The Research ConnectionPamela "Sissi" Carroll
The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
Dancing with YA Lit: Review of a Year's Work
1. Quality , with critical eyes toward what is available to and popular among adolescent readers;
2. Opinions , with receptive ears to other readers' views and assessments as well as their own responses to YA books;
3. Literary Appreciation , with regard for students' differing places on the continuum of reading enjoyment and reading success;
4. Variety , with awareness of students' varied backgrounds, levels of sophistication, needs, and interests;
5. Use , with respect for students' different reasons for coming to YA literature;
6. Availability , with devotion to making books accessible to teen readers and to providing time for reading, discussing, and enjoying those books.
I would like to cut in on Don's dance toward 2004 for a moment, here at the midpoint, halfway between the 1984 publication date of his preview and the 2004 target. I will interrupt only long enough to consider the research on young adult literature that has been published in the past year or so, using the six concerns Gallo named as a framework for highlighting a sample of the year's studies. After we find out where we stand now, I will step back in line with others who are interested in young adult literature and sashay with them on toward the 21st century.
It is no surprise that teachers, whose major occupational hazard is the time crunch, balk at the suggestion that we must stay current on publications in the genre. Luckily, we do not have to read each new book ourselves in order to narrow the field of books we will include for whole class or group instruction, as recommendations for individualized reading, or classroom libraries. There are several dependable sources in which recommended young adult books are listed; these sources are easy to use, and they should be available to teachers through school libraries, professional memberships in organizations like NCTE and ALAN, and in journals that are subscribed to by individuals, public and school libraries. Lists of recommended books that have been published within the past academic year or so include these:
* Six times a year, English Journal features the column , Books for the Teenage Reader , edited by John and Kay Bushman . The column usually presents new YA books according to a theme. The October, 1993, column is entitled "Diversity in Young-Adult Literature: Ethnic, Cultural, and National" (80-82) . In this column, the Bushmans review 11 books, including fiction, a nonfiction look at the Holocaust, a collection of short stories and poems by Asian-American writers, and a biography.
* The January, 1994, Books for the Teenage Reader column is entitled "The Tradition Continues: New Releases from Well-Known Authors." Bushman and Bushman review works published in 1993 by a veritable Who's Who of YA Authors. Books by these authors are included: Chris Crutcher, Sue Ellen Bridgers, Sandy Asher, M.E. Kerr, Gary Paulsen, Norma Fox Mazer, Lois Lowry, Ann Rinaldi, and Robert Lipsyte. The books reviewed in this particular column would be a good starter set for a classroom library.
* The February, 1994, Books for the Teenage Reader column, "Young-Adult Literature: A Good Mix," leaves the thematic scheme in order to review a collection of 11 new releases that range from Will Hobbs' Beardance , the sequel to Bearstone , to books that deal frankly with death, to a 64-page collection of Paul Janeczko's own poetry.
* Twice a year since 1987, English Journal has also featured a column called Paperback Books for the Teenage Reader , edited by Terry C. Ley . This column is aimed at introducing to teachers and librarians the books that teens are likely to purchase, the books they are likely to carry in their back pockets to read in snatches of time, to share with their friends, to enjoy. Like the companion column in which hardback books are reviewed, Ley's paperback review column is usually organized around a theme. The November, 1993, Paperback Books for the Teenage Reader presents, "Under Stress: Teenagers and their Fictional Counterparts," in which 20 recently-published paperbacks for adolescents are reviewed. The books include nonfiction about teen depression, a biography of a Black inventor, novels with protagonists who are experiencing their own physical, emotional, and social changes, and a short story collection that focuses on high school friends with their share of serious problems. Unlike the Bushmans' column, the paperback reviews are written by a team of "guest reviewers" who are secondary teachers of English, language arts teachers, or teacher educators.
* In the March, 1994, Paperback Books for the Teenage Reader , Ley draws on the title of Gary Paulsen's newest novel, " The Monument : Art Emerges From the Filth of War," for a thematic tie-in. The majority of the 20 books reviewed have strong protagonists who make "bold decisions" and leave readers with "something worthwhile to think about and whose personal growth will give readers something to which they can aspire" (90).
* One of the most popular sources of book recommendations is The ALAN Review itself. Like the "guest reviewers" in the English Journal paperback column, reviews for the ALAN Review "Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks" section are provided by teachers and teacher educators. The Clip and File section was originally printed on one side of thick-paged inserts so that readers could easily cut out the reviews and transfer them to their own card files. However, the editors have recently polled readers to find that few actually cut up their issues of the journal; nowadays, the reviews are printed on both sides of the pages, leaving more space for other YA articles in the journal. It is not uncommon to find recently published YA literature reviewed in both English Journal and The ALAN Review .
Recommended reading lists are published in other sources as well; teachers of adolescents and teacher educators will want to be familiar with these sources, in addition to The ALAN Review and English Journal , both of which are products of the National Council of Teachers of English and are highlighted throughout this article: Journal of Youth Services in Libraries ( JYSL ), Voice of Youth Advocates ( VOYA ) , School Library Journal (SLJ), SIGNAL, Multicultural Education ( ME), and Teaching Tolerance (TT). ME, published by the National Association for Multicultural Education, has just celebrated the end of its first year; TT, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center and distributed to teachers without charge twice yearly, has recently celebrated its third birthday .
