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Cultural Representation in Young Adult Literature

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Cultural Representation in Young Adult Literature

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  1. Cultural Representation in Young Adult Literature • Angela Bennett and Nesha Eaton

  2. “One of the biggest challenges that teens face is finding out who they are and where they fit in the general scheme of life. Reading about characters who share one’s background, ancestry, or culture can be an affirming experience. Other teens read multicultural fiction because they are curious about a specific group or because they enjoy seeing things from a different perspective, or simply because they like the escapism of traveling to another place or experiencing a different culture.” • – Herald (160)

  3. What is Culture? • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group • Nature of Culture includes: • Civilization • Community • Ethnic Groups • People • Group Lifestyle

  4. Considerations for Evaluating Cultural Representation in Young Adult Literature Accuracy and Currency of Facts and Interpretation • Are thoughts and emotions portrayed authentically? • In historical fiction, is the content realistic for the time period? • Does the content intensify the reader’s sensitivity to the feelings of others? • Does the author present a balanced view of the issues in the book, especially nonfiction? Stereotypes in Lifestyles • Are culturally diverse characters and their settings contrasted unfavorably with an unstated norm of Anglo American middle class suburbia? • Does the story go beyond oversimplifications of reality and offer genuine insights into another lifestyle or culture?

  5. Considerations for Evaluating Cultural Representation in Young Adult Literature Plot • Do European Americans in the story have all the power and make the decisions? • Do people from diverse backgrounds function in essentially subservient roles? • Does a character from a diverse background have to exhibit superior qualities (excel in sports, get A’s) to succeed? • Are people from diverse backgrounds considered to be “the problem”? • Do solutions ultimately depend on the benevolence of a European American? Theme • Would the book limit or promote an adolescent’s self-image and self-esteem? • Would the book limit or promote an adolescent’s aspirations? • Can a reader from any culture become so involved with the book that he or she can identify with the characters and vicariously experience their feelings?

  6. Considerations for Evaluating Cultural Representation in Young Adult Literature Language • Is terminology current or appropriate for the time period? Do any dialects reflect the varieties found in contemporary life? • Does the dialect reflect negatively on an entire culture? Author’s Perspective • What qualifications does the author (or illustrator) have to write about a multicultural topic? • Is the author (or illustrator) able to think as a member of another cultural group and to intellectually and emotionally become a member of that group? • If the author (or illustrator) is not a member of the culturally diverse group being written about, is there anything in the author’s (or illustrator’s) background that would specifically recommend her or him for this book? Illustrations • Are there stereotypes, oversimplifications, and generalizations in the illustrations? • Do pictures demean or ridicule characters? • Is there tokenism or European Americans with tinted or colored faces? • Is sufficient individuality and diversity depicted within cultural groups?

  7. Representations of: • Latinos in Young Adult Literature • African Americans in Young Adult Literature • Asian Americans in Young Adult Literature • Native Americans in Young Adult Literature • LGBT in Young Adult Literature

  8. “Children's Books by and about People of ColorPublished in the United States” Statistics Gathered by the Cooperative Children's Book Center School of EducationUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison

  9. Young Adult Fiction—Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content

  10. Young Adult Non-Fiction—Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content

  11. Young Adult Fiction African american

  12. Young Adult Non-Fiction African american

  13. “Asians began immigrating to the United States in the nineteenth century, but it was only at the end of the twentieth century that many Asian American voices began to be heard in our literature. The category itself contains a great deal of diversity—Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, and many other cultures contribute to this rich area of fiction.” –Herald (165)

  14. Young Adult Fiction—Asian American

  15. Young Adult Non-Fiction—Asian American

  16. Young Adult Fiction—Latin American

  17. Young Adult Non-Fiction--Latin American

  18. Young Adult Fiction—Native American “In the past, Native Americans, the first people to inhabit the Americas, were both demonized and romanticized in our literature. Even today, books about Native Americans often focus on the way Indians looked, dressed, and lived in the past. We also have some strong voices emerging from First Nations to show us the diverse contemporary realities of Native American life, but most are written for adults or children, with very few well suited to teen readers." –Herald (p166)

  19. Young Adult Fiction—Native American

  20. Young Adult Non-Fiction Native american

  21. Resources for Librarians • The Elephant in the Room « ShelfTalker • Exploring Diversity in Children's & Young Adult Books :: an Overview

  22. Awards Coretta Scott King Awards Carter G, Woodson Book Awards American Indian Youth Services Award Americas Book Award for Children and Young Adult Literature Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature Arab American Book Award

  23. Bibliography • Bluemle, Elizabeth. "The Elephant in the Room." 10 June 2010. ShelfTalker. 12 November 2010 <>. • Cooperative Children's Book Center. Children's Books by and about People of Color. 2007. 14 November 2010 <>. • F., Katy. "Multicurltural Book Awards." 7 June 2010. POC Reading Challenge. 10 November 2010 <>. • Herald, Diana Tixier. Teen Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2003. • Koelling, Holly (ed.). Best Books for Young Adults. Chicago: ALA, 2007. • Jordan, A. D. (1996a). Books of other cultures. Teaching and Learning Literature, 5(4), 23–25. • Jordan, A. D. (1996c). Welcome to my world: Books of other cultures. Teaching and Learning Literature, 5(4), 15–22. • Miller-Lachman, L. (1992). Our family, our friends, our world: An annotated guide to significant multicultural books for children and teenagers. New Providence, NJ: R. R. Bowker. • Ten quick ways to analyze children’s books for racism and sexism. (November 3, 1974). Interracial Books for Children, 5(3), 6–7. • Reese, Debbie. "Recommended Children's/YA/Reference/Resource Books." Jan 2008. American Indians in Children's Literature. 9 November 2010 <>. • Smith, Cynthia Leitich. "Exploring Diversity through Children's & Young Adult Books: Backgrond Reading." 10 November 2010 <>.