Autumn Book Series 2013
  • The Still Point of the Turning World
    The Still Point of the Turning World
    by Emily Rapp

    October

  • Lift
    Lift
    by Kelly Corrigan

    November

Community
Publications

 

Friday
Nov022012

Birth and Death

 

We wanted to share with everyone that Tina Clark (who guided us through Suzanne Arms' book, Immaculate Deception II in September) welcomed her beautiful baby boy (Jonathan) into the world via home/waterbirth on October 18, 2012 surrounded by her tribe. She was brave and vulnerable, strong and beautiful, inspiring and graceful. 

 

We also wanted to share that Gabrielle Roth, raven mama, urban shaman and founder of 5Rhythms movement meditation, spread her wings and now dances in another dimension. She was brave and vulnerable, strong and beautiful, inspiring and graceful. 

What is dying and being born in you?

Wednesday
Oct312012

Who Dies?

The third and final read in our autumn book series is Who Dies by Stephen and Ondrea Levine. This month poet and modern shaman Tracy Brooks will guide us to contemplate and explore intentional grieving and the essential human themes of birth, death and rebirth. 

Monday
Oct292012

Inspiration from the Global Village

“I don't know," he said softly. "I look into the future and I don't see anything else. It's like it's this big blank space where I should be.” 
---Jacqueline Woodson, If you come softly

 

How soon will we accept this opportunity to be fully alive before we die?

---Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to live this year as if it were your last

Friday
Oct262012

Film Friday: Multiracial Voices

 

 

Wednesday
Oct242012

Multiethnic characters in children’s and YA novels

Jacqueline Woodson’s beautiful If You Come Softly, the novel we have been reading together here at 3 Sisters Village this October, is a modern day interpretation of Shakespeare’s most famous play, a romance between an African American Romeo and a white Jewish Juliet. Simultaneously, it is an exploration of race and racism in modern day U.S. society.  (see previous posts here and here for further discussion of issues of race and representation in the novel)

At first glance, this set up -- of Black and White ‘star crossed lovers’ -- suggests a country whose racial profile is necessarily one of fixed, distinct categories. People who are Black or White, this or that.  Yet, as a country whose very President is multi- and not mono-ethnic, modern day America is increasingly a place of multiple ethnic heritages rather than singular ones. 

In Woodson’s novel, it is the character of Carlton, Jeremiah’s Mercutio, who represents multi-ethnic identity. Carlton’s mother is white and father is Black, and he is the one to whom Jeremiah turns when he realizes he is falling in love with Ellie. Carlton is, in a sense, the moral touchstone to Jeremiah and Ellie’s romance, who realizes that interracial relationships “happen” and “ain’t the worst thing in the world.” (89) And although he’s a minor character, without him, the novel would suffer from a sense of racial anachronism. Carlton’s presence reminds the reader that multi-ethnic families and multi-ethnic characters are a reality in our vibrant society. And while couples like Jeremiah and Ellie may still face racist challenges from family, friends, and even strangers, they are no longer a complete anomaly in our ever-shrinking world. 

And now that I’ve been looking around, I’m realizing that multi-ethnic characters are popping up everywhere in children’s and YA literature. So I thought that I would suggest a few other titles with multi-ethnic characters and call out to you, the readers, to share with us some of your favorites. 

In Veera Hiranandani’s The Whole Story of Half a Girl, the primary character is Sonia Nadhamuni, a half Indian and half Jewish American girl. As the title suggests, this novel deals with multi-ethnic identity in a fairly explicit way.  

Yet, in other YA novels, such as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, characters simply ‘happen to be’ multi-ethnic, such as Mara, who also has an Indian American mother and a white father.   

And then there’s the fantastic middle grade novels of Lisa Yee, like Bobby vs. Girls, (accidentally) novels about the fantastic character Bobby Ellis-Chan – a character with a Chinese American mother and white (ex-football player!) father. 

Or how about debut novelist Mike Jung, whose Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities includes characters such as Polly Winnicott-Lee, a girl with multiple identities in more ways than one (she’s a secret superhero and multi-ethnic!). 

Then there’s Tofu and T. Rex by Greg Leitich Smith, the story of militant vegan Frederika Mulchison-Kowalski, and her travails with her Japanese-Polish-German-American (and carnivorous) cousin Hans Peter. 

I’m sure there are many more such books with multi-ethnic characters, and I would love to hear about some of your favorites. I suppose the other questions left to ask are: are these books including multi-ethnic identity in a meaningful way? Are the various cultural heritages of these characters adequately represented? Or are such characters stripped of their rich ethnic particularity – in other words, are the novels simply giving a nod to inclusion/multiculturalism without a real acknowledgement of the rich joys and complexities of being multi-ethnic? Alternately, is multiple ethnic identity dealt with as too much of a ‘problem’?

Novels – particularly novels written for children and young adults – are a part of how we as individual readers and we as members of a society understand our present selves and imagine our future worlds. Multi-ethnic characters are a critical part of this present and future, and I’m delighted to see them coming to life in such vibrant children’s and YA novels.

*****

 

Sayantani DasGupta is a physican and writer, originally trained in pediatrics and public health, currently a faculty member in the master’s program in narrative medicine at Columbia University and the graduate program in Health Advocacy at Sarah Lawrence College. She teaches courses on illness and disability memoir, and narrative, health and social justice. Sayantani’s scholarly work in the field of feminist health science studies, most recently looking at transnational surrogacy, what’s been called the Indian ‘wombs for rent’ phenomenon. She is a widely published and nationally recognized speaker on issues of narrative, health care, race, gender and medical education. She is the co-author of The Demon Slayers and Other Stories: Bengali Folktales, the author of a memoir about her education at Johns Hopkins, and the co-editor of an award winning collection of women’s illness narratives Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write their Bodies.