing in green. I can say that now, between the technology experience from this class and ECI 512, Dr Holcomb’s class, I’ve got a great deal of experience with technology. I’ve made several videos, maintained a blog, made podcasts, designed two websites from scratch, used elluminate, and second life for classes, and found ways that technology can be fused into education in order to make it more engaging to the students of the 21st century, especially when it pertains to literature.

Reflections

Overall it would seem that my first statement is true, I am indeed green. I have little experience with the ideas of education and virtual technologies, but I am a competent literate individual. I need to gain some experience and I hope that I can through my future in the MAT program develop into a better candidate  as a teacher. Though I am slightly frightened by my lack of experience with the subject matter, I am looking hopefully forward and am ready to embrace what I will learn and use the tools and knowledge I gain to effectively educate my future students.

ALP – Teaching Culture with Literature

For my project, I asked a question about using foreign YA lit in translation in the classroom as a means of teaching students about other cultures, and showing them that, though we are separated by some aspects of culture, we are also bound together by human experiences. I had the students read two short stories that were translated from their original language. The First story was “On the Road at Eighteen” by chinese author Yu Hua. The Second was “The Women’s Swimming Pool” by lebanese author Hanan al-Shaykh. Both of these stories were drawn from the anthology Coming of Age Around the World (Adiele and Frosh, 2007). The student participants, who were 10th graders currently enrolled in World Literature classes, had previously been exposed to and engaged with literature from other cultures, many of which had been read in translation, and were very receptive to the readings. For others seeking to duplicate this project, I might suggest a greater amount of exposure to foreign language literature during the project for those who have not been so exposed. The students then recorded responses to the stories, and then responses to the responses of their fellow participants through the use of a voicethread (voicethread.com). I managed the project through the use of a website where the students watched the video lecture, downloaded the readings, and used the voicethread. The following video is a summation of the project, and includes the brief video lecture and the reflections of the students who took part in the project. I thank all who were a part in the project and hope that you enjoy the video:

The Melting Pot – Are we post-multicultural?

We seem to keep asking these questions that don’t really have any answers. But, we always seem to find an answer that suits the question without ever truly defining our answers – I’m afraid this might be a similar situation. I honestly cannot answer this question, and I doubt that any of us can come up with a real answer. But these main reasons for asking questions that cannot be answered, beyond using them rhetorically, is to generate a conversation – to make us think, to think hard about the realities of the questions.

Before I get into the debate that Aronson started with his essay, I feel like I might need to express my opinions as the stand on there own. I’m an avid advocate for using multicultural literature in the classroom as a tool for engaging students and fostering empathy. The real reason for teaching literature, beyond studying form and art, is to empower a student’s capability of living a life of another person despite their differences. I would like to think that we are living in a age that is undivided by race, gender, culture, religion, social class, and other qualifications, but that is really unrealistic to believe, if not foolish. It is nice to be hopeful of a time when that can happen, but to say that we live this way now is an egregious oversight of some of the truly bad things that can and do happen in out world. We live in a world were some people are fighting against the equality of others, while some are simply fighting to be seen as equals. So the basic answer to the question if we are post-multicultural is no, but basic answers never really give the whole story.

I personally have a good deal of knowledge concerning cultures other than my own, but simply having the knowledge is not equivalent to having experienced that culture. I know that there is an extreme amount of pressure placed on Japanese Students to succeed in school, I have read many stories and studies about that, I have heard first hand accounts of what it is like, but I cannot truly say that I have enough knowledge to feign experience. When it comes to literature, particularly multicultural literature, I see a good source of sharing experiences to further knowledge. I know little about awards for particular pieces that express “non-dominant” cultures and living within those cultures. But, what I can say, is that there is conflict in me concerning these awards. I want to believe in a world where being the best literature grants an equal chance to everyone to win a non-culture based award, and I want to say that there is a point at which we will no longer need to see these pieces of literature as being different, but I know that in this time, in this current reality, that is an impossible idea. These awards, from how I understand them, help to illuminate the best pieces of literature that show particular elements of culture. I don’t know that it is fair to say that only people of a certain cultural background should be eligible for the awards, but I could imagine that only people who have lived through the experiences of the particular culture would be able to fully express the experiences. This is what I feel, at least, how I think I feel. But, this can change.

