NCRCL PhD Day 2017

Rebecca Sutton, PhD student with the NCRCL, reports on her experience of our 2017 PhD Day, which she organised this year.

travel book

Illustration by Anne Malewski

The annual NCRCL PhD Day went ahead on Thursday 18th May in the pristine new Elm Grove Conference Centre at the University of Roehampton. It was a day of eight stimulating presentations by current PhD students and one soon-to-be PhD student. Here is an overview of the presentations, in the running order of the day, so you can get an idea of our current research projects:

  • Rebecca Sutton: “Inside/Outside: Contested Space in Young Adult Literature set in Israel/Palestine”
  • Sarah Pyke: “An “archive of me”: Constructing queer adult subjectivity through an oral history of adolescent reading”
  • Aliona Yarova: “Narrating Humanity: Children’s Literature and Global Citizenship Education”
  • Erica Gillingham: “Princesses and Hard Core Lady-Types Fall In Love: Pictorial Representations of Same-Sex Attraction in All Ages Comics”
  • Sinéad Moriarty: “P-P-P Pick up a Penguin: Antarctic Penguin Stories for Children”
  • Manuela Salvi: “The Secret School of the Mooning Guerrillas: a Creative Project on Children’s Fiction, Age Banding and Censorship”
  • Anne Malewski: “Playing Adults: Camp Wildfire and KidZania”
  • Emily Corbett: “Transgendered Identity and Bio-Social Determinism in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction”

It was exciting to share our research with each other and to see the sheer diverse nature of the research projects that we as the NCRCL research community are conducting, and to observe the passion, creativity, and academic rigor with which each project is being undertaken.  I felt very proud to be part of such an innovative and inspiring research group.

It was especially great to welcome Aliona Yarova who, working between Sweden and the UK, came all the way from Sweden to present her research, and two new students starting with us this autumn – Emily Corbett (recipient of the Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship) and Harriet Salisbury (recipient of a TECHNE Studentship).

The theme for the third NCRCL Bake-off was ‘Food in Children’s Literature’. There were Google Buns from The Magic Faraway Tree, Seed Cake from Swallows and Amazons, Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake and Honey Cakes for Miss Honey from Matilda, and finally Carrot Cake from The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. Alison Waller and Lisa Sainsbury were the judges and prizes were awarded for: Best Reflection of Theme, Best Taste and Best Presentation.

It was a great day for both academia and for baking! I can’t wait until next year.

Rebecca Sutton is a first-year PhD student at the NCRCL. Her research is centered around contested space and identity in Young Adult Literature set in Israel/Palestine.

Photographs taken by Rebecca Sutton.

Roehampton Readers: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Image via Carnegie Medal

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

By Kay Waddilove

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a historical YA novel which interweaves a story of friendship, teenage identity crisis and burgeoning love into a brutal account of horrifying racism and prejudice. Set in the fictional US town of Davisburg Virginia in 1959, the story is narrated by two female protagonists; Sarah, a black girl entering a previously all-white high school, and Linda, a white girl who is the daughter of the town’s newspaper editor, a fervent white supremacist. In 1954, a time when open segregation was common in the southern states (‘white’ cafes, ‘whites only’ toilets, etc), all US schools, by Supreme Court ruling, had been required to become racially integrated (the Brown v. Board of Education ruling); the Court ruled that states must integrate their schools “with all deliberate speed.” Nevertheless, many Southern politicians resisted the ruling, utilising technical delaying tactics (some schools were shut down by local politicians or school boards for months or years – a history alluded to in the book), economic reprisals and direct intimidation in order to maintain a segregated and two-tier education system. Robin Talley grew up in Virginia, and decided to write this novel after hearing her parents discuss their own teenage memories of high school desegregation in the 1950s. She investigated historical records, including diaries of black students, and speaks on the Carnegie website of her shock at what she discovered during her research and her determination that the facts of history should be better known.

In 1957, a federal court ordered integration of the Little Rock, Arkansas public schools and nine African-American teenagers were enrolled into the Central High School. Such young people had thus been placed in the frontline of the struggle for civil rights, and on arrival, the ‘Little Rock Nine’ encountered a vicious white mob. This scenario clearly inspired the powerful opening chapter of Talley’s book, when the ten new black students turn up for their first day at Jefferson High, to be greeted by “a sea of angry white faces” and calls to “keep the niggers out”. The author pulls no punches in depicting the intimidation that her fictional characters face; from the outset the shocking language and physical violence aimed at them is described in challenging terms. As the progress and experiences of these students are followed throughout the school year, Talley maintains and builds suspense through her realistic description of events. No-one, apparently, is safe; incidents such as the false arrest and subsequent vicious life-threatening beating of Chuck, Ennis’s decision to leave Jefferson, Sarah’s final assertive rejection of her parents plans for her future, all reinforce the realism of this text while also ensuring that reader engagement is rooted in the unexpected turns of the plot.

