Tuesday, September 13, 2016

(Re)introduction to Your NCSCL Graduate Assistants

Welcome back, familiar faces, and a warm welcome to the fresh-faced students whose first time it is on SDSU’s campus! 

The National Children’s Literature Center is excited to say that we have a lot of exciting things planned by way of blogging and Instagram, so if you haven’t followed us on all of our social media, please do so! We’d love to hear from you. 

Facebook: /NCSCL
Twitter: @NCSChildLit
Instagram: NCSChildlit  

My name is Susan Shamoon (hello again!), and I’m back for another amazing year as a graduate assistant and new teaching associate with the Rhetoric and Writing Studies Department. 
This marks my second year of graduate school, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to come to terms with how fast this program is flying by! It’s both terrifying and gratifying to see how much work and knowledge you can accumulate in only the few short months of a semester, how many people you can meet and befriend, how many activities there are to participate in. 

Crazily enough, I’m plunging face-first into the thesis route of masters graduate study, and for a while, I wondered what I could write near-endless pages about—what interests me? Spoiler alert: unicorns. Unicorns interest me. That hasn’t really changed all that much from my elementary school days, but now it’s expanded and reinforced with theory and new interests. I’ll be writing about identity formation and blurred realities in young adult fantasy literature—which will include a certain unicorn who was almost the last of her kind once upon a time. My childhood self is squealing in excitement; you have no idea. 

And now, here to introduce herself, is our newest member of the NCSCL Holly Russo! We are so lucky to have her! 
Hi! I’m Holly Russo! Like my friend and colleague Susan, I am beginning my second year of graduate school here at SDSU. I am so happy to be joining the NCSCL team. I was lucky enough to watch my good friend Cristina Rivera in this position last year, and I have learned so much from her dedication.

This graduate program has been quite an adventure for me; I have two and a half year old twins at home who are just the cutest and happiest babies around (you can find all the cute pictures you can handle over on my Instagram). I just recently switched my field of study from American Literature to Children's Literature, and I couldn’t be happier. I come from a long line of teachers—my grandfather taught here at SDSU in the English department for thirty years; he was a Hemingway and Faulkner scholar, and I found myself following in his footsteps for a long time. It wasn't until graduate school that I realized my own personal interest in literature was leading me to Children’s and Young Adult Literature. I thought the switch would be incredibly difficult because I always believed that children's literature and American literature were vastly different, but they aren't, really. Both fields of study have their particular challenges, but when it comes down to it, the study of literature of any kind, in my humble opinion, is truly about understanding the world from various points of view. Now I get to see the world through children's books and young adult texts, and it’s just as beautiful and enriching as any other lens I've had the pleasure of learning through. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Passing the Torch

As the Fall semester begins the NCSCL team is sad to say that one of our amazing graduate assistants, Cristina Rivera, is now officially a Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University; she is now a Buckeye!

Q: What made you want to specialize in children's literature?
A: I would say it started in 2012 when I took Professor Thomas’s Young Adult Literature class. It was in this class that I learned how amazing and versatile studying Children's Literature is. I had taken one Children's Literature class prior to the YA Lit course, which was with Mary Galbraith. This was also a really awesome class, and little did I know there was so much more to discover. I didn't know that SDSU had a children's literature program when I transferred from Mesa college, but learned about it toward the end of my BA when I was looking into Graduate programs. Professor Thomas’s class was exceptional to me because it incorporated a lot of really excellent theory with books that I was familiar with. The class definitely opened up some really interesting conversations and discussions. This was so brilliantly unexpected and I totally fell in love with the study of children’s literature. Upon realizing that I would probably go for a Master’s Degree, I tricked Dr. Thomas into doing an independent study course with me the following semester for an honors thesis. It was after that, I knew that I wanted to apply specifically to the children’s literature master’s program at SDSU and study children's literature because it was my favorite.