The Debate

Aronson write passionately against the use of awards that are geared toward particular cultures, particularly those that have the qualification of being a member, at least in some form, of that culture. His point in indeed valid, and well said, but, can we truly believe in his ideal world in which there would not be a need? This is one comment that he faced in several responses to his essay. Is he too optimistic about where we are in our world? I think that is a possibility, in fact, I would say he might be a tad bit too optimistic, but then again, I am a pessimist in most situations. He also says that there is something to be gained from eliminating cultural restrictions on who can be awarded a prize for a literature prize that is represented of “non-dominant” cultural literature. I see his point here as well, it doesn’t really seem fair, but if you think about it logically, who can tell a story from a cultural point of view better than a person who experienced that culture first hand? Certainly a good writer can make almost anything believable, Fantasy and Sci-Fi are perfect examples. The stories and characters in these genre exist in a culture that is partially fabricated.  But, when it comes to writing about a real culture, a culture that has not been actually experienced by the writer, as opposed to read about or told about, there is always something missing. Experience is a key to wisdom, a key to writing something that is truly representative of what it means to exist within a culture.

Pinkney, who writes passionately in response to Aronson and in defense of these awards, though she particularly writes concerning the CSK. Pinkney does a good job in making me think about what Aronson has actually said. Though I don’t personally take offense to Aronson’s thoughts, as I haven’t seen what these awards can do and what they have done for literature, (at least not yet), I feel that having read Pinkney’s response really gives me insight to someone who feels that there culture has been “unintentionally neglected,” that has been accidentally forgotten. I think that being part of the “dominate” culture makes it hard for me to see what issues could be interpreted from Aronson’s essay. I did not really see direct opposition in my opinions with Aronson’s until after I read Pinkney’s response, I don’t think I would be really prepared for the debate had I heard from someone it would directly influence. Through Pinkney’s response, I can see some of the inherent problems that develop in  Aronson’s argument, and so did he.

In his response to the responses, Aronson holds fast to his argument, but changes his approach. He sees that value of the awards differently than before, but sees them still as limiting in their nature. And, I agree they are limiting, quite so, but for now, they are the best possible thing that we can do to help promote understanding and availability of multicultural literatures. I hate to give the typical, “it’s not perfect, but I’ll take it” response, but that is what we are left with. I cannot see the future (big shocker there!), but I hope that there will be a time when we can have something perfect. And my hope is founded on all of the progress that we have made in our culture as Americans, (we seem to neglect the idea of the American culture more than any other). I hope that one day in our melting pot, the fondue will be smooth enough for there to be no visible difference between the milk and the cheese (and that it won’t cost 30 dollars to eat fondue at a restaurant).

The Perils of Technology?

We live in an age dominated by technology. That’s a relatively easy statement and a bit too general. We live in an age in which technology is part of the human experience on a level that is incomparable to any other era before us. Again, that might be too general of a statement as the ages of technology have all been just that, new influences of technology and developments that influence human life in new and exciting ways. But this age of technology, this time in which we are living is the age of constant interconnectivity. All things have been influenced by the development of this ease of communication that has been delivered to us. Some people look at these developments with fear, as has happened for every technological advancement in history, and some people look onto these advancements as promising progress into a bright future. And as educators, how are we to view these technologies? We must use them in order to engage our students who were born with constant technological communicative capabilities. But, is there something more we should teach them concerning this technology. Should we warn students of the speculative possibilities of a world dominated by non-physical communication? Should we be weary of making any and everything technologically based? What are the promises and what are the downfalls that come with our technology? There are many theories:

Now each of these presenters, Dr Turkle and Rag (as he like to be called) seem to have different ideas about what should be done with the technology we have been given. Should we fear a future that we do not yet understand, or should we accept the future and hope for the best. I think that as educators, we must come to grips with this issue. Is it our responsibility to prepare students for this 21st century as well as help them to understand the importance of living physically instead of simply virtually? Or, should we simply teach them so that they can be the best 21st century citizen that they can be? Does that include both actual and virtual communication? These are the things we must answer in order to be the best teachers of 21st century students we can be. We must never be fearful, but always approach cautiously.

And a thanks to my fellow ECI 521-ers for sharing these videos with me (Cris and Michele) 

What it means to be “radical”

Honestly, what does it mean to be “radical,” to change radically and to exist in radical opposition to something. I suppose that in order for one to have something radical you must first have the concept of traditional. So what can we say is radical in terms of literature? in terms of YA literature? in terms of what and how we teach?

