Monday, November 21, 2016
MMGM- Ghosts and Controversy
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.
Reviewing diverse books properly is so difficult these days that I hesitate to say anything. Ever. I am a white, middle class woman. I haven't known the difficulties of marginalized cultures. I REALLY don't like making people angry. (Unlike some people.)
Raina Telgemeier is hugely popular. Having read her newest book, Ghosts, I could argue that she is not appropriating another culture, and she certainly seems well-meaning.
The Day of the Dead celebration has trickled into mainstream culture in ways that are not accurate, and Telgemeier uses elements of this celebration as a way for her characters to deal with the life threatening illness affecting their family. There have also been assertions that her handling of Cystic Fibrosis is not entirely accurate.
Was it wrong of her to use these cultural references? I would like to be able to offer more sensitively portrayed multicultural characters to my students no matter who is writing them, but we must also contend with the idea of #ourownvoices.
My own half baked novel is set in a largely white suburban community. My main character's best friend is biracial, because I've had lots of students who are, and it seemed a realistic addition to my story, and a chance to give my students an opportunity to see themselves in a story. My nieces are biracial, but do I have any right to put this character in my story? Can I only write about white characters?
Everything I do professionally is ultimately so that I can get books to my students so that they can see themselves and the world in the best possible light. Do I "want cookies" for doing this? No. But it would be nice not to be attacked.
Here are some points of disagreement about Ghosts:
Telgemeier, Raina. Ghosts
September 13th 2016 by GRAPHIX
Cat's family moves to a Northern Californian coastal town because the atmosphere is supposed to be better for her younger sister Maya's lungs. Maya has cystic fibrosis, and is fearful about her future. She is interested in a ghost tour given by Carlos, a neighbor boy Cat's age with whom Maya is fascinated. He takes the two on a tour around town, and Cat starts to feel friendly toward him. After Maya becomes ill from catching a chill trying to visit the ghosts, Cat is angry. The book lapses into fantasy when the children attend a Day or the Dead celebration and converse with ghosts, but this helps Maya feel better about the afterlife.
Strengths: Let's have Telgemeier illustrate all of the textbooks. Then the students wouldn't stop reading them. She's that popular.
Weaknesses: There are a lot of books in the world. It is too bad that this one is controversial.
What I really think: I bought a copy for my library but might not replace it if it falls apart.