Indigenous Crossover YA/Adult Fiction

Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

When I taught high school English at a tribal school, the primary class novel I chose was The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe), winner of the National Book Award for fiction in 2012. Choosing a whole class novel is never an easy task. It should be appealing to everyone (impossible). It should be able to be read and understood by all reading levels in the class (unlikely). It should be important, worthy of lengthy discussion, and worth convincing students that if they just give it a chance, they may like it, and see its worth. Of course, there is also the idea that we shouldn’t read whole class novels at all, allowing students to choose all their own books themselves, thus avoiding the above difficulties. However, for me, there is something deeply pleasurable and vital in having a shared reading experience and community dialogue around this reading.

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Connecting to YA novels through Song

By Julia López-Robertson, Asiye Demir and Lauren Hunt, University of South Carolina

Last week we talked about connecting with literature through music and left you with Un besito más a 2015 song from Mexican brother/sister duo Jesse & Joy that tells the story of what happens when an undocumented family calls the fire department. Although the song is from 2015, it remains relevant four years later. According to the Migration Policy Institute, in 2017, 44 percent of U.S. immigrants (19.7 million people) reported having Hispanic or Latino origins and of those, approximately 10. 7 million are undocumented immigrants (Pew Hispanic Center, 2018). Important to note, the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States is at the lowest level in a decade. While the book deals with the repatriation of American citizens and not with undocumented immigrants, we drew similarities between the lack of humanity in their treatment. Continue reading

Building Literacy Connections with YA Novels

By Julia López-Robertson, Priscila Medrado Costa, Asiye Demir and Lauren Hunt,
University of South Carolina

For the month of April, we are going to engage in discussions about All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe García McCall and Buried Beneath the Baobob Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. Before we begin though, let’s get to know who ‘we’ are.

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YA Fantasies for the New Year

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati

The last two books to round out 2018 will also take us into 2019 since both are the first books of a series. And the best (or worst, depending on how you think about this) is they are fantastic adventures… that you will need to wait (impatiently if you are like me) for their second titles! Yet, while I call them fantastic, and they are, I really resisted reading both of these books because they are the first two in a series in which their companions are not available. When it comes to story, I am hard-pressed to delay gratification! The two books of which I speak are The Book of Dust (2017) by Philip Pullman and Children of Blood and Bone (2108) by Tomi Adeyemi.

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MTYT: December 2016

Examining Morally Complicated Young Adult Literature
By T. Gail Pritchard and Deborah Dimmett

morally complicated young adult literatureThe Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan

GAIL: This time last year, the young adult literature (YAL) world was all abuzz about an unfortunate choice of words by a debut author. Perhaps it was naivety on his part, perhaps it was the way his words were edited in an oft quoted article, perhaps it was a combination — but the result was the same, the YAL community did not like his description of past and current YA as lacking moral complexity. They posted, they blogged, they tweeted; and as a result, lists of morally complicated YAL appeared and sessions at conferences (e.g. YALC 2016, NCTE 2016) were well-attended. Through the discussion of some of the novels appearing on these lists and in conference sessions, we will explore definitions of morally complex YAL, the complicated journeys that occur, the likability of the characters, and the tough questions these novels force us to ask. Continue reading

The Secondary Curriculum: Adolescent & Young Adult Novels Add . . .

by Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

Those who are familiar with the vast range of contemporary novels published today are aware of the diversity of topics, characters, and events that make these books significant and appealing to readers. However, as with the realm of picture books, many readers, adolescents and young adults, are not aware of the powerful contents of these books, and educators working with this population are often even less informed, or their perception is that YA literature is a bridge to the more difficult pieces traditional literature. Continue reading

They’re Not Just for Kids Anymore

by Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

At the beginning of each semester, many teacher educators are faced with the challenge of inviting secondary preservice teachers, as well as teachers already in classrooms, into the realization that picture books are not just for young readers and that many chapter books written for young adolescent readers can hold their own with the traditional literature of the cannon. The task is not an easy one since these individuals have entered their chosen field, frequently English Education, with a personal background that has focused on the traditional cannon. The majority of students I face have not read children’s or adolescent literature since they were in elementary or middle school and even those titles were limited. Continue reading

Adolescents, Adolescent Novels, and Authors Writing the Edges

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

“If you are not living on the edge,
you are taking up too much room.”

–Jayne Howard

As I explained at the beginning of the month, I wanted to explore and share my thoughts about a number of books that 1) have characters on the edge of something 2) have their readers on the edge of something, or 3) have brought to the fore topics that reside on the edge of something.  The books I shared are excellent pieces of work that have the potential to shift the discourse with adolescents, but this may only be done if we recognize that—in reality—most of us are on the edge of something, and if we aren’t, well, maybe we should be. Actually, that’s probably the best thing about working and reading with adolescents.  They are venturing out and testing the edges and we can be there with them! But we often need some tools to facilitate young adults’ learning, and the books I have highlighted can be a great start. But if there is hesitation about some of the books I have already mentioned in the last three weeks, perhaps we start with the books that show just how many of us are on the edge. Continue reading

Adolescents & Adolescent Novels on the Edge: Survival

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Book cover for Once

Perhaps catastrophe is the natural human environment,
and even though we spend a good deal of energy trying to get away from it,
we are programmed for survival amid catastrophe.

–Germaine Greer

So, sometimes when we are standing on the edge of the next place, the next situation, the next move in our lives, we find ourselves pondering the concept of survival–survival of our ideologies and beliefs, our current relationships, or our lives as we know them. What might seem foreign to some readers is that many adolescents in the world are on the edge of survival in any or all of these ways. Continue reading

Adolescents, Adolescent Novels, and Authors Writing the Edges: Choices

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Book Cover for Crossing the Tracks“I loved everyone who said yes to the world and
tried to make it better instead of worse,
because so much of the world was ugly—
and just about all the ugly parts were due to humans.”

–Cat, from Shine (p. 290)

In the last few months I have read a number of books that would fall under the category of “social issues realism,” and so often that sub-genre is about the ugly parts of the world. What is so timely about these texts for adolescents is their ability to present young adults, who may just be emerging into the world with their own opinions about the reality they encounter on the news, at the dinner table, or in all the other spoken but not examined arenas of their lives. In essence, many young people have few opportunities to test their theories, hypotheses, and values. Adolescents are on the edge of discovery about the world, its politics, and both the world’s and their own potential. They have so many thoughts, so many questions, and so many opportunities to make a difference, yet they don’t know how much that difference can mean. Continue reading