Highlights from VOYA include the June, 1993, annotated list of "Best Historical Fiction for Young Adults, 1990-1992" (p. 80), compiled by Davi Evans , and the April, 1994, annotated list, "Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror" (pp. 7-16) , compiled by editors Dorothy Broderick and Mary K. Chelton . This helpful list of science fiction, fantasy, and fiction books published in 1992 and 1993 is divided into sections for middle school/junior high readers and more sophisticated readers. "Books in the Middle: Outstanding Books of '94 for the Middle School Reader," by S. Manczuk and R. Barber , appears in the June, 1994 VOYA (pp. 71-72). The annotation lists popular and high-quality books that have been published in 1993 or early 1994; Manczuk and Barber contend that the 30 books on their list will "spark discussion" and serve as "good candidates to booktalk or recommend to teachers looking for whole language resources" (pp. 71-72). This collection of annotated books is multicultural and multiethnic.
A highlight in the JYSL is the spring, 1994, list entitled "Teen Scene: A Booklist of Young Adult Issues" (pp. 307-311) , compiled by Linda Ward Callaghan . This annotated list was prepared with help from the Stratford Teen Women's Support Group; its focus is nonfiction books that help teens deal with issues as diverse as diet fads and sexually transmitted diseases.
Each fall , the SLJ publishes an extensive annual list of books recommended by guest reviewers. The list is organized around fiction and nonfiction in each of these categories: preschool-primary, grades 3-6, junior high and up, children's books in Spanish, and adult books for young adults. Because of its scope, this is a valuable section for teachers to add to their files.
SIGNAL is the journal of the Special Interest Group on Adolescent Literature within the International Reading Association. A wide range of fiction and nonfiction is reviewed in each issue.
Multicultural Education sets aside a section for multicultural reviews of fiction, nonfiction, educational resources, motion pictures, and newspapers; an example is found on pages 27-38 of the winter, 1993 issue, where titles range from "Introducing Students to Multicultural Literature Through Short Stories: A Thief in the Village and Other Stories of Jamaica by James Berry and Somehow Tenderness Survives: Stories of Southern Africa, edited by Hazel Rochman" ( Carroll, pp. 27-28 ) to "Life Through the Eyes of Women: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Danzon by Maria Novaro" ( Columbi, p. 31 ). The reviews of novels, teaching texts, and motion pictures are written by guest reviewers; G. Pritchy Smith is editor for a column called Multicultural Resources.
In a section called "Teaching Tools," multicultural and multiethnic fiction, like Helen Swanson's Angel of Rainbow Gulch, set in Hawaii and filled with Hawaiian dialect, nonfiction, and resource books for teachers, such as Smithsonian Resource Guide for Teachers , are compiled by Jim Carnes and recommended by Teaching Tolerance. An example of this section is on pages 34-41 of the spring, 1994, issue. The works recommended for student reading are for varied grade levels, with the appropriate level identified; recommendations in Teaching Tolerance include publishers' telephone numbers and addresses.
So, Don Gallo , it seems that the quality of young adult literature is being monitored by those with the good of readers, authors, and the genre in mind. Reviews of recommended books, often presented by category or theme or topic, abound. Teachers can use these lists to guide them in decisions about books that belong in their classroom libraries and in their students' hands. In "Twenty-five Years of Research in Young Adult Literature: Past Perspectives and Future Directions" ( JYSL , fall, 1993, pp. 65-73), which is the first progress report on their massive examination and accumulation of research in the field that has been published since the publication of S. E. Hinton's groundbreaking The Outsiders, Elizabeth Poe, Barbara Samuels, and Betty Carter insist on the following: "While vital to the field, book lists are all too often seen as compilations of subjective recommendations, when in fact they are the product of rigorous selection policies" (p. 67). Lists of recommended YA literature serve us well as barometers of the quality of what is being published within the genre.
In the 1984 article, Gallo reminds us that judgments of literary quality are, by their nature, subjective -- that what one reader or teacher considers top-notch, another will dismiss as drivel. Although as teachers most of us have confidence in our decisions about what we like as readers, we know that our tastes may not be reflected in the tastes of our students. I learned this lesson the year that I had to digest a full menu of science fiction novels; I discovered early in the year that the eighth graders I was teaching were sci-fi junkies. I had purposely avoided that category of fiction in my own reading and, except for occasional glimpses at Star Trek on television, knew little about it. But because my students wanted to read and discuss contemporary science fiction, I realized that I would be reading and discussing it, too. I borrowed a strategy from one of my teacher friends: students became the science fiction experts. I purchased books for the classroom library based on their suggestions and their critiques of authors and specific titles. As is true with adult literature, there are some undeniably horrid books published for adolescent readers. As a teacher and reader with more experience than those teenagers, I exercised my option not to read some of their choices. Teachers' opinions matter and should be valued. However, teachers need to check their own responses to and evaluations of books periodically, especially, perhaps, for categories of books that are not their personal favorites. And when we know that we simply cannot stomach a book that is in a category that we detest as readers, we should be honest with our students about that gap in our reading interests and experience.