Radical Change theory

In terms of young adult literature, there is a theory of what it means to change radically. That is, thanks to Eliza T Dresang, we have a way to define and explain the rapid changes and developments in style, genre, understanding, and how we read when it comes to YA literature. Dresang (2008) asserts that there are several types and genres of YA literature that have changed radically thanks to the influences of the digital age. In her 2008 revisitation of her original (1999) work on the Radical Change theory, Dresang writes on the changes that she has seen occur across several of the new and emerging fields of YA literature, including: “information books,” “fiction for older youth,” “picture books for all ages,” paper-engineered books,” “graphic novels,” and “the dynamic hybrid book.” In each of these categories Dresang has described, she mentions how, over the past nine years (when Dresang wrote her revisitation), the advent of certain technologies and the development of a technologically based society has effected the format and the experience of reading books published in these categorical formats. These developments, which are most likely more progressed now in 2011 than they were when Dresang revisited her theory, are very apparent in a good deal of YA literature and literature in general either in content or formatting or both in some cases.

Examples of Radical Change in Literature

One example of literature that is a representation of the influence of the digital age and digital age society is Human.4 by Mike A Lancaster (2011) which has content pertaining to the effects of rapid modernization on societal norms and behaviors. The book is also formatted in a way that is unique, with the narrative being presented as transcriptions of cassette tape recordings and author’s notes inserted into the text to explain things that are apparently foreign to the books “audience.” I won’t go into too much more detail as I don’t want to give away any of the content.

Another example of radical change theory as exhibited by literature is the poem “Skeleton Sky” by Caroline Guertin, which is a poem or series of poems presented in an on-line format that features hyperlinked words within the separate portions of the poems that links to different poems. The way that “Skeleton Sky” is formatted allows for each reader to experience the poem differently and for each reading to experience the world of the poem differently. I personally found the poem intriguing and experienced it as a poem commenting on violence, death, nothingness, and the struggle to express one’s independence. The way that the poem is formatted also drives the reader to keep clicking on the links. I became fascinated by seeing which words would lead to poems of which themes, and how each poem is displayed and presented based on its themes. And because of that I wanted to know why each poem what displayed in that way and why the author thought that it was proper way for the poem to be presented.

In my personal experiences, radical change is nothing new for literature. I have seen it happen before, especially in poetry. In fact much of modernist poetry came about in response to the restrictions on poetic form and content that preceded it. The same can be said for the origins of Romantic prose and poetry. But each specific example of radical change is radical in its own particular way. Todays radical change is an evolution in formatting to adapt to a world and society dominated by technological advancements and globalization, so that young adult readers would feel more connected with the literature. There has also been a major evolution in content concerning what it means to live in a world that is dominated by technology and how out society has changed thanks to the advancements in technology.

What’s with Graphic Novels

I personally have a great deal of respect for graphic novels, or what is now called graphica to include both fiction and nonfiction graphic literature. I have grown up, at least through high school, when there was an emerging american interest in manga, which is the Japanese name of a graphic novels. I have personally read many different types of manga (there are several subsets within manga) and find them to be in some cases very literary experiences. Despite the misconception of what many people still call “comics,” I think that there is actually growing support for the use of Graphica in the classroom as a means of further engaging students. I support this whole heartedly! I personally know that I love reading graphic novels, and if I feel overwhelmed with reading the classics, reading a good piece of graphica is a nice way to unwind.

Graphic novels really represent a radical change in YA literature, and in some cases general literature here in the US. They have especially evolved from their beginnings as “superhero comics.” Today there are graphic novelization of traditional print media, historical events, and memoirs. This represents a growing interest in how students engage with multiple intelligences and crave something different from traditional print literature in this digital age. Consider the growing popularity of movies and video games, and how this form of media engages its audiences with stories shown through conversation, images and action. These features of movies and videos games, and even television shows can all be harnessed in print form through graphica. In fact, most of these visual media begin as graphic representations of scenes that are then put into motion. Imagine the possibilities of engaging students that same ways that they are engaged when they are watching movies or playing video games, but with books, with literature that draws them into the story through images.

