Tuesday, October 23, 2012

YA and Child Lit on Immigrants and Hard Times

I came across a list of YA books at The Nerdy Book Club today on the immigrant experience that forced me to reflect on my own heritage and lack of awareness on the literature that best serves the needs of mine and my culture's identity. At some point in my adulthood I realized that even though as a child I had no problem identifying with my parents (hard-working, brilliant doctors who moved here from Pakistan before I was born), our faith, and our sometimes overwhelming culture/community, I never explored anything other than the mainstream literature easily nabbed and consumed at my school library or book stores. So I read it all, and certainly identified with many characters: shy or quiet book lovers, tomboys, middle children, wildly imaginative and twice as stubborn. But the cultural element was always absent. I look back now and wonder how it might have helped and prepared me to relate to "the experience" of the characters rather than only their "traits."
And now, with the direction world politics and dynamics have taken, I am curious what novels are out there for young adults from Muslim families, of Pakistani, Indian, or Middle Eastern descent.  Because I am still far too unfamiliar for my liking.

At any rate, this list was compiled to directly highlight the immigrant struggles of many cultures--Mexican(Crossing the Wire), Japanese (Farewell to Manzanar), and Sudanese (The Good Braider) to name a few. It is a compelling collection and one can still find solidarity and empathy reading any one of these novels no matter your own ethnicity. In fact, the description of each book includes a "common immigrant issue" and does well to narrow in on the pressures and pains particular to childhood. Find the list HERE.

A separate issue, at times relevant to the immigrant struggle but certainly not exclusive to it, is economic hardship. An article in the Kansas City Star discusses one educator's work towards understanding children's literature and an economic education. As a result, Lynn Strover pulled together a short list of books that teach children about the value of money, the freedom it enables, and how to deal with hard times. For kids witnessing their parents' unemployment or the growing need to cutback on expenditures and luxuries, the lessons of these books may serve as a guide for them.  One example is:
Potato: A Tale of the Great Depression. Set in Kansas, this story by Kate Lied focuses on eight-year-old Dorothy who sets off for Idaho with her family in a borrowed car after her father had lost his job. Arriving in Idaho, they work day and night picking the potatoes that will help them survive the depression. In its own way, the story teaches children about the concepts of bartering and trading and getting by with little money.
The Harry Potter books are also featured, which makes sense considering the monetary system created solely for the books, as well as the banking system and issues of wealth versus lower economic classes that come up frequently.

You can view the article and the entire list HERE.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/10/19/3874614/kids-money-try-harry-potter-to.html#storylink=cpy

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