Q: What are your favorite children's literature or YA books?
A: So, Kid Lit wise I love The Lorax, The Giving Tree, I love Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, I love Stellaluna by Janell Cannon I also really like all of Christopher Van Allsburg. He has a way with children's books and letting imagination be at the forefront of everything.
For YA books, FEED is rad and awesome, I loved the Hunger Games series and The Giver and I really loved The Neverending Story because it is an awesome book. It's a little long; I started reading it in 5th grade and didn't finish it until 6th grade. It took me a few times to get through it because I would always get stuck with the language. It is probably higher than a 5th grade reading level, which was probably why it was such a challenge to read. I remember wanting to get through it so badly because I really loved the movie and when I got into it, even with the really small, it was great. I really loved reading that book.

Q: What were your favorite classes in graduate school?
A: Wow, well, Katie Farris had a class that was a creative writing type class, which I enrolled in not knowing it was a creative writing course but I ended up sticking it out even though creative writing is terrifying, and it was really fun. I ended up sort of writing all of the writing assignments centralized around a child, childhood, or children. For example, I had just learned about nonsense poetry with Dr. Michael Heyman’s visit to SDSU, and so I tried to emulate that type of poetry, which looking back now I probably wasn’t very good at. Regardless, it was really fun to be on the other end of things, writing creatively instead of analytically. I also really enjoyed Dr. Ewell’s Neurotexts class. That class was all about the mind and literature. It was so interesting and I would take it again if I could. Then, I really loved the Edward Gory class that Professor Thomas taught. I learned a lot about poetry and I never thought I would learn that much about poetry, but I did, and it was really cool. Learning about the Oulipo was really neat , as well as all the really cool things that nonsense literature does. I ended up using that for a chapter of my thesis.

Q: What was your thesis about?
A: I focused on the boogieman as a trope through different forms of children's literature. I started with the Sandman, which we all know Freud used from ETA Hoffman’s The Sandman in his essay, “The Uncanny.” Being someone who is very interested in the psychoanalytic theory, that paper came to me in the Neurotexts class. I was looking at the reaction and outcome of the child character in Hoffman's story and then comparing the story that the main character hears to the Hans Christian Anderson publication, which was the first printed version for children. I was interested in looking at the different qualities that the story holds to scare children into behaving a certain way. This idea of scaring children to behave was and still is really interesting to me. The idea is that if you do something wrong someone is going to come get you and why is that ok to do in kids books? So then I looked at a fairytale that has a less obvious boogieman. I turned to Bluebeard and I used Bluebeard, which was first published by Charles Perrault in France and Angela Carter’s feminist rendition, a feminist rendition. I looked at how the parents or the adult figures are all privileged in the story versus the child or younger character who is punished. It's always like you have to be interpellated otherwise you get killed. Then I looked at nonsense literature, which the only form of boogiemen or monsters that I found allows the child to work through what might be scary to do or what might be scary if you aren't obedient. I found that this allows the child to imagine in a different way and be able to interpret and work through reality from a distance in a better way. So basically in Nonsense Literature fear is not instilled the same way, but becomes something to laugh about.

Q: What made you choose that topic?
A: Well, like I was saying, I think it's just that I was fascinated with the idea that scaring children into behaving a certain way. Why is every child's fear like a monster character at some point in their life? I was always terrified of the ghost who lived in my moms room, and I never went into my moms room; lucky for her she never had to worry about me going in there because I was afraid of the ghost in there. But, what reason did I really have to be afraid? And why is it when we look back at our own monsters it's still a scary thing, even though we know it's silly? We still remember those childhood feelings of terror. I became curious about how boogiemen were brought into children's stories, because of course children are scared of things presented in a certain way. I am interested in discovering a way to tell stories that empower children, in order to help them grown into rational and moral adults. I feel like now communities are pushing engineering, psychology and business because reading books and discussing them is not as valued in the Academy. We need to really push stories that we know can really benefit the way people interact with the world. If we have people who are too afraid to articulate creative ideas, then what's the point of our brains continuing into future generations? We need to think about making more nonsense literature and promoting it and allowing kids to be silly and even adults to be silly. You know? What's wrong with that? It really makes you question the definition of what we attribute to a child and the size that they are and the age that they are versus an adult. Like really, what age do you stop being a kid? I still feel like a kid. If you ask anyone “At what age do/did you become an adult?” you’ll have each person in the room give a different answer. There is no concrete answer. As an quote un quote adult society, we don’t say: “When you turn 21 and three seconds, that's when you become an adult.” We are defining life according to things that are not real, but that goes with a lot of things in society that we get to break down with the study of literature. So viva La Literatura!

