Highlights from #WeNeedDiverseBooks

I went through the #WeNeedDiverseBooks tag on Twitter (which is trending, by the way) and picked out some of my favorite posts to share. It’s one thing for me or any blogger to write a post about the need for diversity, but it’s a whole other thing to have so many people to come together to speak up about it. This is one of the greatest things about social networking. Even five years ago, having this much attention brought to the problem wouldn’t have been possible. 2 3

 

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks

With perfect timing, a new campaign is rolling out this week on May 1st in an attempt to connect people concerned with diversity in books across platforms. They ask participants to take a picture of themselves or a friend holding a sign that says “we need diverse books because _____” with a personal filling in the blank. They hope to get the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks to trend on Twitter and Tumblr to bring attention to the problem.

Disney’s Relationship With Literature

I co-wrote this blog post with FearlessFanGirl

Disney movies are a well beloved past time for many people of all ages, but most fans have no idea what the origins are of their favorite Disney stories. While most know that things like Snow White and Cinderella are based off of fairy tales, but most don’t realize that every classic animated Disney movie was based off of some other work until the Aristocats in 1970. Some of the novels and short stories that Disney used as source material are still pretty well known, like Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Caroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and the Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling’s book by the same name) but did you know that Bambi was originally Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten and is considered the first environmental novel and a classic? Or that the Black Cauldron was based off of a whole series of books by Lloyd Alexander called The Chronicles of Pyridian. Then of course there’s Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Mary Poppins (all eight of them) by P.L. Travers and the Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix. All of the books were relatively popular and well liked at the time of their publication and are considered classic children’s literature, now most people have never even seen a copy of these books because the Disney Films have overshadowed them. While there’s nothing wrong wtih loving Disney movies or other films based on previous works, I do think we need to look at the repercussions of film taking away credit from the source material in the public memory.

 

The Disney fandom on tumblr is incredibly large, however after looking through tumblr and other sites not many members of this fandom know about the original stories that these popular disney movies draw inspiration from. In some cases that may be good for younger children as many of the stories can be graphic, but as these kids grow older they never learn the origins of these stories or pick up the books that started it all. With this happening, we may end up seeing the Grimm’s tales as well as others, disappear. The Disney fandom on tumblr is an interesting one to look at, they are ready to criticize and analyze all the new movies that come out. While this is good in some cases, in other’s it’s not. Parts of the fandom criticize the graphics while others criticize the story line. Some people even sympathize with the villains, but while the fandom does this they tend to over look what the orginal version of these stories had. It’s pretty common to hear fans complain or point out the graphic nature of the ‘original fairy tales’ but most have never read the original literature, especially the ones that aren’t based off of fairy tales. Because most of the classic princess stories are based off of folklore, many films are misattributed to fairy tales. For instance, The Little Mermaid was an original tale by Hans Christian Anderson not a recorded folk tale like the others that were based off of Grimms Fairy Tales. It’s pretty common for fandoms to jump on board criticizing the movie and other fans for not knowing original fairy tales, but at the same time they may not even be aware of the classic children’s literature that it was based on. The fact that these novels and subsequently their authors are being lost into the ether is in away even more of a shame than the original fairy tales being forgotten because with out the movies these novels may have still been read by children today.

 

Also, the Disney Fandom seems to leave out important characters and overshadow them with the Disney Princesses. For example, if you try to look up Mary Poppins or The Jungle Book in the Disney Fandom on tumblr you will find incredible difference between how many posts and items talk about these stories verses something like Tangled or Beauty and the Beast.  In fact, if you search for Mary Poppins in tumblr’s tags you will get a few things from the original movie and from Saving Mr. Banks, but you will also find many of the disney princesses, and strangely enough the Phantom of the Opera. However, if you wanted to look up Sleeping Beauty, you will get more results where it’s just Princess Aurora.  A theory for the reason why these movies are being over shadowed is because they were not in the “Disney Renaissance Era” which was from the mid 80s to 1999. However, that doesn’t explain some movies like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and many others that came out in that time period didn’t make it as big as the princess movies. In fact there are many lists of Underrated and overshadowed disney movies, most of these lists have the Aristocats, Robin Hood, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Black Cauldron. All of which are being overshadowed by the princesses and are losing their original stories. Without meaning to, we as a people are losing folklore and a culture that no one can restore. This is exactly what the Brothers Grimm and other authors tried so desperately to avoid, they wanted these tales to live on long after their generation and now we are losing them without meaning to.


