Thursday, September 22, 2011

Children's Literature by White Authors and Black Authors


Question: Is there a difference between children’s authors about the black experience by white authors and by black authors?

Abstract: “This study analyzes four prize-winning children’s books about the black experience in America. Three of the books were written by white authors and one by a black author. Analysis revealed that authors’ perceptions of religious and social values held by black Americans are influenced by a selective version of American history and by the authors’ own cultural background. In this sample, the books written by white authors ascribed to black characters a theology of racial submission which calls for acceptance of a subservient role in American society. In the book written from a black perspective, religious belief is characterized by spiritual resistance to oppression and a heritage of racial pride.

“It is concluded that books about the black experience in America must be evaluated in terms of a selective historic and religious tradition in light of the cultural background of the authors.” P. 117.

Quote: “A society’s literary heritage is often assumed to represent and reflect the traditions, customs, values and principles of that society. It is thought of as a history, a record, of the society that produced it. Yet thoughtful critics of America’s literary heritage have pointed out that there exists in American literature, as in the literature of many societies, a ‘selective tradition’ whereby the power of certain groups to shape a society’s literary heritage and to control the dissemination of knowledge results in a carefully defined version of the history and culture of the society.” P. 117.

Quote: “If children’s literature is to provide for children characters with whom it is healthy and meaningful to identify, if it is to provide a view of life which they recognize as authentic and one in which they can find possibilities for their own lives; the shortcoming of such books as Amos Fortune, Free Man, Sounder, and Words by Heart are all too clear. As long as these books continue to be read by children and as long as they continue to be endorsed by adults, it is important that they be read with a critical perspective. Indeed, the very fact that they have been selected as winners of children’s book awards indicates the need for adults who are involved with children’s literature to become informed about the existence and effects of a selective tradition and the limitations in perspective inherent in a writer’s ethnic and cultural background.” P. 139.

Comment: This study has sent me back to re-read these award-winning children’s books. The book by a black author is Roll of Thunder, Hear MY Cry (Taylor, 1976). RayS.

Title: “A Submission Theology for Black Americans: Religion and Social Action in Prize-winning Children’s Books about the Black Experience in America.” Research in the Teaching of English (May 1990), pp. 117-140.

No comments: