You may have noticed a lack of activity in our virtual (re: blog) presence, which is due to the flurry of lived children's literature-related activity here on campus! If you follow our Twitter account, you know that Dr. Katharine Capshaw delivered an AMAZING talk Wednesday evening for us SDSU folk. Last week we hosted the first ever Devouring Children's Literature event, which you can see pictures of on our Facebook page. Finally, us grad students have recently emerged from a hostile cloud of anxiety about our culminating experiences (don't worry: we're a bit worn, but still alive). More about that later. For now, some "catching up" news...
- Dr. Capshaw delivered her talk "Freedom (and Fury) Now: Civil Rights Photographic Picture Books for Children." It is impossible to summarize the awesomeness that was Dr. Capshaw's presentation, but I can tell you that you should be very, very excited for her forthcoming book on the same subject. (It'll be out this fall; title is not yet confirmed.) One of the highlights of her talk included her analysis of the children's photographic picture book Today (1965), in which she asserted that the book was about process, not product. Created by and with and for the children of one of the nation's first "Head Start" programs, it embodies empowerment of African American children in Mississippi in the 1960's- mostly in the process of creation. Capshaw talked about other children's photographic books of the Black Arts Movement, including Poems by Kali (1970) and June Jordan's Dry Victories (1972), texts which imagine the child as an icon of black nationhood and express anger at civil rights failures. However, my absolute favorite aspect of Capshaw's talk was her enthusiastic reiterations of Civil Rights era schoolyard chants.
- Devouring Children's Literature was a huge success! We're most thrilled with our superb speakers: local authors James Matlack Raney and Mara Price and Professors Phillip Serrato and Alida Allison. Dr. Serrato read and spoke about some food-related poems and passages, including Sandra Cisneros' Good Hot Dogs poem, poems by Francisco X. Alarcón, and passages from Mary F. Chin's short story Knuckles (published in American Eyes: New Asian-American Short Stories for Young Adults). James Matlack Raney talked about foods with "substance," arguing that while fast food is great, kids need food that nurtures, sustains, and fulfills them. Of course he was making an analogy about books and applauding the books for children that have depth and aesthetic value--the ones that merit multiple readings. He made sure to note that there is room in the world for all kinds of books. Because, hey, who doesn't love french fries?! Dr. Allison did a hilarious reading of a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. To correspond with the timing of Passover, Allison highlighted a tale regarding a foolish town’s trial and treatment of a fish (leading to gefilte fish), peppering it with her wit and enthusiasm. Mara Price discussed her journey to becoming a bilingual writer, and included a heartfelt reading of her picture book, Grandma’s Chocolate/El Chocolate de Abuelita, which she described as a meaningful way to connect with the food and history of her culture. (Also--huge thank you to our NCSCL Director, Joseph T. Thomas Jr. for being a badass emcee).
- At SDSU creating (and defending) a portfolio consisting of two article-length and quality papers is one of the options for the culminating experience of the MA program-and Kelsey successfully defended her portfolio this week! After working with sexually abused children years ago, Kelsey has had it in her mind to write about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for some time now, but did not have the analytical know-how until entering this program. With the guidance of the top-notch professors at SDSU (thank you Professor Cummins and Professor Bailey!), she finally manged to put in writing her thoughts on how and why Speak upholds a false and misleading image of sexual violence against adolescents, mostly by privileging the physicality of the crime. Next step: submitting to journals!
Alya doesn’t want to admit that she’s still working out her thesis chapters (she has it all ironed out, seriously!). Suffice it to say that the past few weeks have delivered considerable progress on her exploration of maps in contemporary children’s literature. Focusing on S.S. Taylor’s The Expeditioners and Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (with a bit of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series), Alya is working on deconstructing how the map figures in and reconfigures the child’s world view, what the lived experience of mapping offers this world view, and if possible, a critique on the current (lack of) engagement or development of girls in these and other texts where geography matters. Spatial theory is uncharted terrain for Alya, but she has happily dived head first into the project, which started as a mere obsession with maps (cartography and more cartography for the win!) and has evolved into carved-out topographical edible creations.
An edible representation of the key map from The Expeditioners