This idea can be seen in a project concerning using Graphica in the classroom and integrating it into the more traditional curriculum. The author of this project (2008), Angela Trythall, noticed that one of her less motivated students became engaged by a graphic memoire, and though about how the use of graphica could help to engage students who were traditionally nonreaders. She instituted a lesson plan that asked her students not only to read different works of graphica in a bookclub style, but also to utilize blogging and wikis to share their responses to the readings. She concluded that despite the fact that an extremely small percent of her students had read a piece of graphica before, after taking part in the lesson nearly all of her students enjoyed the readings and would continue to read graphica. This enthusiasm shows how much students can actually connect and enjoy this growing field of literature. If graphic can be used to supplement the reading of traditional literature in the classroom, consider what could be gained by the students. There is a great deal of potential within the field of graphic to help engage students, even nonreaders, in the material of the literature that is required to be taught.

Conclusions

Change can always be seen in multiple ways. It can be seen as a deviation of what is normal, and considered something less than desirable. Change can be seen as a good thing, a method of progression into a better place. (there are far to many to list here, so I’ll just let you think of the rest on your own). Radical change, which can seem somewhat frightening at times, is nothing new to literature, but it is something very representative of our time and our current societal norms. Hopefully, I am not the only one who sees this type of change to be beneficial in literature. I hope that this change will influence how curriculums are designed so that students may have the best opportunities of engagement in the classroom. Imagine the future of what literature could be, how it could be taught, and embrace that future for being new and exciting!

Work Cited

Dresang, E. T. (2008). Radical change revisited: Dynamic digital age books for
youth. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education,
8(3). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol8/iss3/seminal/article2.cfm

Trythall, Angela. (2008). Graphic Novel article. http://bookhenge2011.wikispaces.com/file/view/Angela_Graphic_Novel_Article_for_Submission_to_English_Journalcc.pdf

Is YA Nonfiction worth it?

I suppose that I like to pose questions more than I like answering them, but that might be inherent to the subject of study – In the world of literature we ask questions that don’t really have the clearest of answers or the simplest of explanations – So this might take a while but we’re going to work toward an answer together!

The Question

So the question might be ‘Is YA Nonfiction worth it?’ but there is more likely an easier way to phrase that, or should I say a more specific way. Is the thing that we consider YA Nonfiction a part of traditional nonfiction, or a branch of the category of YA literature in general – or both, which is more likely the answer. That isn’t the real question, that will come later, but this is how we’re working toward it. Is YA Nonfiction a neglected part of YA literature, like Aronson claims that it is in his essays – maybe, that is part of the question. Is there something that is more masculine or boy-like to YA Nonfiction, that is what kind of connection is there between boys and nonfiction – and if that is the case, is nonfiction less feminine, another part of the question. And can YA Nonfiction, like we believe that YA literature can, be used as a tool in the classroom, should it be used and if so, how do we go about doing that – somethings aren’t so clear when we look into this part of the question.

As you can tell from above, the questions really can’t be nicely packaged into a specific question concerning YA nonfiction, which is perhaps why I first posed the question as ‘Is YA Nonfiction worth it?’ It isn’t the nicest of questions to ask, it sounds judgmental, but trust me that it isn’t, it just seems to be the best way to pose a series of questions that evaluate the ‘worth’ of something like YA Nonfiction and how people feel about that ‘worth.’ To give a better question I suppose I can phrase it this way:

Is YA Nonfiction really a neglected part of YA literature? Is there a reason for that? Is there some kind of connection between boys and nonfiction? More so than with girls? Can YA nonfiction be used in a classroom setting? Should it be? And how could we go about doing that?

I don’t see any reason to believe that these questions don’t have answers, but judging from my past experiences concerning these types of questions – it gets harder before it gets easy and the answers are never what I thought they would be when I started writing and researching.

The Scholar

We often find ourselves looking to Mark Aronson for answers concerning ideas of YA literature – and why shouldn’t we, Aronson has a good deal of experience with all aspects of YA literature especially YA Nonfiction, which he himself writes, publishes, edits, reads, critiques, &c. So let’s see what Aronson has to say about these questions. It was actually Aronson himself who claimed that YA Nonfiction was a neglected part of YA literature, so we know how he feels about that (Aronson 105). But what does he think about out other questions?