Q: Why is it worth studying CH/YA lit?
A: Personally, I feel that Children's Literature is perhaps the most important literature to study in many degrees, but I don't want to pick a favorite. I would say it is because children are our future. How many presidents get elected because they want to help the children and help education and follow such a valiant cause? It took a while for children's literature to become established, probably because scholars were skeptical about it. British literature and American literature have been studied for a really long time and I feel like Children’s Lit gets passed over because it's not considered real literature. How could something for children that is sometimes silly be considered for literary analysis? But I think the real question is: why are we so afraid to study it? Why are we so afraid to make children's literature more of a selective process? So much getting published today is for profit or marketability. People are publishing left and right and there is a lot of crap out there that children read and it sucks! I don't think that that's a good way to go about it. Making the world a better place should be our focus as scholars. In a world and time where many people just can't think for themselves, I ask if maybe we should’ve tried to promote reading good books when they were growing up. Adults now, they don't have an imagination. They can't think for themselves and I would say a lot of that has to do with not reading good books as a kid. Of course I don’t mean all adults, but I do believe in a correlation between reading, building and imagination, and the ability to create a more positive reality, I even think it can really help an individual do better in school, become a better problem solver, and produce empathy. So I think it's as important as anything else we study. You have really great authors that write really great stuff but it's not getting published because maybe parents are afraid that it's not appropriate. Publishers focus on wherever the market is and what going to sell well. Maybe parents who pick up more thought provoking books ask themselves, “What happens if my child thinks for herself? She might argue with me. She might ask me questions that I won't be able to answer and then I'm going to look inferior and I'm the parent and I'm supposed to come out on top.” So they pick the new Disney Elsa Princess book because Disney will never let you down as a parent.

Q: What publications have you participated in?
A: I published in The Routledge Companion to Latina/o Popular Culture, which is a compilation of essays from different genres of literature being analyzed for types of representations of Latinos in today's society. I published a piece on Dora the Explorer and how we want to praise Dora for being this saving grace, “finally Latinos are represented in the world,” and my essay didn't find it that way. I found that Dora basically just perpetuates the stereotypes further and makes it so that stereotypes are okay, acceptable and actually desired. I find that quite dangerous.
I also just published in Pacific Review, which is this sort of this YA book that I've been working on for a while. I published a couple of chapters out of that.

Q: What was it like running the Pacific Review?
A: It was awesome! It was such a rewarding experience, but it was really tough because it was something that I had never done before. Now I know how much work goes into publishing books and creating books, which is a lot of work. But it was a really rewarding experience to create a topic and a theme and see how people interpret and analyze what we put out there. It was myself and two other graduate student editors. It was really fun to read everybody’s pieces. By the end of it I think we had a really great compilation of stuff and we had some really awesome contributors. Overall, no complaints! SDSU Press was fantastic to work for and I definitely appreciate everyone in the small publishing sector a lot more after doing it.

Q: When you were the Chi Lit grad assistant what was your favorite thing about the job?
A: This is a tough question! I really enjoyed all of the books that we would get shipped in; we get the latest books at the office because publishers want us to give them good reviews. All the big names in publishing came to us before they were even available. I think that is really just the coolest thing because we really get excited when we see what is coming out, even if it is a little absurd. I also really enjoyed working in the Library with Linda Salem; that was also really awesome. As part of its special collection, San Diego State University’s library holds the Edward Gory personal library, which is truly spectacular. This collection taught me a lot about the logistics of creating an archive and cataloging as part of the library process. Linda was also so wonderful to work with. She has so much knowledge and such a passion to get this collection to a really good place. You should refer to an interview that I did with last year.

Q: What advice would you give an incoming undergraduate students interested in studying Children's Literature?
A: Go for it! Take as many classes as you can and see what you love and then follow that passion. You have to follow what you’re passionate about because if you follow something that is dreadful and that you find boring, you’re gonna burn out and you’re gonna burn out really fast.

