Thursday, April 22, 2010

Best Choice

I think that the best choice for this group of students that we read this year would be Black and White. This book brings up many of the issues that young people face everyday in our society. As much as people ignore it and deny it, there is still a very large percent of the population that are prejudice against any other race than their own. Black and White shows how this prejudice can surface, even between the families of two very close friends. All the events that happen in this book illustrate how confusing it can be for young people to sort out this issue. They have to deal with loyalty, family opinions, doing what is best for themselves, and most importantly doing what is right. In tough situations, like the one presented in this novel, all the considerations that must be taken into account can pull a person in totally different directions which makes coming up with a decision very hard. Not only is the decision making process hard, but the after effects of that decision can weigh on a person. Guilt and questioning whether or not the right choice has been made is something that a person will have to live with forever and somehow find a way to deal with it. I found this story both realistic to the society of today and practical for young readers. It was entertaining and easy to read which makes it all the better as a selection for this group of students.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ties That Bind, Ties That Break

In my opinion Mulan has been westernized, maybe not overly westernized, but definately changed in order to fit the more stereotypical views that Disney tends to display in movies. I do think that this westernization can serve the purpose to help the american viewers, specifically children, in relating to the character. It can be hard for even adults to understand foreign cultures so this westernization, although potentially stereotypical, is sometimes necessary. I do not think tha Disney is entirely at fault. They alone certainly have not created all of the generalizations that go along with gender and race. It is the common views and perceptions of the American people that have created these. However, Disney is a business and has incorporated these things into their movies in order to make money and therefore has not done much in the way of stopping this practice or common perceptions. On the other hand, I think that with more of the more representative characters appearing in the mainstream media, it could be possible that viewers would be able to relate to characters of different cultures. This needs to be a change in the media though. One movie or television show will not make the change that some would argue is needed. There has to be a comittment from both the viewers and produceers to try and make the media a more real experience. I have grown used to the westernized movies that Disney spits out every year and it may take some time for the audiences of such films to get used to a change like the one proposed. It may be meet with some opposition but in general I think that audiences would find it refreshing and enjoyable.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Black and White

Certainly I think that this book could be based on real events that the author may have witnessed or been involved with, but it could just as easily be exploiting the generalizations and stereotypes that exist within American society today. It is hard to determine which is more true in this case because both are very possible and there may not exist any changes in the story or plot based on what this book really presents. The story plays to both generalizations and real occurrences. One major way that this story is typical is that the white character is more affluent than the black character, and because of this he can afford a good lawyer and can be assumed to have been saved from any criminal punishment for his actions. Another example of this book being overly typical is that the black character is the one who is caught by the police and takes all the blame and punishment for a crime that he did not commit by himself. The white character is portrayed as only looking out for himself and in a bad light, while the black character is portrayed as loyal and takes responsibility for his actions. The reason that these same points can be seen as taken from real life experiences is because in some cases, like this one, generalizations can be true. Not to say that they are always true or that everything in this world is based on money and color, but sometimes it is. I think that when reading this story it is important to remember that this situation is very difficult for both characters to handle. Unless you yourself have been in the shoes of the characters it is impossible to know what you would do and therefore one cannot judge, good or bad, the actions of the characters. It is unfortunate that society today has been shaped by many years of racism and inequality, but the fact of the matter is that it has. The barrier between black and white still exists is many every day situations and is overplayed as a determining factor in tough situations such as the one presented in this book. Many other considerations must be examined before immediately assuming that decisions and outcomes are racially driven.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thompson Article

I found this article on the linguistic characteristics of literature written for children to be very interesting. I did not expect that when comparing the features of literature for children and literature for adults, at least in the category of fiction, that there would be such similarity. Almost all of the tables and figures illustrated a high level of similarity in many of the linguistic characteristics that were explored in the chosen corpora. As the author pointed out, both adult and adolescent literature were very different from the newspaper corpus, which was expected. Newspaper writing, in my opinion, is very informative, to the point, and matter of fact. Yes, some writers of newspaper articles do express satirical views in their columns, but the point of the articles is still to present the news and some opinion about it.
It is hard for me to believe, although the evidence has been presented to me in this article, that adult and adolescent literature are very much alike in the ways presented in this study. When I consider the many various topics and writing styles of different authors in both categories it would seem to me that they would be different. Adolescent literature is much more simple in terms of both plot and writing styles. Also, the range of topics for this type of literature is limited to keep it at a PG rating. Adult literature has much more range in plot, writing styles, and topic. Because of this, I am compelled to believe that the linguistic characteristics that were presented in this study do not come close to fully classifying by any comparative means these different types of literature. I do not believe that just by counting which words and phrases appear most often in a work of literature that you can truly access the work. Much deeper analysis that considers the messages and philosophical views of a piece, as well as its complexity are needed to attempt any sort of classification by comparison. I do however commend this article for analyzing the way the world and human relation to the world is presented in these types of literature and finding that there are indeed differences.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fairy Tales

