Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Suggested Reading for Emerging Scholars

I believe that the best book for the Emerging Scholars program would be Fresh Girl. In this story, the protagonist undergoes many struggles. She is forced to move to a new place and culture she is unfamiliar with. She also struggles to meet her parents rigid expectations. Most of all, she suffers from a secret-- something terrible that happened before she left Haiti. I think this would be a great story to read because Mardi is a strong black woman with a unique heritage struggling to overcome her past. It would be inspirational to anyone who read it, especially those who may have come from a rough background themselves.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I'm glad our blog topic was on the American adaptation of Mulan. I've thought a lot about it actually.

First, I was upset that Disney altered the original epic. In the traditional version, is not caught masquerading as a man but rather reveals herself as a woman of her own free will. This makes a her a stronger character and more in control of her destiny.
Also, in the movie, Mulan is concerned about social roles. She worries about dishonoring her family by not being feminine enough. At the end of the film, Mulan chooses to go back home and likely wed, allowing her to fulfill the traditional role of a Chinese woman. The role she was so concerned that she did not fit at the beginning of the film.

At first, I was annoyed at the anti-feminist approach to the story. Then, I wondered, would I personally still find Mulan a compelling character if she was firmly and decidedly set against her gender and cultural norms? The truth is I, and many women, can better relate better to a woman struggling against her own desires and those of her family and society. If Mulan was extremely feminist, it would be a cultural misrepresentation of the Chinese during this time period as well as a weak Xena Warrior Princess like character.

I think, overall, Disney worked in many important elements to Chinese culture, such as the importance of honor, ancestry, dragons, traditional dress and social roles, and religion. Also, the fact that China allowed the film to enter as one of only a handful of Western films permitted per year demonstrates that the content must not have been too culturally offensive. Along with incorporating some Chinese culture, Disney also managed to create a compelling character and story line at the same time. Not so bad, Disney.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Park's Article

I really enjoyed Park's article about celebrity written children's books. I haven't read many of them to be honest, but now that I've read this article, I think I will read a few so I can better see what she is talking about. I recently read The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck, but it was great. (Likely because he does write a lot of books.)

I definitely agree with her point that celebrity written books should be, if anything, edited even more than an ordinary book. These books have such a great opportunity to impact children that they owe it to their readers to spend a lot of time on story and editing.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Reflection on Beach Article

I found the Beach article to be very interesting and extremely applicable to teaching today. It is important for all students, regardless of their own backgrounds to read multicultural literature. I think it is important to include diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religion, socioeconomic, and even political affiliation. Often, in the South, I think we see a focus on primarily race and rarely explore wider conceptions of diversity.

Of course this doesn't meant the classic white male authors don't deserve a place in the classroom as well. If their work has a function in your classroom, teach it!

While the majority of students will have some types of diversity reflected in their classroom and community, they definitely do not have every type of diversity represented. Reading literature about a certain culture can allow students to gain a different type of understanding than just sitting in class with kids of different backgrounds. It is a more intimate experience, in which students can see what it would be like to be that character.

I thought the phrase describing students as having a "reluctance to explore issues of racism and white privilege" to be both true and troublesome. I believe it is good to expose children to new cultures and ideas. Yet, I would never want to perpetuate old problems or teach stereotypes. I think teachers need to be careful when exploring these issues not to shove it down their students throats and also not to accidentally present stereotypes. For instance, if you assign a piece of literature about illegal Mexican immigrants who work in landscaping or African American who talk in slang and wear baggy pants, then you may want to think twice about what you are teaching your students about other cultures! After all, each Mexican or African American may have a vastly different experience than others of that culture.

I think Harry Potter is a great way to teach about racism and prejudice in a way that is really subtle. Muggleborns are seen as being less than purebloods. Students will unknowingly learn something deeper from this in comparison to groups in their own world.

