The last time I went into work, temperatures were in the 80s. Since then, I’ve been to California for time with family and spent a week with the intention of working from home. Temperatures have dropped bringing in the fall weather that I love. It was odd that the 80s lasted so long this year, I suppose that’s why there are green leaves falling from the trees rather than bright reds, oranges and yellows.
The research leave was meant to give me time to work on my talk for NCTE, continuing to delve into how black girls are valued in YA lit. I’ve also spent a little time on another project that involves YA literature of resistance. There are currently so many strong messages out there for teen readers providing them hope, support, alliance and examples of resistance. Many pieces from individuals who are marginalized start from describing what it’s like when your mere survival is resistance and rises from there to describe collective resistance. So many of the pieces claim the current White House administration as the need for activism. It’s definitely been a wake-up call, but I think we have to be careful in blaming only the 2012 election. That will give too many the idea that a new election is all we need to get things “back to normal” and it ignores what’s going on in Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Brazil, Yemen, Italy, France, North Korea, Great Britain, Cameroon and on and on. There’s something going on across the globe. How are we preparing our young people for what may be a new world order? Where are the nonfictions on Liberalism? Conservatism? Brexit? Mass incarceration? Income inequality? Migration? Environmental racism? Food and land use? Health care? The politics of disinformation? Poverty?
What are we telling them to resist?
I don’t know that we kidlit people can expect stories of speculative fiction to prepare 16 year olds for the vote in two years. Or if we can expect teachers who are trying to get students to pass standardized tests to fit this into their curriculum. I don’t know what I saw or heard in just this past week that has filled my dreams with wars, explosions and fleeing violence but I guess whatever it takes to keep me awake and aware.
I saw “The Hate You Give” this morning. I expected a few more people in the theater (It was completely empty) and I expected it to be produced for the white gaze. I don’t think it was. I think it stayed true enough to the #ownvoices book upon which it is based to have messages that are relevant and necessary for black teens. I enjoyed the movie immensely, was so proud of what Angie Thomas created and yeah, that was my break with reality for the day.
I recently had an article published in School Library Journal about tone policing. In it, I mentioned that my generation and was all about tone policing, asserting our power to require subordinates to be well mannered, civil and polite, behaviors valued in white society. I also mentioned that I do struggle somewhat with this concept, that it’s a bit of a shift for me but, one I’m willing to make. The concept can be difficult to understand if you don’t first recognize your own privilege.
So, there I was in California spending my birthday babysitting my grandbaby. It was such a good way to grow older! It was both a chance to get to know my grandbaby and hopefully to begin to build a relationship with her. While my trip was all about her, I have to say my son and DIL are doing an amazing job of raising her. As I tried to replicate their style of parenting with her, I realized that what they’d laid the groundwork for was listening to hear rather than automatically telling her ‘no’, using my power to expect to learn how to behave rather than developing into an adventurous, independent person. So, there I was a parent who would never let her children play with the dishwasher using that machine as a tool to teach her ‘open’ and ‘close’. Power can be so crippling. I have no shame in learning from children how to quite policing the tone.
I’ve rambled a lot today! I’m curious about these green leaves that are still on the trees, on how we’re preparing and children and for just what. I’m not really looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, but I don’t want to stay home and have a week like last week, either!
Let’s go out there and make it a good one.