Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reflection #7: Multicultural Representations

In literature, there are many different ways that different cultures are represented. This has been an issue, especially when it comes to the American Indians and African Americans. Most authors are white. This is a well-known fact. Most award winning authors are white men. This was discussed in a previous reflection. I don't tend to think about such things. I just read for pleasure, not for analysis. However, this week required more analysis than I anticipated. 

The first article that I read this week was "Two Professors Critique the Representations of Africans and African Americans in Picture Books." It was very interesting to me that the study chose a white professor and an African American professor. I suppose they did this to balance out any bias. It was a great idea and it was eye opening in many aspects. There were several things that the white professor, Margaret, did not even notice until the African American professor, Wendy, pointed them out.

The pictures in the book sometimes did not match the tone of the prose/poetry on the page. I usually just interpret everything as a whole; I don't look at the individual pieces. They did.

They also noticed that most of the stories that were about Africans or African American families painted people in a positive light. This is unrealistic for family life, period...but especially untrue of the hardships that African American slave families had to go through in the past. Same thing for African families. The themes present were mostly positive and uplifting as well - like "hope."

It made me curious as to why they always produce fictional picture books like this. Are they meant to inspire students of color? Are they meant to give them hope that they can overcome their past? Are they meant to remind students of how far their families have come these days? I'm not sure. It's fiction.

The books for the week are great examples of multicultural literature. From the harrowing story of crossing the border from Mexico presented in The Iguana Tree to the trial of a black watchman in An Unspeakable Crime, stories about multicultural experiences are everywhere. Most of them end in a positive manner with these same happy themes present, like "hope" and "overcoming adversity." These books do as well.

I wonder if there are fictional books that present the darker side of these multicultural experiences. I'd love to read one, just for historical purposes.

Bibliographic Information:

Alexie, S. & Forney, E. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown.

Alphin, E. (2010). An unspeakable crime : the prosecution and persecution of Leo Frank. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books.

Gangi, J. M. (2008). The Unbearable Whiteness of Literacy Instruction: Realizing the Implications of 
the Proficient Reader Research. Multicultural Review, 17(1), 30-35.

Smith-D'Arezzo, W. M., & Musgrove, M. (2011). Two Professors Critique the Representations of Africans and African Americans in Picture Books. Equity & Excellence in Education, 44(2), 188-202.

Stone, M. (2013). The iguana tree. Spartanburg: Hub City Press.