Of course, I also thought Esperanza Rising and A Single Shard are great representations of cultures without creating stereotypes. The character are relatable enough to students of any background to truly make a meaningful impact. Likewise, both of their stories feel like they could be true and have a basis in historical fact.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Research Paper Topic

I would like to write on the impact of World War II and Nazism on the Harry Potter Series. There are numerous similarities between the rise of Hitler and the persecution of Jews and the rise of Lord Voldemort and the persecution of Muggle Borns.

A few similarities I plan or discussing and researching:
- Nazi Swastika and Dark Mark
- Muggle Borns and Jews
- Voldemort and Hitler
- Death Eaters and Nazis
- Aryan Race and Pureblood Wizards
- "Dirty Blood"
- Registration of "Undesirables"
- Tactic of fear for family safety to gather support (Nazi's and Death Eaters)

I'd like to research some of these topics and read through the books to trace the development of the symbolism throughout the novels. I'd also like to research JK Rowling's background with these subjects. I hope to include a focused section on how these similarities can/do impact children's perception or understanding of Nazism and WWII.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Esperanza Rising

I really enjoyed Esperanza Rising! I hope that I will be able to teach it one day, if I have an age-appropriate class. Grapes of Wrath is one of my favorite pieces of American Literature, and I think Esperanza's story beautifully compliments the original tale. It creates a story involving the American depression and dust bowl and gives it a multicultural spin as well as a child narrator.

The style of writing was easy to read, and I enjoyed the Spanish terminology thrown into the story. To me, this is what true multiculturalism is about, languages and cultures and sayings. I believe there are pieces of the story that represent Hispanic culture, such as laying against the ground to feel the heart beat of the land and the inclusion of Miguel and Esperanza's status differences.

I believe the most important theme of this novel was that true riches are not material wealth but love and family. However, the story does keep this in perspective, including the necessity of money for these things, a place to live and the retrieval of her grandmother.

The novel could be extremely relevant in classrooms today due to the current economic recession, the continued influx of Mexican immigrants, and the focus on family values.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Are Harry Potter and Twilight Worth Teaching?

For class, I read Frances Smith Foster's article "But, Is It Good Enough to Teach?" I believe the greatest thing I am taking away from this article is a 4 question criteria that will help each teacher to answer this question for themselves. I have copied the criteria verbatim below:

1) What are you trying to teach?
2) What are the course goals?
3) Why do you want to teach it? and even
4) Why are you teaching?

I believe whether or not something is "good enough to teach" is dependent on these questions. For instance, I believe that while Twilight and Harry Potter are not considered multicultural lit that this does not make them any less worth teaching than Copper Sun. Each of these selections has its own function in the classroom. I believe most books can be fit into a curriculum as long as the teacher knows and understand the material well and has a well-thought out plan for why the selection is important to the class.

Harry Potter could function to introduce children to British lit and humor. It could also serve to help students find and understand themes and symbols as well as generating a greater interest in reading for many students.

I consider Twilight to be much lighter reading than Harry Potter. There are fewer themes and symbols worthy of noting. However, it is worth examining this book because of its widespread popularity for teenagers. What makes it popular? This is a great thing for teens to thing about. It will also boost readership in reluctant younger audiences. Twilight could also make an excellent foil to Romeo and Juliet and other classic literature.

Copper Sun is a worthy piece to include for younger audiences when the teacher would like to cover African American slave literature. It covers the topic of slavery and middle passage in a way that is real and poignant; yet, the story maintains a sense of safety in its ending and in the lack of emotion Amari shows. There is also a little African culture included.

I think it is important for a teacher to include the literature they think best covers their purposes. For instance, in a British lit course, perhaps there will be less multiculturalism, and that is okay. In an American lit course, perhaps African Americans will receive a large spotlight, but other groups may have less page-turning time, and that is okay. What is important is that teachers take the time to consider why some works are on their syllabus and why others are not. Multicultural lit fits nicely into most curriculum, and is certainly worth teaching!
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