Interview with Xavier Garza, Part 3

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

This is the third of a four part interview with author and illustrator Xavier Garza, 2005 América’s Award Honor Book winner. This interview was conducted electronically by Janine Schall.

Janine: All of your picture books are English/Spanish bilingual. What made you decide to write bilingual books?

Xavier: I am a firm believer in the advantages that come from being able to speak more that one language. While I agree that everyone should learn English, I see no reason to give up the tongue of your ancestors. I disagree with those who spout an English only point of view. I find it silly that they would seek to portray an individual’s ability to be bilingual as being something bad. They forget that America isn’t composed of just one culture; she is a varied and diverse nation that is made up of many, many different tongues, traditions and ideas. She is forever changing, never staying constant for too long.

Janine: It’s lovely to hear such a strong defense of bilingualism — even here in the Valley I sometimes hear teachers denigrating Spanish. I imagine that growing up in Rio Grande City it would be difficult not to be bilingual, but was that something that your family and/or schools supported? I noticed that you don’t do your own translations for your books. Why is that?
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Interview with Xavier Garza, Part 2

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

La Lechuza comes after naughty children, illustrated by Garza

La Lechuza comes after naughty children, illustrated by Garza

This is the second of a four part interview with author and illustrator Xavier Garza, 2005 América’s Award Honor Book winner. This interview was conducted electronically by Janine Schall.

Janine: A number of your books deal with traditional, folkloric aspects of Hispanic culture such as the Chupacabras and La Lechuza. Why do these characters keep recurring in your writing? Why do you think children enjoy these figures so much?

Xavier: We love our Cucuys. We love to be scared. Continue reading

Interview with Author Xavier Garza

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan Amercian, Edinburg, TX

This is the first of a four part interview with Xavier Garza, author of several children’s books, including Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask, 2005 América’s Award Honor Book. Xavier was born and raised in Rio Grande City, a small town on the Texas/Mexico border. His work draws upon the cultural and linguistic influences of life in the Rio Grande Valley. Xavier now lives in San Antonio with his wife and son. This interview was conducted electronically.

Janine: Thank you for taking the time to discuss your work. The teachers I work with were very excited when I told them that I would be interviewing you. Living in the Rio Grande Valley, your books resonate with them. You grew up in the border town of Rio Grande City. How does the place and culture of your childhood affect your writing?
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Immigration Literature: Bridging Global Cultures for Classroom Communities

by Andrea Baily, April Sanders, Patricia Sosa-Sanchez, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

When incorporating varied literature into school curriculum and/or the classroom, those choices should logically reflect many stories that eventually are woven into a mosaic of understanding, but are students getting this international perspective from the literature found in their classrooms and libraries?

Understanding the authentic immigrant experience necessitates exposure to international literature. Reading about such experiences gives a peek into the hearts and minds of people whom we may not fully understand. The reader is able to experience the struggles and triumphs of these characters; thus, we get a tiny glimpse of the world through the eyes of a person who has arrived at America’s doorstep. This glimpse is where we as readers learn empathy and acceptance for other cultures that face the task of maintaining their own heritage while living in a new country with possibly vastly different rules and structures. Without the authenticity provided by the immigrant voice, the reader may begin to form false ideas about a culture or simply form no ideas and be completely void of knowledge of their new fellow country mates.
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After the Journey: Immigrants in a New Country

By Ragina Shearer & Mary Amanda Stewart, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

Once an immigrant arrives in the destination country, there is yet another journey that begins. Often, this journey is overlooked because it takes place in the heart, mind, and inner being of the recent immigrant. Many of our students are greatly affected by these issues which include language challenges, family separation, missing the home country, and negotiating two cultures.
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The Immigrant Experience in Children’s/Adolescent Literature

By Tami Morton, Lois Knezek, & Betty Reily, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

Children’s and adolescent literature is a wonderful starting place for young readers to begin considering and understanding experiences of immigration to the United States. Many talented authors have provided characters with whom many children and young adults can relate.