Research in young adult literature during the 1993-1994 academic year has provided help in the area of opinions about YA literature. In "Literary Merit and the Adolescent Novel," ( The ALAN Review , fall, 1993, pp. 51-56) J. Michael Reed and Jeanne M. Gerlach present a research-based model that teachers can use to evaluate the literary merit of popular YA novels. For the study, Reed and Gerlach surveyed prospective or practicing teachers of English/language arts. The survey asked them to rate 32 popular YA books. The survey was adapted from Stephen Dunning's 1962 Likert survey device; it required respondents to answer questions that deal with three primary variables: (1) the book's artistic quality, (2) whether or not the book is more appropriate for high school or middle grades readers, and (3) its appropriateness for a particular grade level, in terms of reading interests of students at that level. Their evaluations of the books were analyzed by two one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) and the Newman-Keuls Test of Sources of Effects to determine actual differences in the ways the novels, all of which are popular among adolescent readers, were rated by the adults. Even without conducting the statistical tests, teachers could use Reed and Gerlach's adaptation of Dunning's' rating scale for young adult books in order to identify the quality and appropriateness for books that they are considering for use in their classrooms.
Alleen Pace Nilsen's "That Was Then...This is Now: Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of the YA Problem Novel" ( School Library Journal , April, 1994, pp. 30-33) is an important document that encourages teachers to look at current YA literature as a product and reflection of contemporary society. In this article, which is based on her address at the November, 1993, ALAN Workshop in Pittsburgh, Nilsen outlines changes in the nature and topics of problem novels that have occurred during the past twenty-five years. She urges teachers to tune their ears and eyes to the worlds that today's teens inhabit -- worlds in which the voices of Oprah, Phil Donohue, Sally Jessy Raphel, and others uncover the "ooze in the news" (p. 31) to assure teens that they are not the only ones with extreme problems. Nilsen recommends that we pay attention to the experiments that are currently popular among successful writers of YA books. She predicts that we will see more nonfiction on one hand, and more gallows humor in YA fiction, on the other. Her assessment is that "authors are being forced to work harder to involve their readers' emotions" as a result of the fact that we now live "in a global village" where we are "privy to so many people's problems that we simply don't have the energy to empathize with all those we hear about" (p. 33). Nilsen also tracks the progress of several successful writers of realistic fiction for adolescents to find that many are "branching out" (p. 32). She cites Bruce Brooks as an example of a writer who established himself as a writer of realistic fiction and then surprised his following with a sci-fi story, a collection of essays, and nonfiction books on animal behavior.
Books may be more important now than ever, because books alone may be able to balance the media's choreographed portrayals of people's problems on talk shows -- portrayals that start with the public announcement of a personal problem, progress with advice and questions from strangers in an audience, and end without resolution, within an hour, before the closing credits appear for the television show. Nilsen helps teachers find new ways to think about and evaluate YA books in the context of a new generation of teenagers.
One category of YA literature that has drawn attention this year has been multiethnic and multicultural literature. As the offerings of literature written by and about minorities in America, and people from around the world, increase, demands that teachers become acquainted with these works also increase. This is a sensitive area for many reasons. Some teachers feel that the traditional canon should not be modified to admit works by authors from underrepresented cultures; others have challenged standards within their communities by introducing controversial new (or rarely taught) works from minority writers alongside the canon classics. There seems to be at least one common thread among most teachers in regard to multiethnic and multicultural literature: confusion.
This year, two particularly fine articles have been published; the writers of both address the increased availability of minority literature and examine the trend with critical eyes. The first is Lyn Miller-Lachmann's "Multicultural Publishing: The Folktale Flood" ( School Library Journal , February, 1994, pp. 35-36) . The second, "Is That Book Politically Correct? Truth and Trends in Historical Literature for Young People" ( Journal of Youth Services in Libraries , winter, 1994, pp. 159-175), is co-written by an editor, Hazel Rochman ; a teacher educator, Masha Kabakow Rudman ; and a writer, Diane Stanley . Miller-Lachmann acknowledges the many fine collections of folktales that have emerged in the past couple of years, but admits that she is a bit wary. She quotes Scholastic editor Phoebe Yeh's explanation that folktales are "`the safest way to publish multicultural literature'" (p. 35), and adds that "people tend to take the authenticity of a folktale for granted, while authenticity must constantly be proven for a contemporary story, particularly if it has been written by someone outside that culture" (p. 35). Miller-Lachmann warns that students who are introduced to other cultures solely through folktales get an "incomplete and distorted" (p. 35) picture of those cultures. She notes that folktales characteristically overemphasize rural settings, highlight the exotic features of cultures without bringing attention to the similarities they may have with other cultures, and require that readers know when to separate fantastic from factual explanations. She contends that readers who are unfamiliar with another culture have no way of knowing when and how to separate fantasy from fact in the folktales of that culture; thus, stereotypes and misunderstandings actually may be perpetuated through the reading of folktales. Her advice to teachers is to balance folktales with contemporary stories in order to place traditional and contemporary perspectives in appropriate contexts. Rochman, Rudman, and Stanley present their perspectives about current historic literature within the context of the recent "political correctness" (PC) movement. Rochman , who grew up as a white child in apartheid South Africa, is a soft-spoken yet