Coffee Break!

From songs directly about coffee to others with a coffee motif, this mix is for fans of coffee and music. To give credit where it’s due, some of these selections come from Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour program on coffee. The songs range from Emmylou Harris to Prince, Bob Marley to the Boswell Sisters, Lightnin’ Hopkins to Squeeze, Tom Waits to Sylvan Esso. I created the first iteration of this mix five years ago, and have made several versions of it since then. The result, for you, is a 35-song playlist devoted to coffee! So, brew yourself a cup… and have a listen!

“Let’s have another cup of coffee. Let’s have another piece of pie.”
[image from Wikipedia’s “Coffee” entry]

Oh! And one more thing. This broad range of songs about coffee includes some that date back to at least the 1920s — “A Proper Cup of Coffee” is a British music-hall song from that period (though Ana Gasteyer’s recording is from 2014). As a result, you may occasionally encounter a problematic lyric, musical phrase, or vocal delivery. The one that stands out — indeed, the one that prompts this note — is Sinatra’s bizarre “Mexican” accent at the very end of his song about… Brazil. (I included it because it’s a classic coffee song, but jeez, Frank, WTF?) At any rate, of course, do feel free to skip that one — or any other that’s not to your taste.

A few notes on the songs (preceded by the songwriter, in parentheses).

1 (Suzanne Vega). From Solitude Standing (1987). The “actor who had died while he was drinking” is William Holden (1918-1981).

2 (Jim Infantino). From WERS: Live from Emerson College (2000), also appears on noplace like Nowhere (2000).

3 (Frank Loesser). From the 2011 Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961).

4 (Peter Dixon). From Schizophonic! (1996), the band’s second album — or third, if we include the soundtrack to Four Rooms (1995). Combustible Edison would release one more album before breaking up in 1999.

5 (Irving Berlin). Introduced in the Broadway musical Face the Music (1932). This recording — featuring vocals by Marion Hutton, Ernie Caceres and the Modernaires — is from 1942.

6 (Bob Hilliard & Dick Miles). A #6 pop hit in the U.S., in 1946.

7 (Ben Oakland & Milton Drake). A #15 pop hit in the U.S., in 1940.

8 (Patty Larkin). From Step Into the Light (1985), Larkin’s debut.

9 (Hank DeVito & Donivan Cowart). From Old Yellow Moon (2013).

10 (R.P. Weston & Bert Lee). This is an English music-hall song from the 1920s, originally popularized by Ernie Mayne. On Gasteyer’s I’m Hip (2014).

11 (Craig Ventresco). From the Ghost World soundtrack (2005).

12 (Adams & Corelli). Released as the b-side to Scatman Crothers’ “Dearest One” (1955).

13 (John Stiles, J. C. Hill). Released as a single in 1969, and collected on What It Is!: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves, 1967-1977. (If you’re paying close attention, you’ll note that this was also on yesterday’s funk playlist — an inadvertent repeat on my part, but just as enjoyable in this context, I think!)

14 (Prince & Susannah Melvoin). From Prince’s Sign o’ the Times (1987).

15 (Billy Rose, Al Dubin, Joseph Meyer). Carl Stalling (1891-1972), arranger and composer (1936-1958) for the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, often used this tune in scenes featuring cooking, eating, or hunger. The song dates to 1925 (sadly, Spotify lacks Nick Lucas’ 1926 recording), and the Buffalo Bills rendition is on the group’s 1959 album, The Buffalo Bills with Banjo.

16 (Al Dubin & Harry Warren). When asked to name the singer who most influenced her, Ella Fitzgerald always cited Connie Boswell, the sole Boswell sister to have a singing career after the group disbanded in 1936. (This song is from 1933.)

17 (Ray Henderson, Buddy G. DeSylva, Lew Brown). Written in 1928, and recorded by the Nat King Cole Trio in 1946, a year of many hits for the group — “The Frim Fram Sauce,” “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” “(I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons.” (This was not among those hits.)