Q: What advice would you give an incoming graduate student specializing in children's lit?
A: Keep your head up; it’s a challenging ride. It’s a lot of fun, so have fun with it! Don’t let other professors that study other types of more classical and canonical literature tear you down because they might. Just find your niche and take as many classes as you can in areas that sound most interesting to you. In every class that you take whether it's American literature or a creative writing class, you can incorporate aspects of children's literature or childhood into those final projects. I feel like this also really helps to bring awareness to children's literature as a valid academic conversation and that is the coolest feeling to get someone to kind of realize.

Q: What advice would you give to the new children's lit grad assistants?
A: Love yourself, and just do the best that you can; participate in conversations with people that are knowledgeable in children's literature because that is where you can really learn the most. We, as up and coming kiddie lit scholars, are really fortunate to have some of the greatest children's literature scholars teaching in SDSU English Department. Kiddie lit is both serious and fun and you got to roll with that, prove that the world can’t bring you down; “We can have lots of good fun that is funny,” as Dr. Seuss would out it. So I would say that making the most of your time with the coolest children’s Literature department is vital, because this opportunity is a once in a lifetime kind of thing and it's really special to be doing stuff like this.

Q: What will you miss most about SDSU?
A: Everything. The people. The turtles. The kid book section in the library. The library. The coolest office. Just everything.

Q: Where are you headed for your PhD?
A: The Ohio State University

Q: What made you choose The Ohio State out of the other options?
A: I am interested in their Narrative Theory and Pop Culture specialization. OSU has some of the top scholars in Narrative Theory and Pop Culture. The professors there are welcoming and had a lot of good feedback on my writing sample when I went to visit. I found that they welcomed my interest in Children’s Literature exceptionally well, giving me ideas and other scholars at OSU I can work with or take classes from, such as Michelle Abate, whose class I am very much looking forward to. I feel like Children's Literature needs to become part of the larger conversation so I feel like OSU will give me the opportunity to introduce children's literature into that larger academic conversation.

Q: What do you think you’ll study at Ohio?
A: I think it depends; I can't say one way or another because it’s tough to decide on anything too specific before you learn more, and I'm not there yet. I don’t know if I’ll continue with the Boogieman topic or if I’ll branch out into new ideas and books. I think would like to look at the repeating narrative of something that terrifies children into behaving and seeing how we can work through those things as a society. Or even perhaps what in popular culture promotes terrifying children?

Q: What do you want to do after you get your PhD and why?
A: I would like to be a professor and teach awesome classes on children's literature at the university level. I would love to write. I would like to help write books for elementary school and teenagers, and establish children's books in the digital age that are positive and not consumer driven productions. Travel; travel the world and talk about children's books with people all over the place.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: If anyone is interested in children's literature, they should take a class and see what it's about! You won’t be disappointed because everyone knows what being a kid is like.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Yale Grads Looking for Children's Poetry: Join StoryTime and Make a Difference!

Have you ever wondered how you can help change the world? It all starts with an idea, and this idea is truly revolutionary. This team of Yale graduates created an innovative way to allow families across the globe access to literature for children! They have pinpointed a direct way to give children and parents the ability to read with their children- through text messages.

In our society, cell phones are a part of our augmented survival, beyond water and food many families depend on their cell phones. It is through this avenue that this awesome team of teachers and entrepreneurs created a new way to give people access to books. While many families might not be able to get to public libraries, afford children's books, or have access to the Internet, they have cell phones and because of this, StoryTime has discovered a way to reach these families and close the gap. Exposing children to literature at an early age is vital to their development and StoryTime has done their research, this program has already proven to be incredibly valuable. Not only is their program three hundred times cheaper than shipping books, it has been shown to dramatically improve early literacy.

Take a peek at their YouTube video that describes in detail exactly what StoryTime is all about!

This is one of the various ways YOU can become a part of something important.
Here is how you can help!
They are looking for people who are interested in joining their new team and creating content through poetry. This includes things like writing poems and stories, working with their team of illustrators and listening to feedback to continually improve their innovative project. You can find them on their website www.joinstorytime.com to find out more. This is a great opportunity to not only have your poetry and stories heard but also make a lasting impact on the world.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Call for Papers: Silence in Oral Narratives

Hello fellow scholars of literature!

I am very excited to share the following conference panel CFP for the upcoming PAMLA 2016 conference in Pasadena, CA (November 11-13 2016). The panel, Silence in Oral Narratives, focuses on the figurative spaces created in the social unconscious by silence and purposeful lack of discussion on certain taboo or painful topics. The goal is to explore the harmful ways this silence and inability to pass on important information can hurt or prevent the healing of people and society.

This connection became apparent to me while studying indigenous literature and seeing the ways minorities have experienced a fracture in their cultural narrative when they have been overwhelmed by Western morals, religion, culture, and knowledge. My focus in researching this topic has always led me toward the exploration of narrative as it pertains to female-to-female relationships and how certain feelings of affection, anger, jealousy, and competition are actually created and fueled by this inability to openly discuss certain topics. The most obvious taboo topics including sex and sexuality, we can see how fear of public shaming can prevent women from openly speaking about these topics to their children or withhold specific information to alter the narrative to their liking and benefit. The eye of the public and the cultural/social identity certainly contribute a great deal to this intentional silence. I am very excited to get the chance to hear others explore the causes and consequences of this topic, whether it is in the realm of children's literature or not!

Please take the time to read the CFP and consider applying or sharing with those whom you think would be interested in contributing to this panel!

Thank you, and I hope to see you all at PAMLA 2016!

CFP: Silence in Oral Narratives
Oral narratives are an integral part of our cultural learning experience. Even with all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, parents take time to have “the talk” with their children, transforming a conversation into a ritual of sharing knowledge. Transcending the notion of telling a story, oral narratives allow people to see themselves in past and future generations, linking them through a shared culture, heritage, and experience. The sharing of personal narratives and purposeful opening of a past wound in order to impart hard-earned wisdom/lesson onto the next generation serves as the building block for well-informed and better-prepared leaders in society. When certain narratives are not acknowledged and shared for fear of experiencing pain or public shame again, the resulting silence creates anger, ignorance, and isolation in the social consciousness, which prevents healing and progress in society. This panel invites scholars in literature, history, anthropology, and cultural studies to share their research and reflections on this topic.

P.S. You can also explore other session topics for PAMLA 2016 here

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Brief Review of "The Book of Life"

               It comes as no surprise that The Book of Life, directed and written by Jorge R. Gutiérrez, a long time fan of acclaimed Latino director Guillermo del Toro, received such excellent reviews in the film world—scoring an eighty-one percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a seven-point-three out of ten on IMDB. This animated film tells the story of a love triangle that situates itself on the well-known day in Mexico called Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). What this movie does best is appeal to audiences of any demographic into a space where learning about the Mexican culture becomes easy through the children characters that are used to narrate the story.

            In an interview, del Torro (producer) recognizes Gutiérrez’s passion and comment to the Mexican culture. This is clear through the artistic style, music, and story that The Book of Life gives to its audience—the most praise-worthy aspects of this movie. Taking contemporary popular and recognizable songs like, “Creep” by Radiohead, and transforming them into mariachi style sounds, allows the audience to meet the Mexican culture in the middle of what is both familiar and unfamiliar.

            Another way the movie does this is by using a story-within-a-story narrative device. It begins with five “detention” children arriving via school bus to spend the day at a museum. These children are in for a sweet surprise when their apprehension about visiting a “boring museum” becomes a unique and special experience just for them. Led by La Muerte in disguise through a secret door and into the museum’s secret room of Mexican artifacts, these rude and misbehaved children become captivated by the story that La Muerte reads to them from the Book of Life—a book that has every story that ever was and will be. This frame story works exceptionally well in drawing in the audience because it provides an easy, accessible way to identify with the children if the viewer is also unknowing of Mexican culture and folklore. However, the fact that these children are from a detention program seems counterintuitive to the often-stereotyped identities of how Latinos are represented in Hollywood.