powerful advocate for international and minority literature. Her Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World (1993, American Library Association) is destined to become a reference book that middle and high school teachers keep on their desks. Yet in her book Rochman also warns teachers that there are traps for those who approach multicultural literature as a means of promoting understanding and unity. She lists the following as "common pitfalls in the PC debate" (p. 162) that she has fallen into at one time or another, pitfalls that teachers must avoid: (1) the tendency to "take what the narrator says or what one character sees as the view of the author" (p. 162), a perspective that robs the book of the ability to have "a protagonist who has an ugly or erroneous thought, never have a narrator who is less than perfect -- perfect, that is, according to prevailing fashion" (p. 162); (2) the tendency to "ask for anachronism, historical inaccuracy, demanding that a nineteenth-century pioneer child have contemporary PC attitudes" (p. 162); and (3) the tendency to believe that each oppressed ethnic group is "beautiful, wise, proud, and strong" (p. 163). She recommends that we not think of one book as capable of presenting an entire culture to the reader, and explains, "Reading is a private experience, but it makes immigrants of us all. That's why the best books break down apartheid. They surprise -- not with reverential role models and literal recipes, not with consciousness-raising messages, but with enthralling stories that make us imagine the lives of others" (pp. 163-164). Masha K. Rudman, an educator, questions what contemporary historical literature presents as "truth." She insists that Political Correctness is "an insulting term, cleverly coined in order to make a manipulative political statement and to provide an automatic put-down" (p. 165). She urges teachers to use literature to help students understand that "ascribing characteristics to an individual solely because of membership in a group is unfair and dehumanizing" (p. 166), and suggests that one way to reach this goal is to have them read young adult books that challenge assumptions, books that "blast any one-sided conventional notion" (p. 167) of beauty, value, goodness, war, and so on. Rudman contends that "Becoming immersed in a variety of literature prepares young people to become open to differing ideas and ways of looking at the world" (p. 167). This is a contention that needs to be tested in the coming years. Writer Diane Stanley claims, on the other hand, that the PC movement has had a positive impact on the way history is being written, because it "asks us to take a second look at the record, not only at what has long been accepted as fact, but also at the traditional interpretation of those facts, and to try to correct the record for bias" (p. 173). She warns, however, that in our efforts to correct historical explanations, we must not create "new myths and falsifications" (p. 173); we must not, for example, assign late 20th-century values to the men who emerged as leaders during the birth of our nation. Stanley admits that, despite its contributions, the PC movement causes publishers and writers to be "doubly careful for fear of being somehow misunderstood," a fear that leads to the stifling effect of self-censorship (pp. 172-173). Stanley recommends that teachers seek historical literature by authors who are committed to writing accounts that are well-supported by facts, set in historically-accurate contexts, and told well. Young adult literature of 1994 demands that teachers continue to form their own opinions in order to make choices for their students -- for readers involved in whole class, group, and individual reading and study. However, Don gallo , life continues to get more complex for teachers as we swing toward the 21st century. The burden on teachers seems to be growing; now we must consider not only the needs of students whose reading interests are different from our own (like my 8th grade sci-fi junkies); we must also consider the needs of students whose cultural and even linguistic backgrounds are unfamiliar to us. It is essential that we learn to listen to and draw on others' responses to, and opinions about, the literature we choose to promote among our students. Often, our best informants will be the students in our classes; sometimes, we will also need to turn to experts, like Hazel Rochman, and seek their advice. We will demonstrate wisdom when we admit that we do not have every answer ourselves. Literary Appreciation
Gallo , in his 1984 article, refers to G. Robert Carlsen's 1974 chart of readers' progression toward literary appreciation. According to Carlsen, readers first experience texts at the stage of Unconscious Delight, then move through Vicarious Experience during early grades, Seeing Oneself during middle grades, to Philosophical Speculation and Aesthetic experience as older students and adults. Gallo suggests that, despite changes in the books that are popular among adolescents, the progression from Vicarious to Aesthetic Experience is likely to remain relatively stable. While teachers can consult lists of recommended books in order to find popular and well-written books, they will need to study their own students in order to make appropriate choices based on students' places along the reading enjoyment continuum. As Poe, Samuels, and Carter (1993) suggest, studies that consider the relationship between "adolescent developmental tasks or identity" and "the literature young adults are reading" (p. 70) are important for informing the choices of books that we require our students to read. Such studies are widely varied. For example, some examine the influence on age of readers; others examine the role of gender (see Poe et al. , p. 70 ). Another example is an Austrian dissertation in which the researcher considers the penetration of the Anglo-American influence into the literature of three popular Chicano writers, Rudolpho Anaya , Thomas Rivera, and Rolando Hinojosa. (This dissertation was, interestingly, written in German by Irene Emma Schaefer at the Universitaet Salzburg, Austria.)
During the past academic year, two works that focus, in one way or another, on the reader's place on a continuum of literary appreciation, have caught my eye. One is a dissertation by Pamela M. Mayers, "Experiencing a Novel: The Thoughts, Feelings, and Motivation of Adolescent Readers" (1993, National Louis University) . This is a study of how 24 eighth-grade readers' personalities and moods influenced their transactions with a text, Good Night, Mr. Tom. The study supports Rosenblatt's theories about the aesthetic literary experience.