Another thing to consider is that the fandoms may not know the original story because these stories are not taught in the same way. The Original fairy tales and folklore had meanings as to why people shouldn’t go out into the woods alone or why they shouldn’t only marry for looks or money. While they still hold some of that today, fairy tales and legends were a teaching tool back then today they are just something that children can enjoy and vent their imaginations on. Maybe we should go back to teaching through legends at times, because there are things you can learn from Robin Hood, the Black Cauldron and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like Merida said in the movie Brave, “ Legends are lessons. They ring with truths.”

Why are white boys the “norm”?

It’s no secret that there is a double standard in literature that states that girls can and should relate to boy protagonists in the media they consume but boys should stay away from all things girly. I could go on and on about my opinions on this, but SorayaChemaly gives  every thing that I would like to say on the matter in this thought provoking article. She talks about why this trend is harmful to girls as well as why being forced into over masculinity is harmful to boys and she delves some into the importance of media representation for marginalized groups.

Young Adult Fiction Is Literature

Maybe I’m biased because I’ve spent most of my life reading Young Adult Fiction, but not much has annoyed me more in my academic career than hearing my senior English teacher say that YA books are “beach novels” and that they don’t have enough value to be called real literature. I know many readers and reviewers share my sentiment, that there is no “real literature” there is only literature. Cindy Lou Daniels perfectly gives a perfect argument in this article. She states that both Children’s and Young Adult Literature deserve more in-depth criticism and analysis. While this opinion may not be held by certain English teacher, many reviewers apply these concepts to their reactions to YA novels, such as this review on A Librarians Library of Looking for AlaskaFor many, Looking for Alaska is a very meaningful and emotionally resonant book and dismissing the genre that books like this one are a part of also dismisses the feelings and opinions of the readers, be they young or old. What do you think?

Blog Roll

Maureen Johnson (http://maureenjohnsonbooks.tumblr.com/): Maureen Johnson is a well known Young Adult author who is very present on social media. She’s written novels such as Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, The Name of the Star, and The Key to the Golden Firebird. She is a wide supporter of other YA authors, and she is a facilitator of intelligent discussion about the world of the YA publishing and writing industry. She started the idea for the Coverflip Challenge by noting that many of her male readers have requested that she put ‘less girly covers’ on her books so that they can read them with out being embarrassed.  This has facilitated the discussion about the way books are gendered and how that can effect the perceived quality of a book before it is even read. She is also one of the organizers for LeakyCon, an annual Harry Potter conference which brings multiple online communities together. She has an official blog on her website, but it hasn’t been updated since 2012 and while her Tumblr is some what silly, it also shows that she is active in participating in the community along with fans.

Book Riot (http://bookriot.com/about/): Book Riot is a blog about all kinds of books that is guest authored by all kinds of people, professionals and fans. Many literary types consider Young Adult literature as ‘beach novels’ and not real literature, but Book Riot believes that there is merit and value in all types of literature. They encourage non-traditional, community driven discussion about all kinds of books. Book Riot also practices charity by giving 2% of their revenue to”organizations whose efforts promote social justice in the areas of literacy, health, gender or educational equity”, according to their website their current partner is Girls Write Now.

Flyleaf Review (http://www.flyleafreview.com/): Flyleaf review is run by two women who love to read all types of books, but they particularly enjoy YA. They review and comment on the different books they read. One woman is a mother and the other is an elementary school teacher so they offer the perspective of reading books that are aimed at people they care about. This is valuable for me since I’m still kind of in the target audience for Young Adult Fiction. They also aren’t directly involved with industry in anyway – they’re just reviewing the books because they like it- so their opinions offer a fans perspective while still being intellectual.

A Librarians Library (http://alibrarianslibrary.wordpress.com/about/) A book reviewer of Adult, Young Adult, and Juvenile Fiction. She has been in the book blogging community since 2011 so she is experienced in what she does. Her reviews are really concise and organized well. She offers an official book summary, her rating, as well as her opinions and thoughts on the book she is reviewing. What’s really nice is that she also reviews graphic novels and manga along with more generic types of literature.

Book Blogger Directory (http://bookbloggerdirectory.wordpress.com/): This is a blog that catalogs many different book bloggers. If I can’t find something in the resources I have already collected I can look through the blogs listed on this website. They have an extensive list on YA literature that is broken down into sub-genres.