            As soon as one of the children discovers the Book of Life, it shows the common stories that the audience should already know, such as Cinco de Mayo and the legend of the Chupacabra. But as with the complexity of any culture’s stories, the movie at least privileges the audience who don’t know these things by having only one of the kids able to recognize one of those two stories. La Muerte goes on to tell the love story to the children that begins on Día De Los Muertos. We are introduced to the main characters of that story, Maria, Manolo, and Joaquin as small children. At the same time, the audience is presented with a third story—the story of Xibalba and La Muerte’s wager. Within this combination of stories, the audience is taken to the town of San Rafael in Mexico (where the love story takes place), the Land of the Forgotten and Remembered (the places that are like heaven and hell to the Día de Los Muertos), and the secret room in the museum which appears to be in the United States (where the audience is also allowed into). To stay away from any spoiler alerts I will stop with the summary now, but I will say that the way this love triangle story ends, opens a new dynamic to the frame story that encourages the detention children to take their lives into their own hands—which seems to be the point of the movie. As del Torro states, “The book of life is about what it takes to create your own destiny” and it really is (IMDB.com).

            However, the criticism that I am left with about this movie comes from the dichotomy of stereotypes that The Book of Life seems to be wanting to break free from—an attempt to put Mexico, its people, and its culture, in a position that is more agreeable than the often produced images of the Mexican characters in Hollywood—yet still fall short. For instance, one mariachi band mate says slurring his words to one another: “We’ve already been to four bars; twice!” and also when one of the detention kids says: “What's with Mexicans and death!?” and also when Manolo’s grandmother explains how she got to the Land of the Remembered: “Eh. Cholesterol.” Perhaps Gutiérrez incorporates these stereotypes as comic relief, but it also affirms and perpetuates that these stereotypes do exist among Mexicans and reflects the dominant culture's assessment of Mexican identity. And while a few stereotypes might not seem too bad, another conflict I had with the movie was the use of accents and how they differed within certain characters. Manolo’s character speaks with a Mexican accent, as do many of the characters in the love story frame, but Joaquin's character, voiced by Channing Tatum, speaks with a flawless American accent. Joaquin grows to be the most respected hero of the town subtly highlighting Hollywood's preference for inauthentic ventriloquism over authentic Mexican-American voices. For the duration of the movie, it presents the American voice in a better position than the voice of Manolo's character who speaks English with a traditional Mexican accent. Yet, he is not the only Anglo voice actor in this film. Ron Perlman, an actor of European descent, does the voice for Xibalba and controversially does this voice with a made up Mexican-American accent—a juxtaposition of authenticity in representing the Mexican culture.

            While this movie possesses a few problems, I find its pros outweigh the cons by a long shot. Like the sweet voice of La Muerte that calmly asserts her authority over the children, the movie allows me to believe that this story is good for all audiences but perhaps it is meant to encourage Mexican children to become more than the detention kids and in fact write their own stories.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

His Soul is Rising: Visiting Scholar Michelle Martin's Lecture

Scholar Michelle Martin opened her lecture, “Lynching 101: Young Adult Primers on the Murder of Emmett Till, at SDSU’s Love Library with a sobering, bluesy ballad, “The Ballad of Emmett Till” from playwright Ifa Bayeza:

“Come on let me tell yuh the tale of Emmett Till / Though they put his body down / His soul is rising.”

Introduced by Dr. Joseph Thomas, who described her as “clear-eyed, elegant, and aesthetically nuanced,” Michelle Martin tackled the horrifying truth of the brutal 1955 murder in Mississippi—which helped spark the Civil Rights Movement—of 14-year-old Emmett Till. With 2016 marking of the 61st anniversary of Till’s brutal murder and the American political climate as divided as it has ever been, Martin described ways to include our country’s horrifying past of slavery and objectification in children’s literature. A line is drawn in considering the way that children’s texts often rework sensitive topics, such as racism, to be less authentic as an attempt to protect children. And with this, an inevitable question arises: How, then, does one tell the truth?