Milly Lee (2006) introduces readers to Sun Lee, a 12-year old Chinese boy, who immigrates to America in the book Landed. Sun’s parents believe that there are more opportunities for him in the United States, so they prepare him for his departure. Though Sun is a bit nervous, he knows that his older brothers went to America once they reached the age of 12, so he was ready and willing to make the trek. Sun’s immigration to America was totally voluntary. In the story, the description of Sun’s preparation, traveling experiences, as well as the extended time he remained at Angel Island before he officially “lands,” were a testament to bravery. It was clear at the end of the story that Sun really was happy and proud to be in the United States. Though this story took place in the 1930’s, it provides readers an opportunity to think critically about the entrance of Chinese people who wanted to come to America.
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The Immigrant Experience in Children’s/Adolescent Literature

Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

Stories of immigration to the United States are not new in children’s and adolescent literature. Earlier stories often depict immigration in a joyful, nostalgic way as people journeyed to America, most frequently from Europe, in search of a better way of life. However, recent titles explore immigration through a more critical lens as authenticity issues and the current focus on social justice impact the portrayal of social issues in literature. Such social issues include the ongoing debates in the U.S. that focus on immigration laws and potential reform. These debates present perspectives that are seated in ideologies representing a spectrum of beliefs as to whether immigration, both legal and illegal, should be prohibited in this country or acknowledged as necessary to maintain the current work force. Of course, there are additional issues as a result of immigration that involve the personal identity of immigrants, their involvement in their newly found communities, reaching immigrant children in classrooms where they may not speak the dominant language, and other complexities that are often not addressed when entering new cultures. It is not surprising, then, that we now meet characters in books whose lives are forever changed in a variety of ways as they immigrate to the U.S. So, who are these characters? What are their stories? What languages and cultures do they bring with them? Does literature represent the immigrant experience in all its complexity? Are critical topics missing in the stories read by both immigrants and those who have never been outside of the U.S.? Are we as readers and teachers aware of these complexities—enough to be able to seek out particular books and to use them effectively with students to establish insight into the people who make up their fellow community members? What is the potential curricular role of children’s literature about immigration. Should immigrant literature be “core” literature in social studies and other multicultural studies? By that we mean, with few exceptions, aren’t we all the descendants of immigrants and/or reflect the immigrant experience or a blend of cultural traits in some way?
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Fairy Tales: Zero Tolerance?

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA

boundLast week I wrote about the challenge of evaluating fairy tales for cultural authenticity and the tools that help meet that challenge. In this post I explore the question: should there be zero tolerance for cultural inaccuracies in fairy tales? I’ll by describing the process of evaluating a novel-length version of Cinderella set in China.

When the book Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli, arrived in my office I grabbed it to read immediately. I had previously read all Napoli’s novel-length versions of the fairy tales like Zel and Beast. These tales were favorites of mine. My students also had enjoyed them. I was eager to have a new book to booktalk for my teen literature class. I was especially interested in Bound since it was a Cinderella story set in China, so I started reading it with a positive view based on my previous experiences with the author and her books.
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Culturally Authentic Fairy Tales

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA

Fairy TaleEvaluating fairy tales can be a challenge especially if the setting is another culture or country. Serving on the Children’s Literature Assembly for the National Council of Teachers of English Committee for Notables Books in English Language Arts demonstrated that challenge to me.

Our committee read over 900 books to find the thirty we would list as Notables. One of the books we selected was a tale set in China that had been recast from a familiar European story. The new setting was a vehicle for the illustrator to retell the story with a Chinese setting and characters. After a thoughtful discussion we selected the book for our list. Later, one of our committee members learned from a colleague who had been born in China that the book had numerous errors. That colleague wrote, “I don’t see any rationale for setting the story in China except to exploit the Chinese culture. There are many cultural inaccuracies in the story.” The committee had a lengthy discussion over e-mail. We consulted other colleagues who had grown up in China. They all agreed that there were many cultural inaccuracies. Concerned about those inaccuracies and the erroneous portrait of Chinese culture that children would receive, we decided to remove the book from our Notables list. Fortunately, no articles reviewing the books on the list had yet been published.
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Exploring Fairy Tales Part II

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA

“Just as the child is born with a literal hole in its head, where the bones slowly close underneath the fragile shield of skin, so the child is born with a figurative hole in its heart.  Slowly this, too, is filled up.  What slips in before it anneals shapes the man or woman into which that child will grow.  Story is one of the most serious intruders into the heart” (Touch Magic by Jane Yolen, p.26).

Fairy tales can be “serious intruders into the heart,” however, children need adults to lead them to tales that have that potential. Children too often only experience the Disney versions of fairy tales. As I was growing up Disney movies popularized and sugar coated the fairy tales but did so in a way that took away the essential nature of the story and turned, for example, Snow White into a passive character singing, “Someday my Prince will Come.” Disney robbed the tales of what Yolen calls their “invigorating magic.” “The story has been falsified and the true meaning lost …”  (p. 39).

In this WOW Currents post continuing on the subject of fairy tales, I will explore the following questions regarding fairy tales:

  • Why are fairy tales valuable for today’s children?
  • How can we as classroom teachers justify sharing folktales when we are mandated with scripted or time-based curriculum and have the pressures of testing?
  • How can we answer objections to reading fairy tales in the classroom?

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