A Note from the Editor
Pamela Sissi Carroll
Eudora Welty, one of the most influential writers of our time, grew up in a home in which reading was constant and natural. Reading was for Welty what we in education would refer to as an "interdisciplinary" pursuit. In One Writer's Beginnings (Harvard UP, 1984), Welty shows us that she was surrounded by the reference books that demonstrated her father's belief "in progress, in the future" (5) and the books of fiction that "stayed on in her [mother's] imagination" (7) from childhood. Welty describes her early interdisciplinary literacy experiences:
I learned from the age of two or three that any room in our house, at any time of day, was there to read in, or to be read to. My mother read to me. She'd read to me in the big bedroom in the mornings, when we were in her rocker together, which ticked in rhythm as we rocked, as though we had a cricket accompanying the story. She'd read to me in the dining room on winter afternoons in front of the coal fire, with our cuckoo clock ending the story with "cuckoo," and at night when I'd got into my own bed. I must have given her no peace.
It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass . . .
Besides the bookcase in the living room, which was always called "the library," there were the encyclopedia tables and dictionary stand under windows in our diningroom. Here to help us grow up arguing around the diningroom table were the Unabridged Webster, the Columbia Encyclopedia, Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, the Lincoln Library of Information, and later the Book of Knowledge. And the year we moved into our new house, there was room to celebrate it with the new 1925 edition of the Britanica, which my father, his face always deliberately turned toward the future, was of course disposed to think better than any previous edition.
There was the set of Stoddard's Lectures, in all its late nineteenth- century vocabulary and vignettes of peasant life and quaint beliefs and customs, with matching halftone illustrations: Vesuvius erupting, Venice by moonlight, gypsies glimpsed by their campfires, I didn't know then the clue they were to my father's longing to see the rest of the world. I read straight through his other love-from-afar: the Victrola World of Opera, with opera after opera in synopsis, with portraits in costume of Melba, Caruso, Galli-Curci, and Geraldine Farrar, some of whose voices we could listen to on our Red Seal records.
My mother read secondarily for information; she sank as a hedonist into novels. She read Dickens in the spirit in which she would have eloped with him.
I believe I'm the only child I know of who grew up with this treasure in the house. (Welty, One Writer's Beginnings, 5-9)
Welty's words provide an eloquent rationale for the focus of the spring issue of The ALAN Review-young adult literature in interdisciplinary contexts. In this issue, we have the opportunity to read about how several contributors have conceived of interdisciplinary instruction that involves young adult books. The issue opens an interview by language arts teacher Debbie Erenberger with Chris Crutcher, the author who, perhaps more than any writer for young people, gives attention to all aspects of the world of today's adolescents. It is followed with an essay in which ALAN Executive Secretary Gary Salvner shares his own story of learning the importance of words. Next are four articles and our Interdisciplinary Connections column; all five pieces directly suggest uses for YAL in interdisciplinary contexts. Maryanne Bednar and Francis Ryan describe their secondary methods course, and how teacher education majors from disparate subject specialties use characters from YAL to develop deeper understandings of, and to question conventional wisdom about, adolescents. Charles Frey shows us how literature can introduce the history of the northeast in his article on Malaeska. Sunya Osborn gives us help in choosing picture books that will balance our classroom shelves. Jim Brewbaker, our enthusiastic Interdisciplinary Connections editor, treats us to a discussion of his Moffettization-a conversion that led him from teaching English in isolation to teaching it as an interdisciplinary subject. Gail Radley discusses issues related to the portrayal of religion in YAL.
Cheryl Dickson takes us into the summer with a critical look at teen romances; Lisa Hale and Chris Crowe present information about changes in adolescent readers' preferences, across time. Laura Lipsett urges us to find ways to include poetry in middle and high school curricula, and provides recommendations for poetry collections that we can add to our YA book shelves. Susan Elkins and John Nicklas present us with books about Jamaica Kincaid and Rudolpho Anaya, both authors who are frequently taught in high schools, but who are not yet recognized as full members of the traditional school canon club, in Kathleen Carico's Professional Connections column. Jeff Kaplan and his team of reviewers introduce us to books that we will want to linger over during the summer months, as we store up reading moments as if they were warm rays of the sun.
Welty states, "Learning stamps you with its moments. Childhood's learning is made up of moments. It isn't steady. It's a pulse" (9). Our classrooms, especially when books are used to spark conversations and expand thoughts across the disciplines, can be filled with the pulse of learning.
A quick personal note: This spring, I have had the pleasure of wishing two leaders in the fields of young adult literature and reading happiness during their retirement: Terry C. Ley-my mentor and guardian angel at Auburn University, and John S. Simmons-my colleague and guide at Florida State University. Each continues to be both anchor and wings for me.
Thank you. Sincerely.
Reference Citation: Carroll, Pamela Sissi. (2001) "A Note from the Editor." The ALAN Review, Volume 28, Number 3, p. 3.