The prevalence of violence in our society, from gut-churning brutality in in TV shows like “Game of Thrones” to grim news reports saturating radio shows and news stations, is considered a norm, while also having a numbing effect on our minds. Michelle Martin’s research is focused on how Y.A. texts are engaging young adults more than ever, especially historical fiction about Emmett Till’s lynching. One such book is Chris Crowe’s Mississippi Trial, 1955 and the historical nonfiction companion Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. These intricate texts of blackness, she notes, are a critical site of resistance and transformation and, thus, important mediations between young readers because they combat sensationalism and clear up inaccuracies surrounding the trial and Emmett Till himself. Bringing this awareness to picture books, on the other hand, is more difficult. Poet laureate Marilyn Nelson wrote A Wreath for Emmett Till as a narrative poem especially for young readers in the the Italian sonnet style, in an effort to try to find the right words without mitigating the reality of Emmett Till’s death. It serves as a remembrance of Till’s murder, his mother’s loss, and the memory of other countless victims that suffered through these atrocities. It’s worth noting that these sequences of sonnets are interlinked and called a “crown of sonnets”—a heroic “crown” for Emmett Till that harkens to the wreath in the book’s title.

In the end, telling and retelling these stories—of Emmett Till, of Eric Garner, of Trayvon Martin—decreases the power of the perpetrators. The contemporary erasure or retelling of Black history is an unsettling commonality due to white privilege and speaks to a need for more accurate narratives of our history. And may those narratives start in young children’s books and young adult novels, and may they propel future generations into action.

Dr. Martin’s visit definitely gave the NCSCL some really intelligent ideas to muse over until next year’s visiting scholar. We thank her for her time and inspiration!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

2016 Children's Literature Conferences and Call for Papers

Welcome to another round of calls-for-papers and upcoming children’s literature conferences!

Somehow—if you remember our last CFP blogpost—this post once again falls on the last stretches of the semester, with finals week only 5 weeks away, and summer sunshine just on the other side of all of those responsibilities between now and then. But summer’s the perfect time to get out there with your ideas and proposals, and here are a few children’s literature prompts to help you.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Critical Perspectives

“Editors seek essays that critically engage with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and works, including the Little House series, her journalism, her letters, and Pioneer Girl: The annotated Biography. We are interested in essays that consider Wilder’s relationship with the academy as well as her enduring place in American popular culture. We are especially interested in essays that consider Wilder’s place in the classroom, at the elementary level and also in university curricula.”

For a range of topics, visit the website below.

Deadline: April 15, 2016
Website: http://www.childlitassn.org/assets/docs/wilder%20cfp.pdf

  • Submit abstracts of 300–500 words along with a short CV to Miranda Green-Barteet (mgreenb6@uwo.ca ) and Anne Phillips (annek@ksu.edu) by the deadline.
  • Accepted essays will be due no later than September 1, 2016

The Child Before Adulthood, Midwest Modern Language Association
Dates: November 10­–13, 2016
Location: St. Louis, MO

From the late Victorian period throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, Anglo-American children’s literature and young adult fiction experienced a sudden surge in popularity. While some sentimental or didactic North American literature reinforced obedience to parental and societal expectations, such as Susan Warner’s The Wide Wide World (1850) and Martha Finley’s popular Elsie Dinsmore series (1867-1905), other works explored the possibilities resulting from disobedient adolescence, such as Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gablesseries (1908-1920). Meanwhile, British fantasy literature by authors such as George McDonald and E. Nesbit idealized the middle-class English child as subversive protagonist of the modern fairy story, supernaturally combating social ills and injustices existing in the adult system of legal justice, while at the same time testing and submitting to acceptable moral, social, and gender parameters. Such narratives, whether undercutting or reaffirming adult behavior, also establish childhood as a unique space of negotiation, perception, and decision occurring prior to adulthood.

This session invites proposals for individual papers on the societal pressures in children or young adult literature from this period that worked to shape and necessitate the embodiment of womanhood or manhood, queer or subversive resistance to conforming to idealized, or imperative notions of gender norms, the childish world conflicting with the public or adult sphere, rejection of female or male attire, duty, or performance, and spatial avoidance of the domestic sphere by means of nature or adventure.”