18 (Danny Overbea). The final hit (#26, 1953) for Ella Mae Morse, a White singer who had hits on both the pop and R&B charts in the 1940s. She’s also one of many who was singing rock-n-roll before rock-n-roll (see also Big Joe Turner, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Louis Jordan, Helen Humes, Wynonie Harris,…).

19 (Glenn Troutman). Don’t let the songwriter’s name fool you: Glen Glenn is the stage name for Glenn Troutman. He recorded this song in 1958.

20 (Lightnin’ Hopkins). First released on Hopkins’ Walkin’ This Road by Myself (1961).

21 (Mississippi John Hurt). Recorded in 1963, this song inspired the band name the Lovin’ Spoonful.

22 (Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook). With backing vocals from Elvis Costello and Paul Young, this was a minor hit from Sweets from a Stranger (1981), also included on Singles — 45’s and Under (1982).

23 (Amelia Meath, Nick Sanborn, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich). Sylvan Esso’s 2014 song incorporates Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Hanky Panky” near the end (hence the Barry & Greenwich credit).

24 (Adam Schlesinger & Chris Collingwood). From Welcome Interstate Managers (2003), a great pop record best known for the hit “Stacy’s Mom.”

25 (Tom T. Hall). The b-side to Dave Dudley’s “What We’re Fighting For,” a #4 hit on the country charts in 1965.

26 (Tom Waits). From Waits’ Nighthawks at the Diner (1975)

27 (Jerry Butler, Eddie Thomas, Jay Walker). From Otis Redding’s The Soul Album (1966).

28 (Shorty Long & Susan Heather). Single from 1956. Note: I don’t think this is the same Shorty Long known for “Function at the Junction.”

29 (Maurice Sigler, Al Goodhart, Al Hoffman). Recorded in 1935.

30 (Robert Marley). Yes, Robert Marley is Bob Marley. He recorded this song in 1962.

31 (Bob Dylan). From Masked and Anonymous: Music from the Motion Picture (2003).

32 (Marty Robbins). A #13 country hit for Frizzell in 1958.

33 (Steve Nelson & Jack Rollins). Single from 1951.

34 (Ron Sexsmith). From Sexsmith & Kerr’s Destination Unknown (2005).

35 (Sonny Burke, Paul Francis Webster). A #13 pop hit for Sarah Vaughan in 1949.


As noted yesterday, I am posting mixes/playlists each day of this week. Return tomorrow for over 100 covers of Beatles songs!

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Overpowered by Funk: (Mostly) Instrumental Grooves, 1967-1975

This is the first in a series of posts intended to elicit delight — specifically, musical delight. What occasions it? 1. There needs to be more joy in the world. 2. Inspired by Ross Gay’s Book of Delights (2019), I am trying to locate delight in the everyday. Music is one of my delights. 3. I have started recreating (as best I can) my iTunes playlists on Spotify.

covers for albums by the Meters, James Brown, and some funk compilations

Created a little over a year ago for a friend who requested a mix of instrumental funk, this playlist ought to lift your spirits. Though I have named it for the 1982 Clash song, the tracks here all date to funk’s first wave — or, at least, what I think of as its first wave. Part of the fun in responding to this request was that it required a bit of research on my part. (I’m interested in all kinds of music, but know funk far less well than other genres.) So,… if you think of any (mostly) wordless early funk instrumentals that should be added here, let me know! Note: the songs have to be on Spotify. (Alas, a few of my original choices were not on Spotify.) Enjoy!

ALSO: for the next week, I will be posting one mix each day, purely for the enjoyment of anyone who would like to listen. Tune in again tomorrow for a new playlist!

What is tomorrow’s theme? Well, since it will be Monday, I thought coffee would be apt. Thus, it will be 35 songs about coffee!

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“The Cat Is Out of the Bag”

At left: Dr. Seuss, from “Four Places Not to Hide While Growing Your Beard” (Life, 15 Nov. 1929). At right: Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat (1957).