Another is a study by Frances A. Dowd and Dawn Haden . Their research is developed around an interesting integration of psychological theory and analyses of literary characters in "Kohlberg's Moral Development Stages in Young Adults' Choices in Novels" ( Journal of Youth Services in Libraries , winter, 1994, pp. 177-190). Kohlberg's theory of moral development posits that we move through "invariant and irreversible" precon-ventional, conventional, and postcon-ventional stages of moral reasoning." We begin, in the preconventional stage, with a simple understanding of the difference between right and wrong. At the conventional level, we make decisions based on what rules and laws dictate as correct and proper. At the postconventional level, we have the potential to base decisions on "moral values and principles that have validity and application apart from the authority of groups or persons holding these principles, and apart from an in-dividual's own identification with these groups" (p. 178). The impetus to progress from one stage to the next comes from "cognitive disequilibrium" that occurs when our typical processes for making moral choices work for us. Dowd and Haden apply Kohlberg's stages to protagonists in 25 realistic YA novels that were selected from lists of Young Adults' Choices books, 1987-1990. These books, they reasoned, are popular among adolescents; they hoped to discover whether the popularity of the books was due, at least in part, to the similarity between characters' levels of moral development and the readers' levels. The researchers conclude that the fictional characters employ reasoning similar to reasoning used by adolescents to solve similar problems, and that "young adults are evidently attracted to their moral personifications in print" (p. 186). Dowd and Haden suggest that further research may use YA literature as a vehicle for examining whether or not the concept of moral development is the same for males and females.
Other articles that increase our understanding of how students become engaged with reading are found in the fall, 1993 special issue of Connecticut English Journal, a theme issue titled Literature for Teenagers: New Books, New Approaches; this edition is edited, not surprisingly, by our Don Gallo . The sixth of nine sections of this exceptional collection of 37 articles about YA literature, written by teacher educators and young adult authors, is "Insights from Authors Who Write for Young Adults." In this section, writers including Susan Beth Pfeffer, Harry Mazer, Gloria Miklowitz, Frances A Miller, T. Ernesto Bethancout, Joan Lowery Nixon, and Sandy Asher contribute chapters about readers' progression toward literary appreciation. The authors certainly have an interest in meeting readers at different points along the continuum; their comments do seem to avoid what Poe, Samuels, and Carter (1993) warn against in articles written about YA lit by authors of YA lit: "a danger...that opinion pieces can become an open forum that encourages authors to go beyond their expertise to discuss concerns such as adolescent psychology, readers' advisory, teaching methodology, reading motivation, and library programming" (p. 66). (This edition of CEJ can be purchased through the Connecticut Council of Teachers of English for $12.95 a copy.) Following are the other section headings: What's Good and Why?, Making Reading More Rewarding for Students (and Teachers), Books on Special Themes, The Need for Multicultural Literature, Studies of Individual Authors, Book Talking, Book Reviewing, and Book Awards, and Informational Resources for Students. I plan to assign it as required reading for undergraduate and graduate students as they study young adult literature in 1994 and 1995. Variety In the paragraphs above, I have indirectly pointed to the variety that characterizes young adult literature in 1994. Clearly, unless economic or curricular constraints prohibit the use of popular young adult literature, teachers in 1994 and after should have no trouble introducing our students to the variety that Don Gallo called for in 1984: "variety of types of books as well as variety of levels of sophistication -- to meet divergent needs and varying interests of the heterogeneity of students" (pp. 32-33). There are several sources of research that point more directly to the scope of issues related to the teaching and reading of YA literature. This body of work can be explored through publications that fall into at least five categories.
One category under the Variety topic that was popular among this year's publications is War Literature . In "Young Adult Literature and the Vietnam War" ( English Journal, September, 1993, pp. 43-49 ) Larry Johannessen classifies four types of adolescent literature that have emerged in response to the Vietnam War: (1) works that deal with the experience of the war or combat narratives, (2) works that focus on the war from the home perspective, (3) works that focus on the refugee experience, and (4) works that focus on the legacies of the war, especially children of those who were grew up during the Vietnam War. Johannessen's goal is to have students read this literature so that they will not see war as a "vague abstraction, a Ramboesque shoot-'em-up adventure...but rather a very real possibility, with consequences that they had never before imagined" (pp. 48-49).
In response to Johannessen's recommendation, Perry Oldham writes "Some Further Thoughts on Teaching Vietnam Literature" ( English Journal , December, 1993, pp. 65-67) . In this article, Oldham claims that teaching war literature to seniors was a mistake. Oldham's goal was to "deglamorize the war" (p. 65) for his students, but his students enjoyed the grissly battle scenes of the personal narratives they read; he found that they were drawn to the demoralized, "bitterly disillusioned" (p. 65) protagonists of the film version of Platoon (1986). Oldman seems to feel culpable in nurturing students' "longings to project themselves into fantasies of combat" (p. 67) despite his goal of enabling students to "see beyond the superficial -- and profound -- appeals of war to its ineffable costs" (67). Author Patricia Lee Gauch gives us a different slant on War Literature in "Why Writers Write of War: Looking into the Eye of Historical Fiction" ( The ALAN Review , fall, 1993, pp. 12-16). A friend's question about why she writes about war rather than peace, leads Gauch to consider her motives. She concludes that "in fiction we understand the human being under pressure, under seige, the human being forced to see. Like Oedipus in a Greek play, the hero may not win, but he sees. And his life, her life, will not be the same after the seeing" (p. 16). Historical fiction is important to Gauch because of its ability to tie us to the "historical continuum, assurance of a past, and assurance of a future"; historical fiction provides "the basic assurance that supports our life and our behavior" (p. 16).
A second category of Variety is African-American Literature for Young Adults . In "The Emerging Self: Young Adult and Classic Literature of the Black Experience" ( English Journal , September, 1993, pp. 50-54), Ann O. Gebhard discusses how the works of Rosa Guy, Alice Childress, and Walter Dean Myers are thematically tied to the art of their predecessors, Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ann Petry. Gebhard recommends teaching these works because they "may help students fully understand the powerful influence of culture on the formation of identity in the African-American experience and in all human experience" (p. 54).
