It’s 1987. A middle school teacher follows the sound of anguished cries to find a young black girl lying in the filth of an abandoned basement. The girl, fourteen-year-old Sybilla, is bound and has racial epithets scrawled on her body. Later Sybilla reveals that she had been left in the basement after being abducted and repeatedly raped by white cops. Although Sybilla clearly wishes to avoid the publicity her charges will bring, her case becomes a crusade for justice in the impoverished African American community. A well-known civil rights champion, Reverend Marcus Mudrick, teams with his lawyer brother to publicize and punish the accused, but there are unintended consequences.
The Sacrifice, an adult book by Joyce Carol Oates, is told from multiple viewpoints. Sybilla’s mother, Ednetta, has learned the skills needed to survive a life of poverty and abuse. She lives with a convicted murderer, Anis, who has lived his own life in the shadow of racial violence. Readers are plunged from the interior life of one character after another, quickly realizing the verity of each viewpoint. Continue reading Crossovers: Race Matters
For my last session on Saturday afternoon of YALSA’s 2014 Young Adult Literature Symposium, I had the luck to attend an excellent workshop focused on utilizing young adult literature to examine and discuss effects of racism on the lives of teens of color. Sandra Hughes-Hassell and Julie Stivers, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, shared recent research, exemplary young adult literature, and several practical teaching strategies.
The session began by exploring the question: “how do youth of color experience stereotypes?” Using images from recent viral social media campaigns such the #itooamberkeley campaign as well as passages from young adult novels discussing stereotypes, the presenters reminded the audience of the urgent need for these conversations. Dr. Hughes-Hassell and Ms. Stivers then began modeling best practices in having conversations about race and privilege by setting conversational norms and encouraged us to put these norms into practice during a ‘pair & share’ reflection on the images & passages.
The presenters continued to model best practices in conducting these conversations by setting out working definition for key terms, including racism, white privilege, microaggressions, the achievement gap, and the opportunity gap. Drawing on a great variety of recent research, they then shared a range of relevant statistics and data concerning intersections between racial identity and poverty, health, and education in America. The excellent infographics and strong examples created a great starting place for the workshop–after all what group of librarians and educators could resist a pool of well-documented and clearly relevant data? Afterwards, Dr. Hughes-Hassell and Ms. Stivers pulled together several overarching statements to contextualize this data again:
- All youth are aware of race.
- White privilege appears in curriculum, in school structures, in libraries, and countless other aspects of teens’ everyday lives.
- Research has shown that positive racial identity leads to academic success.
This final statement specifically refers to a 2009 report by Drs. M. Hanley and G.W. Noblit titled “Cultural responsiveness, racial identity and academic success: a review of literature,” which can be found on this page of the Heinz Endowments website. Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: Using Multicultural YA Literature to Examine Racism in the Lives of Teens of Color