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NCRCL Research Talk: Kitchens and Edges: The Politics of Hair in African-American Children’s Picture Books

NCRCL Research Talk

‘Kitchens and Edges:

The Politics of Hair in African-American Children’s Picture Books’

Dr. Michelle Martin, Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor of Children and Youth Services                    iSchool, University of Washington

bell hooks, Neal Lester, Noliwe M. Rooks and others have written on the politics of African-American hair and the way that Black women and girls, subjected to “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” (hooks, “Straightening”), feel enormous pressure to conform to the White beauty standard. Instead of accepting their naturally textured hair, these scholars assert, African-American women and girls collectively spend millions of dollars annually to have it straightened, extended and/or altered in other ways to make it straighter, longer, lighter and often more similar to Caucasian hair.  This essay builds on that work, taking as a starting point Martin’s and Washington’s autobiographical hair tales and making the primary focus of the argument a select subset of children’s picture books about Afro hair: Camille Yarbrough and Carol Byard’s Cornrows (1979), Alexis De Veaux’s An Enchanted Hair Tale (1987), Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and E.B. Lewis’s I Love My Hair (1998),  Carolivia Herron and Joe Cepeda’s Nappy Hair (1999), bell hooks and Chris Raschka’s Happy to be Nappy (1999), Sylviane A. Diouf’s and Shane Evans’ Bintou’s Braids (2001), and Dinah Johnson and Kelly Johnson’s Hair Dance! (2007).

Wednesday 21st September 2016, 6-7pm

Convent Parlour, Digby Stuart, Roehampton

Refreshments Provided

ALL WELCOME

Roehampton Readers: There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

Review: There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

By Julie Mills

There Will Be Lies

Image via Carnegie Medal

The themes of the novel are identity and change manifested in the person of adolescent Shelby about to become adult at age 18, and of course lies. The story is told in a dual narrative set in present day USA and in “the dreaming”, an imagined, fairy tale, mythological location influenced by legends of the Native American peoples. The two narratives echo, mirror and complement each other and gradually become more overtly closely linked. In one of the narratives we are on a typical “road movie” trajectory running away from events and in the other we are on a quest in search of the evil crone and to rescue “the child.”

The lies begin at the beginning. The author/narrator lies to us right at the start. Shelby’s Mom has been lying to her all her life, she lies during this story. The coyote figure tells Shelby that there will be two lies and then there will be the truth. This may be about the only thing which is reliable, although we are kept speculating about which stories/versions/revelations are lies – or the lies.

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Roehampton Readers: Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

Fire Colour One

Image via Carnegie Award

Review: Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

By Lorna Collins

Fire Colour One is the story of a young girl, Iris, whose first meeting with her father, Ernest, is not until shortly before his death. The narrative revolves around Iris’s growing relationship with her father in the short period she has with him. However, we are introduced to the main characters immediately after Ernest’s funeral. The author takes us through the events leading up to the funeral, moving backwards and forwards in time throughout the book. Potentially, this could have been confusing, but Valentine handles it extremely well and we are taken, along with Iris, on a journey of discovery. Valentine manages to successfully blend instances in Iris’s previous life and her friendship with Thurston, with those of Ernest’s earlier life with his sister Margot, and then his later marriage and its subsequent break up. All this is seamlessly interwoven with the story of Iris’s reunion with her estranged father and the growth of their relationship. The book’s ending may be considered a little too contrived; however, I felt it worked well overall, leaving the reader feeling that justice was done.

Valentine uses contrasts in the book to highlight opposing views of certain issues. She quotes Grayson Perry’s autobiography in which he talks about going to college and learning art as something you do, then moving into a squat with people who lived it (http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=). Iris’s best friend, Thurston is still in California and although Iris has been unable to tell him of her departure to England, she constantly refers the reader back to some of his escapades, portraying him as an artist in the true sense of the word – someone who lives art, rather than someone for whom art is something you do. On the other hand, Ernest is a collector of works of art as possessions and for financial gain (although Iris discovers later that this is not the whole story). Iris’s relationship with Thurston, who likes her for who she is, also highlights the lack of a proper relationship with her mother, for whom Iris is merely a bargaining chip to be used to help her and Lowell acquire Ernest’s art collection.

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Roehampton Readers: Footpath Flowers illustrated by Sydney Smith

Review: Footpath Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

By Clare Walters

The wordless picturebook, Footpath Flowers, was conceived by the award-winning Canadian writer and poet JonArno Lawson. Lawson (who says he was inspired by a real walk he took with his seven-year-old daughter) created the initial plot line and storyboard sketches, and these were then brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith – an artist who, like Lawson, is based in Toronto. It was clearly a successful partnership, as Lawson has said, ‘It was as if I’d written a melody, and he [Smith] wrote not just an accompaniment, but an entirely new melody that harmonized with it.’

