Back in April, my buddy Sharon and I went to the local National Consortium for Teaching About Asia weekend workshop, “Graphic Novels and Cultural Authenticity” class about graphic novels, and the Freeman Choice book award winner came to speak, too. It was a wonderful day, with some of my favorite people. All of the books except for Teaching Graphic Novels by Katie Monnin were included in the small admission price. I HAD to buy the Katie Monnin book after I saw the visual graphic organizer (see image) turn my head around about teaching theme.
Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko: Narrative and Translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi, Illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
We watched this TedEd talk, too:
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
The Little Monkey King’s Journey Retold in English and Chinese
Hearing the writer speak about Misuzu Kaneko’s life and her gentle, powerful work haunted me. One caveat: the writer said something about the poet’s life being ‘tragic.’ One woman in the group pointed out that her life was not tragic, but the circumstances surrounding her death were, caused by an abusive husband. (This LitHub article about Sylvia Plath reminded me of this tendency toward dismissing women writers as tropes, swooning victims that one ‘grows out of.’) Kaneko’s life was joyous, creative, powerful and beautiful. Her estranged husband’s behaviors were tragic and awful.
The question of authenticity is framed as “cultural authenticity comprising not only of the absence of stereotypes but also the presence of values consistent with a particular culture and accuracy of cultural and historical details in the text and illustrations” by the NCTA facilitators, and it is through that lens that all teachers may consider when they approach diversity and voice in our classrooms.
For some other graphic novel resources, check these out:
4 thoughts on “Saving Summer: Graphically speaking.”
That is an excellent summary. The only thing I would add is the Monkey King (I think?) character that was so stereotypical. The racial stereotype of the Chinese man/boy. The necessary discussion of why it is OK, how to talk about it and why it was necessary for the story.
I’m not sure something can be “stereotypical” if it is the culture’s own fable/folklore? Man, that would be an interesting thread to pull…
I don’t mean the Monkey King himself. I meant the way the ‘human’ version of the character was portrayed, the slanted eyes, buck teeth, the patois. We, as a group, identified that characterization as racist, and acknowledged that it would be important to explain/understand why he was used. The author talks about it in the video.
The picture book is very well done, though – don’t want to conflate it with a stereotypical depiction.
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