By the way, in case it sounds like I was only talking about other people in yesterday’s post, I wasn’t.
Even in the specific subject of writing for kids, I’m as guilty as anyone, though of course I end up crusading against the madness of Kitty Farmer, and in league with the likes of Ms. Pomeroy:
Here’s some proof:
A couple of years ago I collaborated with a colleague of mine (Haeyoung Kim) on a series of educational books titled Reading Street. (I posted about the books when they first came out, here.) One of the artists who contributed to the final book–a talented illustrator named Kim Ok–has posted a whole illustrated story on her blog, which I’ll reproduce here:
I’ll trust my readers can see all of the various ideological strands woven into this mini-portal fantasy, which, when I wrote it, I thought of as my response to Narnia. I’ll also trust my readers to overlook one sentence that seems pretty clunky to me now. (It may not be what I actually wrote. I’m not sure.)
But as for the implicit politics of this text, is not remarkably different from the other fictional narratives I wrote for the series, which featured:
- a genetically-modified spy dog who runs away and joins the circus to avoid being put down, once he is no longer useful to the government;
- a blueberry fairy who learns that the true secret to growing up is to never forget who you are and to fight to resist the world telling you to be someone else;
- a boy and his father who take a cooking class together and wow Mom with their excellent cooking, once they, er, go through the training montage at the cooking school;
- a rural child of mixed Vietnamese and Korean heritage who is bullied in school, is sent to a camp even deeper in the Korea countryside to learn Vietnamese martial arts, and learns that both sides of his heritage deserve acknowledgement and respect, despite what his (racist) Korean schoolmates and teacher seem to think…
I should add that I took great pride in managing to get into print narratives that were so very subversively contrary to the implicitly (or even explicitly) racist, sexist, and xenophobic stuff I’d seen in kid’s books I’d been asked to proofread or edit over the years. And even the non-fiction stuff was solidly science-evangelizing (accurately explaining why there are four seasons, exploring wildly inventive possible future technologies that are currently in development), multi-culturalist (a child learns to respect the !Kung people of the Kalahari, another child learns about Mongolia, and a third child takes a trip across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway), environmentalist (the discussion of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) and so on.
Note the emphasis: I took great pride… this was a form of reward extraneous to the money I was paid to write the book, and even now I have a positive feeling towards the series primarily because of this “achievement.” I, in this, am just as subject to my comments in yesterday’s post as any other children’s author. And even knowing what I have realized about this dynamic, I still feel proud of the work I did on this book, either…
Just thought I’d mention that.
Oh, and by the way, the artist who produced the illustrations above has a website full of great stuff! (Here’s an interesting page, at random.) And, what do you know, she’s done a ton of illustrations for the Crossroads website’s series of Korean SF publications! (There are a few on this page of client works, for example.)
Small world, isn’t it?