The picturebook draws on a long tradition of wordless books, from Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward in the 1920s to Shaun Tan and Aaron Becker in the 2000s. As with any purely visual text, there are narrative ‘gaps’ between each image, which the reader must complete to create his or her own version of events. But Smith uses a number of visual ‘clues’, such as colour, line, perspective and composition, to draw us through the story.

The plot centres round a little girl who collects wayside flowers on a walk through a city with her father. It is set in a contemporary urban landscape and begins in austere high-contrast black, white and grey, with the girl’s bright red coat providing the only colour. Yet as the child gathers more flowers and gives them as gifts to various recipients, the volume of colour increases, until finally the book ends in vivid full colour. This infusion of light, bright shades onto the pages highlights the girl’s innocent generosity; by giving away her flowers, she literally brings colour into a grey world.

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Alumni News: Disability and Belonging in Arabic Children’s Literature

Susanne Abou Ghaida is a first year PhD student at the University of Glasgow, researching the Arabic Young Adult Novel. She completed her MA in Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton in 2014. In that same year, she presented her paper “Disability in Arabic Children’s Literature: Inclusion, Participation and Belonging” at the IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference. Susanne developed her conference paper for publication this year in eSharp, entitled “In the world but not of it: Disability and belonging in Arabic children’s literature on disability”.

By Susanne Abou Ghaida

I first began to look at disability in Arabic children’s literature in 2011. At the time, I was coordinating the Arabic Children’s Literature and Reading Programme, and one of our activities was a prize for books on disability. We asked publishers to nominate entries, and it was an opportunity to discover books on disability from different Arab countries. We noticed a clear will to portray disability positively, but also some confusion, including in our own minds, about how to do so. Our next step was to organise a workshop, the first of its kind in the Arab world, on inclusive and accessible books with the wonderful Alexandra Strick.

What began as a professional interest morphed into academic engagement. When I was doing my MA in children’s literature at Roehampton University, I wrote an assignment on representations of disability in Arabic children’s literature, getting introduced in the process to disability studies which continues to inform my views on this topic. Later, when the NCRCL and IBBY UK announced that the theme for their 2014 conference was “Belonging is… an exploration of the right to be included and the barriers that must be overcome”, I sent in an abstract, entitled “Disability in Arabic Children’s Literature: Inclusion, Participation and Belonging”, that was later accepted.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, I decided to focus on how Arabic children’s literature depicts disability in social space. Disabled people, real and fictional, do not live in a vacuum but within various social units, from friendship circles to families to larger communities. The vast majority of Arabic children’s literature has a clear agenda of promoting inclusion, a vision of disabled people at the heart and not the fringes of their communities. However, if one looks more closely, are there fissures and problematic features within this seemingly unified message? In addition to examining how these books promote inclusion, I pay special attention to a trope that recurs frequently in this literature, the disabled achiever or ‘supercrip.’ I argue that achievement often becomes a requirement for societal acceptance, a ‘tax’ to be paid while the belongingness of non-disabled characters is never in question. As I like to end on a high note, I then closely analyze two wonderful children’s books that make us look at disabled achievement in new ways: Heya, Huma, Hunna She, The Two of Them, They] by Nahla Ghandour (author) and Jana Traboulsi (illustrator) and Moghanni al-MatarThe Rain Singer] by Zakariyya Muhammad (author) and Ahmad Al-Khaldi (illustrator).

I felt that presenting a paper at a conference was an ideal starting point for a chapter or journal article. Getting my abstract accepted was a confidence boost, and I had a clear deadline to have a draft ready. I also found the feedback I got insightful and encouraging. Later when eSharp, a postgraduate journal edited by MA and PhD students at the University of Glasgow where I am currently doing my PhD, launched a call for papers on the theme of ‘Inclusion and Belonging’, I sent in an abstract. Once the abstract was accepted, I had two months to revise the paper I had presented at the NCRCL/IBBY Conference paper. This draft was sent to an anonymous peer reviewer (also a postgraduate student), who fortunately only requested a few clarifications and asked me to rewrite my conclusion which I did while making sure that my paper complied with the journal’s style guide. Then, like a proud parent, I saw my paper let loose into the world.

To read the full version of my paper, “In the world but not of it: Disability and belonging in Arabic children’s literature on disability”, click here; a short version of the paper is available on the IBBY UK website. Also, a French translation of Heya, Huma, Hunna [She, The Two of Them, They] is available from Amazon.