Saturday, February 23, 2019

Join us for “Cinderella Today: Rewriting, Adapting and Translating a Classic Fairy Tale” a talk given by Danielle Teller, Dr. Joseph T. Thomas Jr., and Dr. Audrey Coussy

Please join us on March 4th at 1:30 pm in San Diego State University’s Scripps Cottage for 
Cinderella Today: Rewriting, Adapting and Translating a Classic Fairy Tale.”

The talk will begin with Dr. Joseph T. Thomas Jr., professor of children’s and young adult literature and director of the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, who will talk about the constitutive role that adaptation played from the very origins of Cinderella’s story. Next will be Dr. Audrey Coussy, professor of translation studies and literary translation at McGill University, will talk about her translation of Danielle Teller’s All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderalla’s Stepmother (2018), a contemporary and innovative rewriting of Cinderella (translation forthcoming in 2019, published by Denoël/Gallimard). Finally, Danielle Tell will discuss her book in dialogue with Dr. Coussy. This lecture focuses on translation as adaptation and adaptation as a kind of translation. Teller’s text reimagines the 17th century French fairy tale “Cinderella,” by Charles Perrault.

We hope to see you there!


Julián is a Mermaid

Jessica Love’s Julián is a Mermaid is an elegant picture book about a young Afro-Latinx boy, Julián, who loves mermaids. In soft colors and gentle edges, Love creates a dream-like story tugging our heart strings. He dreams of letting his hair free and swimming in the ocean, as shown in dreamy, paint-like illustrations. Upon seeing three beautiful women on the subway dressed as mermaids, Julián reports to his abuela, “I am also a mermaid” (Love, 2018). After seeing these women, he arranges leaves and flowers to resemble long, flowing hair, dons a popping purple pout, and ties a curtain around his waist like a lacy mermaid’s tail. Julián's abuela enters, and the reader’s breath is bound to catch as Julián is discovered dressed in false hair and a tail-like wrap. His abuela, instead of shaming or shushing him, offers him a pearl necklace, and takes him to see a parade of mermaids, saying, “Like you, mijo. Let’s join them.” In this tender moment, his abuela’s complete acceptance and encouragement makes some of us smile, but apparently, not everyone. 

Love was inspired by this book upon hearing about her trans friend’s experience of transition to be a man late in his life, alongside episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She tossed around ideas of the young boy encountering drag queens until she stumbled upon the symbolism of a mermaid within the trans community. Love has been drawn to mermaids, and says, “there’s something about mermaids. Who knows if that’s because they’re magical creatures who can live between two realities or because they don’t have any genitals, or because they’re f***ing great” (Pink News 2019). Mermaids became symbolic in the trans community due to having nothing but a tail, and the Disney film The Little Mermaid gained more significance: it portrays a main character desiring to discard her tails for legs to change her form an entire half of her body. Such symbolism seemed to ring true in Julián's narrative. 

While Love’s story can be read as a portrayal of the transgender experience, it can also simply read as a boy expressing his curiosity or love for mermaids, bringing a wide audience of readers-children and adult alike. 

Although this charming book has been winning hearts and awards alike, awards such as the 2019 Stonewall Book Award, many were upset with the depiction of the transgender experience. A blogger known as “The Book Toss”, states “by creating this almost immediate acceptance, Jessica Love negated the real struggle so many Latinx LGBTQ people must go through. Is that is [sic] the message the author is trying to send? Probably. But, it lands flat to me. For me, this comes from a place of privilege that would rather a mermaid trope carry the message and ignore the very real issues at work” (Blog, 2018). 

Despite the potential controversy, we immediately fell for young Julián and his desire to become a mermaid. With messages of tolerance and love, his imagination calls the reader to think outside their prescribed norms to show us that perhaps anyone can be a mermaid. We invite you to open this book and your mind to Love’s beautiful picture book. 


Works Cited:
Jackman, Josh. “ Trans Kids’ Book ‘Julián Is a Mermaid’ Is Winning Hearts and Awards .” PinkNews, 17 Feb. 2019,
Love, Jessica. Julián Is a Mermaid. Candlewick, 2018.
“Trans People Aren't Mythical Creatures.” BookToss, 24 Sept. 2018,

Monday, February 18, 2019

Dr. Michelle Abate's "Out of History: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, the 1980s, and the Reclamation of a Lost Past

Please join us on Wednesday, February 20th at 4 pm in Room LL430/431 for “Out of History: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, the 1980s, and the Reclamation of a Lost Past,” a talk by Dr. Michelle Abate, Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults at The Ohio State University.

Dr. Abate will be presenting on Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s critically acclaimed and prize-winning LGBTQ+ young adult novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Sáenz's powerful historical novel is set in the 1980s. However, it lacks any mention of the AIDS crisis, one of the major crises consuming the United States and the LGBTQ+ community in the 1980s.