In terms of a reason for YA Nonfiction being the neglected child, Aronson has some pretty interesting ideas about why this is the case. Aronson asserts many reasons for the case that seem to be rather general. He state that authors think that writing YA Nonfiction is harder than writing YA fiction, so those tend to stay away from writing it, a reason Aranson himself sees as flawed. Instead, Aronson claims that writing YA Nonfiction should actually be a less taxing process on the author that writing YA Fiction, and that the idea that it is more difficult is simply a misconception. That would explain why no one is writing it, but why then are people like Aronson who do write it not as well known for doing so? Why aren’t those authors who do realize that the process is easier writing YA Nonfiction prolifically and getting published, and read? And that brings about the question, if there are books of YA Nonfiction being published, who is reading them? Aronson seems to have an answer to that that also serves as a means of motivation authors and publishers.

This question of who is a target reader for YA Nonfiction seems to point in one direction for Aronson. Boys. Boys are the ideal readers of YA Nonfiction, according to Aronson, and for that very reasonit is difficult for Adults to understand what “Boy Readers,” as Aronson calls them, read and like to read. Aronson points to that nature of YA Fiction as it compares to YA Nonfiction for that answer. Aronson suggests that due to the masculine nature and idea of conquest and command of the world through physicality, that is the use of one’s body, YA Nonfiction is perfect for boys, and current YA Fiction is less so. That would seem to suggest that Aronson answers with a firm ‘yes’ when asked if Nonfiction has a special connection with ‘boy readers.’ So, with that we ask another question, if it is so important for boys to be reading YA Nonfiction, should we use it in school and how?

Aronson’s answer to that question would be rather easy to figure out. ‘Of course!’ If that’s the case, then how go about using it? How do we go about using YA Nonfiction if we still aren’t that sure how to use YA literature in general?

Answers

Unlike questions, which are always so easy to come by, answers are actually much harder to get to. But, we’ve had some help from someone who seems to know a lot about a lot, so let’s try to come up with some. Just to be safe, let’s restate the questions:

Is YA Nonfiction really a neglected part of YA literature? Is there a reason for that? Is there some kind of connection between boys and nonfiction? More so than with girls? Can YA nonfiction be used in a classroom setting? Should it be? And how could we go about doing that?

So, can we say that YA Nonfiction is a neglected part of YA Literature. I assume that we can say yes. If we look at what is most often read and what is more often published, we can see that fiction is more often chosen. But does that really mean that it is neglected… I’m not so sure about that. Sure, it is read less and published less, but that might be based on the fact that there is little demand for it. So, I assert that it might be neglected, but it is neglected not by authors and publishers, but most often by readers. If readers would demand good YA Nonfiction, then the authors would write it and it would be published more often. I’m not saying that it is not a bad thing that it is neglected, but it is something that happens because of demand. The best way to go about changing that is to make readers want to read YA Nonfiction, which might be a difficult task.

Is there a connection between boys and nonfiction: maybe. I can’t speak for everyone, but I myself know that I did not have any specific attraction to nonfiction over fiction. I know that I love to learn things, but that doesn’t always overcome my desire to read fiction. However, that is just my opinion, and I’ve seen other cases that support the idea that boys are connected to Nonfiction. If that is in fact true, then we as educators need to find a way to better engage boy readers through the use of YA Nonfiction.

Should YA Nonfiction be used in he classroom and how? I would say yes. I don’t see why it couldn’t be used and there being any downside to using it. In fact, if it is more engaging to boys then it is our responsibility  to try and use it as a means of engaging more students. Now, how should we use YA Nonfiction. That is harder to answer. I suppose that it might be a good tool to use YA Nonfiction as a means of history education more so than a literature class, but it could be used in literature as a supplement to fiction that we read and represent an historical period that we normally only show through he classics.

In Closing

YA Nonfiction might not be as popular as YA fiction, but that doesn’t mean it is any less important or useful than YA fiction. We should always be open to using YA literature as a supplement to what we traditionally teach.  YA Nonfiction has a unique means of showing life that actually happened in a time period and we can compare that to the feelings, happening and themes of the classics we are set to study. So, let’s all work to getting YA literature, both fiction and nonfiction, into the classroom to help our students connect more with the literature.

Work Cited

Aronson, Marc. Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2003. Print.