Kay Vandergrift compares poetry to adolescence, both of which are "filled with impossible questions, wonder, experimentation, playfulness, intense sensations, and emotional extremes" (p. 30) in "And Bid Her Sing: The Poetry of African-American Women" ( School Library Journal , February, 1994, pp. 30-34 ). She confronts the important question of whether or not readers can comprehend literary works outside of their own cultural contexts, and insists that it is literature that offers us the opportunity to "get closer to those whose lives are unlike our own and find points of commonality within the human spirit" (p. 31). Vandergriff brings special attention to the explosive poetry of the contemporary poet, Ntozake Shange, whose choreopoem, "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow isn't enuf" has gained enthusiastic approval among older adolescent readers.
A dissertation that may be helpful to teachers as they seek ways to incorporate literature by African Americans into their classes is "An Analysis of Myth in Selected Fiction of Virginia Hamilton," by Margaret Bernice Bristow (1992, University of Virginia). This study indicates that Hamilton incorporates traditional African and Greek myths into her fiction, and that her later novels become more Afrocentric in the use of myth than her earlier novels. A third category of Variety which has emerged to catch my attention in this year's publications is Series for Adolescents . Cosette Kies' "EEEK! They Just Keep Coming! YA Horror Series" ( VOYA , April, 1994, pp. 17-20) is an enlightening article for those who have read few books from the current crop of horror series. Kies names the series that are the most popular among teen readers, lists characteristics of YA horror novels, and differentiates between horror books and thrillers. She also notes that many successful writers of YA fiction have begun adding horror books to their publication vitas -- using pseudonyms. An example is Todd Strasser, who writes horror books as T. S. Rue. The deception does not end with the author's identity. Kies points out that Z-Fave/Zebra publishers have started fan clubs for their horror book writers; in publicity information sent to young applicants to the fan clubs, Rue/Strasser's identity remains veiled. The fan is not told that Rue/Strasser has published many works under another name. Kies does not seem to be a strong advocate of horror series; she admits that most of the books are hurriedly written and are not terrific literature, but she also admits that horror series have one feature in their favor -- teens read them. Silk Makowski discusses not only horror series, but romances, too, in "Serious about Series: Selection Criteria for a Neglected Genre" ( Voice of Youth Advocates , February, 1994, pp. 349-351). She argues that teachers and librarians should recognize series for what they are, "a genre unto themselves...built for the long haul" (p. 349). Makowski lists characteristics of successful series in terms of plot, characters, and continuity, and suggests justifications for including romance and thriller series in classroom and school libraries. Her article is more positive in tone and treatment than is Kies assessment of horror series; perhaps Makowski's broader subject matter is the reason. Films and Young Adult Literature is a fourth category that indicates Variety. Harold Foster contrasts the film market and the book market for young adults in "Film and the Young Adult Novel ( The ALAN Review , spring, 1994, pp. 14-17). Film makers have several advantages in the adolescent market, according to Foster , including these: viewers do not have to be able to read; films receive more word-of-mouth recommendations than do books, which are most often introduced by teachers; in films, there are fewer limits on what can be done, in terms of treatment of subjects, than in books that may have to be marketed to school libraries in order to be financially successful. Foster examines the movie adaptations of Hinton's The Outsiders and Cormier's The Chocolate War and rules in favor of the written text in both cases. Nevertheless, he contends that the time is right for "strong, intelligent movies about and for teens" (p. 16) and that teachers should take advantage of the films that become popular among our students in order to urge teens into "questioning and pondering what they saw, what they felt, and what they believe" (p. 17). Richard Fehlman supports the call for teachers to incorporate film study in their classrooms in "Teaching Film in the 1990s," ( English Journal , January, 1994, pp. 39-46). Fehlman argues that students' responses to films are "related to their place -- `situatedness' -- within a particular culture" (p. 40) and that we need to help students view more critically in order to examine the connections between their lives the world in which they find themselves. Lawrence Baines, in a 1993 dissertation, "Aspects of Language in Literature and Films," (University of Texas-Austin) examines the differences in vocabulary and sentence structure in three commonly-taught novels, Of Mice and Men , Wuthering Heights, and To Kill a Mockingbird . His conclusions suggest that print versions use more sophisticated vocabulary and syntax; teachers can consider these aspects when they preview film versions of adolescent novels, and can take advantage of the differences in vocabulary and syntax when pairing novels with films.
For teachers who are interested in adding films to their curricula, there are two recent lists that are quite usable. One is "1993: Award Winning Films and Videos," compiled by Phyllis L. Mandell ( School Library Journal , April, 1994, pp. 60-70 ). The annotated list, which is arranged broadly by subject matter, provides information on the grades for which the films and videos are appropriate, the awards each film or video has received, and distributors' addresses. The other is by Alan Teasley and Ann Wilder , who suggest criteria for selecting teachable films, and then provide readers with a 50-item "filmography" (p. 20), an annotated list of recommended films for the classroom in "Teaching for Visual Literacy: 50 Great Young Adult Films" ( The ALAN Review , spring, 1994, pp. 18-23).