Deadline: April 30, 2016
Website: https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/node/66975

  • Send Abstracts no longer than 250 words to Lydia Craig at lcraig1@luc.edu

Youth Literature and Media
Organization: Midwest Popular and American Culture Association
Dates: October 6–9, 2016
Location: Chicago, IL, Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare

We are looking for proposals for arguably the hottest area in popular culture: Youth Literature and Media. Youth Culture is everywhere. From the rise of YA Lit to the fall of Facebook, twenty-five is the new eighteen. The Millennials are here. This area is for the study of Lit and Media for Youth (all three terms broadly conceived), representations of youth in Lit and Media, and youth as consumers and producers of Lit and Media.
We want to know all about the kids these days, from their classrooms to the parents’ basements, from S.E. Hinton to Luke Herzog, from the slew of really really rich youth who play videogames and apply make-up on YouTube to the tens of thousands more who mod everything from videogames to movies to Legos into their own Maker-inspired, bricolage cultural productions. Who are they, what are they reading and doing, why, and who cares? Pop Culture Studies is a multi-disciplinary endeavor, so bring us your close readings, your ethnographies, your visual analysis, and hard core stats: anything and everything as long as it’s about youth and popular culture!”
Deadline: April 30, 2016

  • Submit abstracts (up to 300 words) along with your name, affiliation, and email to the Youth Literature and Media area at http://submissions.mpcaaca.org (include whether or not you’ll need a projector)

Submit Essays or Writing on Gender and Literacy
Organization: Gender and Literacy Assembly: NCTE Gender Studies Assembly

An NCTE affiliate, GALA is published every December and seeks submission on gender and K-12 education. Write about how you teach or address gender in the K–12 classroom; how boys and girls learn and more.”

Gothic Association of New Zealand (GANZA)’s third biennial conference: Gothic Afterlives: Mutations, Histories, and Returns’
Dates: January 23–24, 2017
Location: Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

GANZA is interdisciplinary in nature, bringing together scholars, students, teachers and professionals from a number of Gothic disciplines, including literature, film, music, television, fashion, architecture, and other popular culture forms. It is the aim of the Association to not only place a focus on Australasian Gothic scholarship, but also to build international links with the wider Gothic community as a whole.
The conference invites abstracts for 20-minute presentations related to the theme of ‘Gothic Afterlives’.
For a range of topics, please visit their site at: http://www.ganza.co.nz/conference
Contact Dr. Lorna Piatti-Farnell (lorna.piatti-farnell@aut.ac.nz ) and/or Dr. Erin Mercer (e.mercer@massey.ac.nz)
Deadline: August 1, 2016

  • Please email abstracts of 200 words to the conference organizers at: conference@ganza.co.nz
  • Abstracts should include your name, affiliation, email address, the title of your proposed paper, and a short bio (100 words max).

Dystopia, The Hunger Games, And the Culture of Death
Organization: SAMLA, Myrna Santos
Dates: November 4–6, 2016

The word utopia, coined by St. Thomas More, seems to be a Latin pun: It is used in the sense of eu-topia, a “good place” or “ideal society,” which More claimed was his intended sense, but the spelling of u-topia means “nowhere” and is often taken to suggest that eutopia is impossible, as well as, nonexistent. More’s term eventually suggested a more practical word, dystopia, and speculative fiction has benefited from this concept over the course of many years. Young adult literature, and films based on this literature, has particularly embraced this concept, and this panel seeks to explore the reasons for this phenomenon. Papers on trilogies such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, as well as other works, are welcome.”

Deadline: June 6, 2016


Flow 2016 Conference on Television and New Media
Organization: Flow 2016
Dates: September 15–17, 2016
Location: Austin, Texas

The 2016 Flow Conference will feature a series of roundtables, each organized around a discussion question on contemporary issues in television and new media culture and scholarship. Respondents are asked to submit a brief (150-word) abstract addressing one of the Flow 2016 roundtable questions.”

Deadline: May 20, 2016, 5 p.m. (CST)

  • Submit a brief (150 words) abstract addressing one one of the Flow 2016 roundtable questions, using the online form on their website (above)
  • Participants are encouraged to let the conference coordinators know if they are willing to participate in another roundtable if their first choice has too many responses
  • Upon acceptance, respondents will be asked to expand their abstract to a 600–800-word position paper, due late August 2016
  • Direct any questions/concerns to: flowconference2016@gmail.com
And don’t forget to check out this year’s ChLA conference, hosted by The Ohio State University, on the theme of “Animation”: our very own Dr. Jerry Griswold appeared on the topic list and Gene Luen Yang will be a featured speaker!


Good luck, everyone, on upcoming finals, final papers, and submissions for this year's conferences and calls for papers!