Abate argues that although the absence of AIDS may initially appear to be a historical oversight, Sáenz is actually offering empowering insight on a completely new way of looking at queerness in the 1980s. Instead of deliberately ignoring AIDS, Sáenz is creating a parallel timeline without the oppression of the existence of AIDS. In doing so, Aristotle and Dante are in an environment where they can live and flourish being queer without the growing stress of the AIDS crisis to create an environment without homophobia-fueled neglect, fear, and apathy. 

According to Abate, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is not to be analyzed as a historical novel, but instead that it ought to be analyzed as a new type of queer speculative fiction in an era otherwise full of fear and misunderstanding towards the queer community. This new insight will allow us to understand this beloved novel in a new and innovative light.

We can't wait to see you at Abate's talk!


Monday, December 10, 2018

Serious Nonsense in Children’s Literature

         According to Linda Salem in her essay on Edward Gorey’s personal library, “Nonsense evokes discomfort and tension in audiences. Ridiculous, paradoxical, and unpredictable, it is at the same time meaningful and meaningless. It disturbs and tricks readers’ expectations” (232). The genre, then, encourages a reconsideration of the familiar by causing the reader to feel uneasy about the subject of the literature at hand. Dr. Seuss’s cautionary tale, The Butter Battle Book (1984), teaches its readers about tolerance and respect. John Hursh quotes Thomas Fensch: “While [Seuss’s] book received significant criticism when first published, it also received considerable praise. Writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak remarked: “Surprisingly, wonderfully, the case for total disarmament has been brilliantly made by our acknowledged master of nonsense, Dr. Seuss. . . . Only a genius of the ridiculous could possibly deal with the cosmic and lethal madness of the nuclear arms race” (n.p.). By subverting reasoning, the text cautions its readers against immorality.

While Dr. Seuss may have received a balance of criticism for his tolerance and demilitarization message in The Butter Battle Book, Michael Ian Black was accused of being an immature American for his childish nonsense book, A Child’s First Book of Trump (2016), which was meant for adults. Black’s rhymes coupled with Marc Rosenthal’s illustrations are reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s nonsensical, artistic style. The text, according to the July 5, 2016 New York Times article, was a “. . . perfectly timely parody picture book intended for adults that would be hysterical if it wasn’t so true.” In genuine nonsense form, the piece cautions its readers against sightings of the “Americus Trumpus” (n.p.):

So what shall you do with a Trump running wild?
The answer is all up to you, my dear child.
Run away screaming? Or maybe you fight?
Reason and logic will only incite it.

You can cover your ears or run up a tree,
But the best thing to do is . . . (n.p.)

Adults (the intended audience), however, found the piece immature and indicative of sore “losers.” Kayla Welch commented on the New York Times article on November 7, 2017:

This book is the perfect example of why our country – namely the left – is so immature. I’m a libertarian, I voted as such, and yet I cannot understand this immaturity from people who have the right to vote.

Your side lost, so did mine. Grow up and please do not instill such immaturity in your child. . .

Another commenter, Jason Powell, responded on November 6, 2017 by saying “Written by the haters for the losers. Don’t read this to your kid if you want the child to be an achiever.” The comments these adults make point to several issues, but the question of the child audience is probably easier to consider in such a short discussion. How does one determine the criteria for a child audience? What are the criteria for children’s literature as a genre? Certainly, this text could entertain a child as well as Little Red Riding Hood.

Children know the difference between right and wrong. They know the difference between moral and immoral. In a CNN video published to YouTube on March 4, 2016, some confident children respond to news clips of the “Americus Trumpus.” When Trump complains that a million-dollar loan from his father was not very much, one young person responds mockingly: “It hasn’t been easy for me, but I’m filthy rich.” Another young person responds to Trumps comment about Rosie O’Donnell by saying, “If he’s going to be rude to ladies, he shouldn’t be a president.” Is it not possible, then, that children can handle discussions about complex topics in the literature written for them?


Works Cited

Black, Michael Ian, and Marc Rosenthal. A Child's First Book of Trump. First ed., 2016.
"Children react to Donald Trump." CNN. 4 March 2016.
Clark, Dorothy., and Linda C. Salem. Frontiers in American Children's Literature. 1st unabridged. ed., Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016.
Hursh, John. "Exploring Civil Society Through the Writings of Dr. Seuss: International Law, Armed Conflict, and the Construction of Otherness: A Critical Reading of Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book and a Renewed Call for Global Citizenship." New York Law School Law Review, 58, 617 2013 / 2014. Accessed December 9, 2018.
Seuss. The Butter Battle Book. Random House, 1984.