A fifth category is Author Studies . An example of Author Studies is the 1993 dissertation, "Becoming a Modern Hero: The Search for Identity in Cynthia Voigt's Novels," by Suzanne E. Reid ( Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University ). In this study, Reid employs the format of the Twayne Series of Young Adult Writers to analyze Voigt's novels in terms of plots, themes, and characters' motivations. Teachers may choose to read this study in order to find various ways of using Voigt's -- and other YA writers' -- novels in the classroom.
The sixth and final category that I will include under the Variety heading is Magazines for Young Adults . The sheer number of magazines for teenagers -- and the specialized subjects of these new magazines -- is the biggest surprises that have caught my eye while reviewing what is popular among today's adolescent readers. My introduction was provided by Patrick Jones in "A to Z and In-Between: New Magazines for Young Adults," ( Voice of Youth Advocates , February, 1994, pp. 352-358) . Although its primary audience is public librarians, this article is a "must read" for teachers of English and language arts. Jones carefully explains the relationship of demographics and community standards to the kinds of teen magazines that prove popular among a community's teens. He then reviews magazines that speak primarily to female teens, including older magazines such as Teen, Seventeen, and Sassy , and new ones. New magazines include Tell , which promises to include serious, emotional articles as well as fashion, beauty, and entertainment stories from an international perspective, and Quake , which seems to be the antithesis of Tell , because "there is nothing serious, weighty, or emotional about it" (p. 353). Next, Jones discusses magazines aimed at male readers, featuring Dirt and Inside Edge . Each of these focuses on "fashion, personalities, and lifestyle" (p. 353); however, Inside Edge , published by two Harvard students, deals more with the party scene for males who are older than most high school students. There are several specialized magazines for males. One example is Warp , a magazine about surfing, snow boarding, and skateboarding that also features music, especially alternative and rap music. Many specialty magazines focus on music. Quake is just one of several that claims to be the "`print version of MTV.'" Vibe, on the other hand, is vying for the title as the hip-hop version of Rolling Stone. A magazine I would not be overjoyed to see in the hands of an eighth grader is Nerve; this music magazine uses street language and vows to "make rock n roll sordid again...[to] corrupt the youth of America...to make them think" (p. 353). Indeed. Other music magazines, in contrast, offer Christian perspectives; Brio is published with female teens in mind, and Breakaway is a counterpart for males. Some Christian magazines are direct in their treatment of religion, while others are similar to other teen magazines, only cleaner. Other specialty magazines that Jones discusses and reviews include magazines for technology buffs, video game players, comic book aficionados, sports enthusiasts, and science fiction fans. Jones also presents information on literary magazines for teens. One popular example is Merlyn's Pen , which has recently reinvented itself; it is now two magazines -- one for 7th through 10th graders, and the other for 9th through 12th graders. The overlap of grades 9 and 10 is seen by Jones as a strength.
Finally, Jones admits that the tabloids read by adults are also popular among teen readers; he recommends Weekly World News as the "best bet" for adolescent readers "because of its sheer outrageousness" and "very funny humor" (p. 357). This informative article has found a solid place in my file of teaching materials. Mark Vogel and Anna Creadik write, in "Family Values and the New Adolescent Novel," ( English Journal , September, 1993, pp. 37-42 ), that "Pivotal recent novels reveal a new breed of adolescent -- one who adapts, survives, and sometimes even thrives in this chaotic society. These adolescents are wily, self-sufficient, and remarkably aware of the world around them" (p. 37). These are the adolescents for whom the new magazines are intended; instead of ignoring the popularity of these disposable publications, we need to aquaint ourselves with them. Perhaps through these magazines we will learn more about the students with whom we interact every school day.
Teachers of these adolescents, and the parents, as well, will also want to keep handy a copy of Joan Kaywell's Adolescents at Risk: A Guide to Fiction and Nonfiction for Young Adults, Parents, and Professionals (1993) . This book annotates 900 titles for young adults according to themes associated with youth risk factors such as alienation and identity, divorced and single parents, abuse, eating disorders, and so on.
No, Don Gallo , we have no need to worry that YA literature will become too narrow a genre in the future. The challenge will continue to be, I suppose, to convince those with money for schools and education that YA lit does belong in classrooms across all middle and secondary grade levels, and to help teachers, librarians, and parents find better ways to get the plethora of materials into the hands of readers with varied abilities and interests.
Don Gallo recommends, in his 1984 article, that we encourage the reading of YA books "because there are a number of exciting, insightful, memorable books worth reading for the experiences they offer" and names several popular books "whose quality and appeal will not fade with the passing of time" (p. 33). It is incumbent on teachers to find ways to help students discover those books that will, for them, be meaningful. In "Merry Christmas, Jeffery Kaplan: A Review of Adolescent Novels about Contemporary Judaism," ( The ALAN Review , fall, 1993, pp. 18-25) , Kaplan articulates this need. He recommends novels that may help students -- especially those in minority groups -- deal with the alienation they feel by virtue of their outsider status. The books he recommends may be able to help adolescent readers bridge their differences and progress toward "shared understanding and compassion" (p. 25).