Lessons in Culture through YA Literature in Translation

Introduction

I believe that it is our responsibility as educators and future educators of the 21st century  to help our students to explore and engage with topics, genre, societies and culture that are unfamiliar to them. This, in my opinion, is especially true for the literature teacher. If anyone is wonder, that means us… SO, how can we do this? Is there an easy way for us to help our students connect with something that is in its most basic sense foreign? The answer is most likely no, as we’ve seen so far this semester, there aren’t ever really any easy answers. So what do we do? When I asked this question, I thought on it for a while. We’ve been studying a lot of YA lit and how we can use YA lit to engage our students beyond what the classics can do for most of them. So, my first assumption was that whatever I need to look at, it needs to come from somewhere within the realm of YA literature. But, as we’ve seen, YA lit is a big place to draw from – so, I need to make that choice a little easier on myself and choose from one of the sub-categories within the categorical behemoth that is YA literature. I thought about what can really help in connecting cultures is to draw something that is directly related to a culture, and for me culture and language are two things that are truly inseparable. So I want to look for YA lit that has been written in a language other than English. There are still some problem there because, I can’t expect all my students to be able to read in any number of foreign languages – so these works have to be translated. Now I think I might have gotten enough to make a plausible question:

Can YA Lit in translation, when presented along with cultural context, give students ideas concerning culture ans what it means to be a teenager in the global context?

Okay, now I have a question all that’s left is to work toward the answer right? sounds easy enough doesn’t it?

Down to Business 

… … … … …. This might be harder than I thought. I’ll come back to this in a minute…

Some Research

Perhaps I’ll be able to think about more on how with a little bit of inspiration. Lets talk bout what has been done in terms of research concerning the use of foreign YA literature in a classroom, or a library, as a means of engaging students into the study of a culture that is different from their own. Let’s talk about what I’ve found.

In her article entitled “The Power of Foreign Young Adult Literature,” Gretchen Schwarz (1996) makes assertions about some big reasons why foreign YA lit is not only a useful tool, but an important part of a Literature classroom. Schwarz writes:

Foreign YA literature can open up the world to American readers, creating new understanding of and appreciation for other cultures. This literature is also a natural way to teach across the curriculum, connecting good literature to history, geography, politics, or science. (Schwarz 1996)

Schwarz sees a real importance and promise in using foreign YA literature as a means of educating students concerning not only cultures with which they are unfamiliar, but also a tool for teaching across the curriculum and engaging the literature class with the important events and moments in history, politics and the sciences. But, Schwarz also sees another importance in the use of foreign YA lit that is as applicable now as it was when she wrote back in 1996. Schwarz writes:

Discouraging prejudice towards other people, as well as minorities within America, remain an important task in out increasingly interconnected but fearful world. (Schwarz 1996)

What is amazing here is that when Schwarz wrote her article back in 1996, she was writing before the events that started the new millennium for many Americans, September 11th 2001. However, she manages to see how growing fears developed after the Oklahoma City Bombing, when people began to blame muslim terrorists and became intolerant of islamic people here is America, sounds very similar to what happened in the wake of 9/11. So, as we can see, what Schwarz has asserted as being important is still important around 15 years after she wrote her article. In her final statements, Schwarz concludes that:

The benefits of foreign YA literature are significant in teaching tolerance, in teaching across the curriculum, and in challenging adolescent readers. (Schwarz 1996)

Schwarz seems to feel that the answer to my question is ‘yes,’ and rather adamantly so. She sees potential in using foreign YA literature as a means of educating students and dispelling intolerance and fear of people from another culture. By showing students that teenagers living in different places, speaking different languages, learning different subjects, and believing in different religions, are very similar to them, that they live similar lives despite the sometimes stark social and cultural differences, we may be able to help to ease the fears and misconceptions that have been developed around people of other cultures. Not only was Schwarz a bit of a confidence booster, her article also provided me with a good deal more research to do. Schwarz often cited a book entitle Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World by Hazel Rochman, so I decided to check it out.

Rochman’s Against Boarders, which was originally published in 1993, is actually a bibliography compiling and providing some descriptions of “multicultural” YA literature, videos, and other sources, accompanied by a Preface and Introduction explaining Rochman’s process in selecting what to include and her journey to her understanding of “multiculturalism.” In the preface, entitle “An Immigrant’s Journey,”Rochman recounts her own journey as an immigrant from South Africa and how that has affected her views on “multiculturalism” and her feelings towards books. Rochman writes:

Reading makes immigrants of us all – it takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere. (Rochman 15)

A beautiful and elegant point that gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling, but it is beyond that as it rings true in its beauty. As we allow our students to read foreign, or as Rochman focused on specifically “multicultural,”  YA literature we are given them a portal, a tool with which they can find home in a place that is foreign to them, which leads to another point that Rochman makes concerning the true purpose of a “multicultural education. Rochman writes:

[W]hat this book hopes to aid others in accomplishing, is the real point of multicultural education: to help kids recognize their own particular culture and understand their connections with those who appear different. (Rochman 15)

Rochman goes further into a discussion of how good multicultural YA lit can influence students and serve as a useful tool by saying:

A good story lets you know people as individuals in all their particularity and conflict; and once you see someone as a person–flawed, complex, striving– then you’ve reached beyond stereotype. Stories, writing them, telling them, sharing them, transforming them, enrich us and connect us and help us know each other. (Rochman 19)

Looks as if Rochman also seems to think that there is an adamant ‘yes’ to my question, that it is indeed true that using foreign or multicultural YA literature is a proper way in exposing students to foreign cultures and helping them to accept and understand these foreign cultures and the people who are a part of them. Yay that’s more support for me! On top of that, Against Borders is a fantastic source of information concerning books and other sources that can be used to assist in a multicultural education. If you need some help choosing some books for teaching a class, I would suggest it despite that face that it was originally printed in 1993, it still provides a great deal of potential tools that are organized well and well described.

Finally, I discovered an article that tugged on my heart for multiple reasons. The article, written by Connie S. Zitlow and Lois Stover, is entitled “Japanese and Japanese American Youth in Literature” and it describes different books that feature themes concerning Japanese culture and gives a brief overview of a good method for teaching a class through uses of the suggested books and themes. Beyond the fact that I had to read this article, just for the sake of it, I found it to be quite useful in terms of content. Zitlow and Stover write:

Reading literature, which offers the closest approach to living through the actual experiences of life, is the way to come to know something about a country and its people whether they remain in the country or move to another. (Zitlow and Stover 1998)

Zitlow and Stover, like the others, are all very supporting to my idea. Foreign YA literature is indeed a good way to help to connect students with the idea of growing up in other cultures and how, despite cultural differences, there are similarities that exist within the teenaged age group, as well as humanity in general, across cultural boundaries. With that amount of support for my argument I might be ready to try to figure out how to go about finding my own answers.

Down to Business, the 2nd Attempt

Now that all my research has bolstered my confidence in my question, I think I’m ready to figure out how to get to my answers. Now, since I myself am not currently teaching I’ll be wrangling up some students from Michele and using them as my subjects. Now, Michele’s students have already gotten some experience with YA literature in translation, so I need to tell you about their background.

Background

Over the summer, the students have read each story in A Walk in My World, which is an anthology of international short stories concerning youth edited by Anne Mazer. This is beneficial because the anthology already contains some works in translation that can be reviewed if they need to be so that the students can have them fresh in their minds.

The Process

Well, because the students have already been exposed to all of the works included in A Walk in My World I thought I might supplement their readings with some stories and excerpts that have been featured in Coming of Age Around the World, which is another anthology that was edited by Faith Adiele and Mary Frosch. I will select three stories that have been featured in Coming of Age that are supplementary, that is that deal with similar cultures and cultural issues, to some of the reading in A Walk in My World. As each work is assigned to be read I will give an accompanying question that the students will be asked for the students to think about while reading. After they have finished the reading they will be asked to record a response through a voice thread. After reading all of the stories and developing an opinion on each of them individually, they will be asked to listen to their fellow students responses and create a synthesis of opinions concerning coming-of-age as it appears in each culture and their own, and how they are similar and different. Before the student begin reading the supplementary reading, I will meet with them and provide a brief lecture concerning the cultural context of each of the stories that they will be reading. This session will be recorded and, along with the voice thread responses, will be presented as the multi-media portion of the project.

Anticipation 

I’m really looking forward to this assignment and seeing how the students respond to reading works in translation and how they feel about the idea of reading foreign YA literature as a means of educating students about foreign cultures and drawing cultural connections. Let’s get started!

Buona Fortuna Tutti 

Works Cited

Rochman, Hazel. Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World. Chicago: ALA Books, 1993. Print.

Schwarz, Gretchen. “The Power of Foreign Young Adult Literature.” ALAN 23.3 (Spring 1996): n. pag. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.

Zitlow, Connie S. & Lois Stover. “Japanese and Japanese American Youth in Literature.” ALAN 25.3 (Spring 1998): n. pag. Web. 10 Oct. 2011