The Alan Review | Winter 2015
Contributed to CBC Diversity by Wendy J. Glenn
In the Fall 2014 issue of The ALAN Review, the peer-reviewed journal of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN), contributors were invited to share their experiences, challenges, hesitations, and successes in using or promoting young adult literature that features characters and/or authors of color.
Statistics suggest that, by 2019, approximately 49% of students enrolled in U.S. public schools will be Latina/o, Black, Asian/Pacific Island, or American Indian (Hussar & Bailey, 2011). However, the field has been increasingly criticized for not reflecting these demographics in the literature published for young adult readers. For readers of color, this can result in a sense of disconnect between lived reality and what is described on the page. For readers from the dominant culture, this can result in a limited perception of reality and affirmation of a singular way of knowing and doing and being. For all readers, exposure to a variety of ethnically unfamiliar literature can encourage critical reading of text and world, recognition of the limitations of depending upon mainstream depictions of people and their experiences, and the building of background knowledge and expansion of worldview.
Consider the experiences of the late Walter Dean Myers: “All the authors I studied, all the historical figures, with the exception of George Washington Carver, and all those figures I looked upon as having importance were white men. I didn’t mind that they were men, or even white men. What I did mind was that being white seemed to play so important a part in the assigning of values” (Bad Boy: A Memoir). And ponder Jacqueline Woodson’s words, “Someday somebody’s going to come along and knock this old fence down” (The Other Side).
The current issue of The ALAN Review addresses what educators and librarians have done (or might do) to give that fence a nudge.
Wendy J. Glenn is Associate Professor in the Neag School of Education where she teaches courses in the theories and methods of teaching literature, writing, and language. She is the former President of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English (ALAN) and current Senior Editor of the organization’s peer-review journal, The ALAN Review.