When I think about my childhood and fairy tales it is hard to assess the impact that these stories may have had on me then, and how these effects may have molded me into what I am today. I remember growing up watching the Disney version of all the popular stories such as Peter Pan. I was always more excited by the action type films and stories. I grew up with one older brother and we were active in sports and loved the outdoors so I think that may be why the stories of adventure and action appealed to me. With all fairy tales having some occurrence of magic I think that the prospect of another world enchanted with the supernatural was fun to think about and fun to be absorbed in while watching a movie. To a child this world that is shown to them is possible. Yes they may know that realistically the things that they are seeing cannot happen, but at a younger age it is acceptable and encouraged to dream and believe. These stories are the inspiration for children running around pretending they are flying or pointing sticks at each other and casting spells. Fairy tales offer children a chance to be someone that they cannot be in the real world. They can talk to animals and conspire on adults who are oblivious to the magical workings of the fairy tale world.
Being what I consider as a practical person, I don't think that fairy tales enhanced my imagination. I have never been a dreamer. What I do think that fairy tales did for me was to help provide for a naturally happy and fun childhood. Fairy tales are in general very light and good spirited. There are no bad endings where the hero of the story fails. One may think that this may be a very insignificant contribution to a life, but I think that being happy and having a magical place for your mind to go to as a child can make all the difference. Doesn't it seem that many of the people who turn out to be troubled in some way have had, if not traumatic, generally unhappy childhoods? Not to suggest that happy children never turn out bad, but I would guess that statistics show that happier children tend to lead better lives. I would also mention that fairy tales are not the key to a happy childhood, just that in my past they may have been one piece of that happiness. I think the purpose, to teach a lesson, of fairy tales may take root in some people and may have taken root in me. However at such a young age when these stories appeal to children it is hard to determine what you have learned that applies to real life.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Good Children's Books

Park makes a good point about the need for quality children's books when these works have the opportunity to make such an impression on the mind of a young person. I found the idea that poorly written books may actually hinder a child's ability to learn to be interesting. I think that by reading books, a child learns much more than he/she would by not reading books, whether their choice of literature is of particular merit or not. If a child likes reading the books made from a cookie-cutter by the so called "celebrity" authors than I have no problem with letting them read those works. In my mind, the larger problem is the lack of exposure children get to a variety of book styles, authors, genres, etc. This is where the system has failed. It is not the fact that the most popular books are worse in a literary sense, it is that these books get all the focus and attention of readers young and old. Park points out that publishing is a business in this article, but she fails to address the fact that writing is part of that same business. Authors ultimately write books to make money. Every choice made in writing a book is the choice of the author and his/her publishers, editors, etc., who are all in business together.
In class we have read from both ends of the spectrum. We have studied books from the "celebrity" authors as well as from your everyday normal book writer. The distinction, at least to me, in reading these books is that I find the works from the "celebrity" authors are more enjoyable. I am partial to the more adventurous type books and from my experience these are the books that some criticize for literary reasons. Isn't reading books supposed to be fun and enjoyable? So what is so wrong about a book that can captivate a reader? Anyhow, the other less enjoyable books we have read like Copper Sun and Esperanza Rising may have more merit or be more acceptable to critics like Park but do not spark my interest in the same way. These books are more devoted to character development illustrating cultural and social messages than they are to entertaining an audience. Granted, these books are great for the classroom setting and can offer a learning experience, they are just not something that I would read on my own.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Alternate Value Stances

Sometimes with multicultural literature, as the article points out, it is difficult for students to understand actions and viewpoints of the main characters due to differences in culture, race, gender, economic, or social factors. While this can present a challenge, I do not think that it is cause for too much concern when considering the students ability to understand themes in multicultural books. Things such as character development, plot, literary techniques, symbolism, and other underlying messages are still able to be detected.
This problem with understanding of different cultures can be seen from a few of the books we have read in class already. In Copper Sun students may have trouble understanding why Amari and her tribe do some of the things that they do. For example, students may nit understand the custom of welcoming any and all visitors with a great feast and celebration. In Esperanza Rising the theme of family is clearly evident. Students may find it strange that the grandmother lives with the rest of the family, or that the two families live together once they move to America. These two examples are situations that, because of cultural and social differences, some students may find hard to understand in multicultural reading.
Students who have not been exposed to other cultures may need to have some background information presented to them before reading these type of books so that they are not hindered in understanding the context. Classroom and group discussion may also be a valuable tool to use so that students are able to learn from each other on these type of issues.