Mariajose’s questions on Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

1. Thomas states “…it was not effective for me as a young African American professor without an Ivy League background and with black, urban, working-class midwestern accent..”, this being said her students did not respect her/ questioned her ability to teach due to this. Put yourself in the shoes of those students, would you as a student if asked to be more open-minded to “diversify” your texts, would you question your professor?

2. Natalie Woodridge asks the following questions: 

“Who is silenced (and heard) here?
Whose interests might best be served by this text?
What ideological positions can you identify?
What are the possible readings of this situation/event/character? How did you get to that reading?
What moral or political position does reading support? How do particular cultural and societal contexts make particular readings available (e.g., who could you not say that to)? How might it be challenged? (qtd. in Botelho and Rudman 4)” 

Do you think all English professors should ask these questions after reading YA text or some form of diverse/controversial reading? 

3. As English critics, how can we decipher YA text/literature with a neutral outlook? Meaning, how can we agree or disagree with the diverse and uncomfortable questions a text may raise? 

Quote 1: “For more than thirty years, annual reports from the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center have revealed deep and persistent inequalities in the number of books for children and young adults featuring characters of color and native characters (“Publishing Statistics”).” (Thomas, 63) 

Quote 2: “Understanding how readers make sense of diversity, difference, and power is a key function of teaching YA literature today.” ( Thomas, 68) 

In the first quote, Thomas brings up the point that YA literature is always changing. Now in the 21 century, POC is finally being included as the main character in YA literature, which is very impacted for the newer generations. But the issue of the number of novels being published to focus on and engage POC readers is still big. POC in novels is usually perceived as a side character or “white-washed” when it comes to YA literature. And if POC is the leading role it’s usually along the lines of the same plot or struggles. YA literature needs to be more inclusive in order for POC to feel that they too can relate to the novel as NON-POC can do regularly. In the second quote, Thomas makes a good point in asking this question. Readers today are divided, either they relate to the novel or they don’t. And when the novel mentions or involves issues such as mental health, racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism it becomes a problem or worse not a problem at all. NON-POC like to say they are aware of the racism and non inclusiveness of POC in YA literature but when it comes to speaking up about feeling empathy or understanding POC discomfort, not a word is said. In order for NON-POC to understand POC’s perspective, it needs to be taught earlier on by English professors. When stories about POC are introduced, it’s usually in a class about urban studies, African studies, Latinos studies, women and gender studies, but never just a regular literature class. The reason I chose both quotes is that they tie hand in hand, without novels that perceive POC in the right matter, then there is no way to teach/ make NON-POC readers understand their struggles.