February 28, 2010

I never really read any fairy tales as a child, nor were any read to me. However, I did watch disney princess movies and I think that those are about as fairy tale as one can get. My favorite disney princesses/characters were never the damsels in distress, the sleeping beauties who awaited their prince to rescue them. I loved Mulan and Ariel who both were relatively independent and went after their goals. Mulan took the initiative to dress as a man to save her family and Ariel wanted the prince so she took the initiative to go see Ursula in order to become human and win over her man. I think that these two characters enforced the empowerment of women in my mind and showed me that women should be able to go for what they want and that they can achieve it. I think that I remember these characters most vividly because they fit into my view on life and they coincide with my ideas for what a woman should be. I don't really remember/don't like the other disney princess tales because the women just seem so pathetic and helpless waiting decades just for some big, strong man to come and do the work for them. Even at a young age I remember thinking "why doesn't Aurora try to figure out a way to kill the witch or save herself and why can the prince do it when she can't". I think that I choose to remember the fairy tales that I relate better to rather than the ones that don't fit into my lifestyle.

February 8, 2010

A trend that is abundant in adolescent literature is one of the outsider. I would like to focus my research on finding out why this theme is present in most, if not all, adolescent literature books. Do all adolescents feel that they are the outsider? That no one can relate? Not only would I like to look into why this theme is present, but also what does the presence of an outsider do to effect the young people reading the book and how does it effect the characters within the book itself. How do they react to this outsider? How is the outsider meant to be perceived by the audience? The character of the outsider is especially noticeable in multicultural literature because a major part of multiculturalism is how they are perceived in white American or European culture and how this perception makes them feel. The theme is also abundant in literature written by WASP's. It has been present in every book that we have read for this class. I believe this is a true issue for many societies because they have to compete with the trend of Westernization that tells them they are not as good as our society and they have to fight to retain their own beliefs and cultures. Maybe this issue is not as blatant and harsh as poverty or slavery, but I believe it is fundamentally just as important because it is essentially the gradual, and at times willing, demise of a culture. What could be more cruel than that? So the theme of the outsider in adolescent literature is what I would like to write my research paper on.

January 27, 2010

Are They Worth Teaching?

Where to start? Copper Sun is certainly worth teaching to adolescents. It provides an insightful look into slavery without being too harsh for young readers and it is easily related to hardships that modern teens may have to go through and overcome. Although I found the characters to be distant and hard to relate to, the friendship that develops between characters of differing races encourages adolescents to look beyond skin tone and into what a person is really about. So although I really disliked the book, the benefits of Copper Sun (its portrayal of slavery, message of hope, and idea of tolerance) outweigh its negatives.
On to Twilight. I do not feel that Twilight should ever be taught in a classroom to children of any age. Was it an easy read? Yes. Is the plot entertaining? Yes. I will admit that I enjoyed the book. And I will admit that the main characters being shown as outcasts is also a good aspect of the book in relation to adolescents. However, I did not feel the characters, aside from Bella, were given any real depth. Edward appears to be some knight in shining armour who comes to rescue when needed and he is also shown as the tortured artist, even the villian. But even Edward is never given any real connection with the reader. We don't know what he is thinking, what he wants. He is invincible and that is not something that is easy to relate to. Without Edward, the story could continue with Bella being depressed and uncomfortable and it would still function. My strongest objection to Twilight is not the character development, however, but the plot itself. Do we really want our children growing up to think that 'love' occurs in the first glance? From the moment she spots Edward, Bella is obsessed in the most unhealthy sense of the word. She nearly ceases to function when he is not present. Why would we encourage our teenagers to think that 1) love is instant and can occur simply at a glance and 2) that it is okay to put someone you have known for hardly any time at all over your own life? I mean the whole plot is based on Bella wanting to be with some guy who admits that he wants to eat her, and she has known him for maximum of three months!
You may be happy to note that I have less complaints about Harry Potter. I think this novel preaches the importance of friendship and still keeps the characters as kind of outcasts (a feature I liked in Twilight). There is still the concept of hope and resilience despite all odds that occurs in Copper Sun. As to whether it is teachable I am uncertain. It is difficult for me to consider this Harry Potter a valid assignment in a classroom because it is so pop culture at the moment, but I do think that it presents many aspects that are useful for adolescents and probably one day it will be very acceptable in a classroom setting.

Copper Sun: Great for Adolescents, but not Great Literature

Copper Sun. I thought the book did a good job of showcasing the hardships of slavery without making it difficult for young readers to understand and relate to; however, I felt like I was reading an uplifting novel that should be prescribed to kids who need help with getting through the troubles of their teenage years. As a novel geared toward adolescents it did its job well, but I really disliked the sense of hope and (as was brought up in class) the idea of this mother figure always there to help her along. I took a Holocaust literature class last year and a memorable quote that Lawrence Langer wrote was, "The best Holocaust literature gazes into the depths without flinching. If its pages are seared with the heat of a nether world where, unlike Dante’s, pain has no link to sin and hope, no bond with virtue, this is only to confirm the dismissal of safe props that such an encounter requires." Copper Sun reminded me of this quote because I feel like the Holocaust is very similar to slavery in many ways and I think that, like Langer, the best representation of such a horrible event is not to sugar coat it but to look at it as it really happened and to remember what was overcome by those who faced tremendous pain and suffering. I feel that it actually does a disservice to those who had to suffer through slavery to create a book that doesn't acurately represent the sense of hopelessness and vunerability that would have had to accompany such an experience. I will say, however, that I learned more about some of the horrors that owners inflicted upon slaves from this book. I am not saying that the book doesn't have merit in its reflection on slavery, just that I think there is a better way to do it. The book angered me for precisely the reasons I have stated above, but I think that adolescents would relate well to the novel and the idea of overcoming the unknown that faces them in the adult world. Because it preaches hope and perseverance it is a good way to uplift teens.