Another means of using young adult literature to build students' self-esteem and sense of connection with their worlds is presented in "The Anchor Dat Keeps um From Driftin': The Responses of African American Fourth and Fifth Graders to African American Literature," a 1993 dissertation by Elizabeth A. Smith (The Ohio State University). Smith found that the students in her study selected, requested repeatedly, and had culture-specific responses to African American literature. She recommends that classroom teachers become more responsive to "culturally specific connections to texts" and that they become more aware of the importance of including literature from many cultures in their classrooms in order to enhance the learning of children. Another 1993 dissertation, "Taking Time, Making Meaning: How Teachers and Students Make Meaning Using Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, " by Barbara A. Sands (University of Wisconsin-Madison) is a study of the extent to which a teacher's meaning becomes students' interpretations of texts. The study, conducted in a large urban, a small urban, and a surburban middle school, offers insights for teachers, especially those interested in classroom applications of reader response theories. The Spring 1994 issue of The ALAN Review offers several articles that deal with using adolescent literature as a vehicle for helping students learn about themselves and their world include these:
Another fruitful source of articles that suggest ways to use YA literature in the classroom is the Fall 1993 issue of Arizona English Bulletin , edited by Ken Donelson . Within the 83 pages of this issue, 18 articles, ranging from Karlene Edwards' "Fathers and Sons in Young Adult Literature" (pp. 3-8) to Ann Elizabeth Burns' "Humor Du Jour: A Look at Robert Newton Peck's Use of Humor in the Soup Series" (pp. 38-40) discuss contemporary authors, works, and issues in young adult literature.
Reading Their World: The Young Adult Novel in the Classroom (1992, Boynton) by Virginia Monseau and Gary Salvner was the first fruit of a rich crop of books about young adult literature that are written for teachers and teacher educators. The past year or so has seen the publication of three textbooks for teachers, each of which is an authoritative reference on young adult literature -- its background, its writers, its characteristics, its places in classrooms. Each of these, like Monseau and Salvner's work, will provide a newcomer with a solid introduction to the genre, and substantive ideas for incorporating YA literature into middle and secondary classrooms, and will offer those of us who are already advocates of YA literature more justification for our promotion of the genre:
Also helpful will be Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics, II , edited by Joan Kaywell and due to be released by Christopher Gordon in November, 1994. In this sequel to the 1993 edition, teachers and teacher educators pair classic literature with one or several young adult works in order to suggest teaching possibilities. This book promises to be one that teachers will keep on their desks, beside their lesson plan books.
Availability, Time, and Talk
This is the final area of concern that Don Gallo outlined in 1984. Implicit in all that is written above is my conviction that teachers should make YA literature available to students -- available for whole class instruction, for small group reading projects, for individualized reading assignments, and for fun. Implicit, too, is the importance of letting students find their own connections to the literature they read, to respond in ways that are meaningful and important to them. As teachers, we can provide the atmosphere that promotes reading of young adult literature; we can encourage students to read particular books and think of specific issues and themes; but, ultimately, we must give students responsibility for their responses to literature. We must ease away from the center of our classrooms and listen as students talk to each other and to us about their literary experiences.
Unfortunately, censors and would-be censors find YA literature a tasty treat. Before spending money on building a classroom library of YA works, teachers will be wise to read the Winter, 1993, issue of The ALAN Review, guest edited by John S. Simmons . This issue is devoted to the issues of censorship as they relate to teaching and particularly to teaching young adult literature. Simmons , former chair of the NCTE Commission Against Censorship, has collected articles that give advice for teachers about how to respond to challenges, the look of the current socio-political landscape, and suggestions for promoting the freedom to read. We have to use sound judgment, Don Gallo , when we incorporate contemporary YA lit into our lesson plans, but we are finding valuable ways to use it, and so long as writers publish YA works that have high artistic merit as well as relevance to our students' lives, we will continue to be able to justify our choices.
Back to the Future
Now, Don Gallo , let us look together toward the future. Researchers are currently engaged in designing and conducting studies that focus on important issues related to the way we will use young adult literature in the years to come. A few examples of which I am aware are these:
* Jean Brown and Elaine Stephens , at Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan, are currently working with two experienced teachers to learn about and incorporate multicultural YA lit into the teachers' classes. They are considering external (institutional and community) and internal (instructional and classroom) factors that will influence the teachers' plans, and that can enhance or impede change in teachers' attitudes and practices.
* Gail Gregg, at Florida International University, Miami, Florida, is designing and implementing a cross-age tutoring program in which high-risk high school readers will learn to read young adult books, then work as tutors with younger adolescents who are also unskilled readers to teach the YA books to them.
* J. Lea Smith, at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, has recently gathered data about the presentation of female protagonists in recent YA novels, and is seeking to identify strands that may predict future trends in the treatment of females in YA literature.
* Sandra Krickeberg, at the Indian Prairie Community School District in Naperville, Illinios, has recently analyzed data she collected after sending out 1,000 surveys to secondary teachers. The surveys asked teachers to respond to questions about how they stay informed about YA literature, what they see as strengths and weaknesses of the genre, and which topics in YA books they feel are too controversial to be discussed in classroom situations.
I am currently trying to make sense of the way predominantly white pre-service teachers at Florida State University deal with the task of teaching YA novels by and about African Americans to groups of students who are predominantly African American.
Gallo concludes the 1984 article with the hopes that romance series like the "Wildfire" and "Sweet Dreams" books will be "buried and forgotten" (p. 34), that writers like V. C. Andrews will learn "to write without cliches" (p. 34) and that YA literature will find its way into more classrooms in the future. Sorry, Don, but the best we have done so far is fulfill one of three of your wishes: since 1984, YA literature has found its way into the hands of more readers, into the plans of more teachers, into the focus of more researchers. We have a cause for celebration and hope for the next ten years. We have a reason to confidently do-si-do into the future. Works Cited
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