As we reconsider the works of Dr. Seuss on what would have been his (well, Theodor Seuss Geisel’s) 115th birthday, I encourage you to take a look at Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens’ “The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books,” just published in Research on Diversity in Youth Literature last month. To give you a sense of the article’s impact, it has been downloaded over 18,000 times (as of this writing) and is mentioned in an NPR story.

I don’t have anything further to add, having written quite a bit on Seuss — including the influence of blackface minstrelsy on the Cat in the Hat. You can find that in the title chapter of Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books (2017), which will be out in paperback on the 29th of this month. The paperback includes a new Afterword on “Why Adults Refuse to Admit Racist Content in the Children’s Books They Love” — in which I read some of the hate mail that the hardcover inspired, with the goal of educating people who are reluctant to reflect on their “problematic faves” from childhood.

Philip Nel, Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books (Oxford UP, July 2017)
Was the Cat in the Hat Black? (paperback out 29 Mar. 2019)

Posts related to Was the Cat in the Hat Black?, including glimpses of the work in progress:


Some previous posts on Seuss

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My Desert Island Discs

Here’s a post that appears today on Kansas State University’s Department of English blog.


Since 1942, the BBC’s Desert Island Discs program has invited guests (known as “castaways”) to divulge which eight recordings they would take, were they stranded on a desert island. Though the BBC program has never asked members of Kansas State University’s English Department, we are nonetheless offering our answers — starting with Philip Nel, University Distinguished Professor & Track Head of the MA in Children’s Literature.

I love this question because it compels you to think about which music is most important to you, and is impossible to answer definitively — my answers change over time. A quick perusal of the BBC’s website indicates that people must choose individual songs (or tracks) rather than full albums.  So, I’m following that example — and including a bonus list of albums.

Listed in chronological order (by date of recording), here are my top eight tracks, assembled in a Spotify playlist (below) and with brief commentary after that.  Enjoy!

  1. The Mills Brothers: “Funiculi Funicula” (1938). I love the joyful emphasis on “fun and frolic” and the Mills Brothers’ harmonies. If you listen to this song, you will feel happier.
  2. Fats Waller, “The Jitterbug Waltz” (1942). An original Waller composition that makes me wonder what other music he would have created had not died the following year (at the age of 39). I think that, after Waller’s early famous work (“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Honeysuckle Rose”), “The Jitterbug Waltz” must be one of his most-performed songs.
  3. Ella Fitzgerald, “Flying Home” (1945). A master class in scat-singing from one of the greatest interpreters of popular music. Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the tune co-written by Benny Goodman, Eddie DeLange, & Lionel Hampton.
  4. The Clash: “Lost in the Supermarket” (1979), in which Mick Jones sings lyrics by Joe Strummer that imagine Jones’ childhood. The verses combine a critique of consumer culture with a bittersweet, reflective nostalgia — creating a song that is both sad and yet buoyant. From London Calling, the band’s greatest album — I would argue. (My colleague Tim Dayton prefers the Clash’s debut. Why not listen to both and decide for yourself?)
  5. Richard Goode: Beethoven’s “Sonata no. 30 in E major, op.109: Tema; Molto cantabile & espressivo; Variazioni I-VI” (recorded 1988; written by Ludwig van Beethoven, 1820/1821). Like my colleague Kim Smith, I’m a devotee of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, and especially fond of the late sonatas. Somewhere in (I think) The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera calls the late sonatas variations on the sonata form itself. Richard Goode’s light touch makes his recordings (for me) the definitive versions — even though, of course, there are many versions and none can claim definitiveness. (Wouldn’t a truly definitive version be performed on a piano forte? The type of piano that Goode plays did not exist in 1820.)
  6. They Might Be Giants: “Birdhouse in Your Soul” (1990). My favorite band has created — and continues to create — so many great songs that it’s hard to choose just one. Sung from the perspective of a blue nightlight shaped like a canary, this song changes key 18 times in its 3 minutes and 20 seconds, and includes such advice as “filibuster vigilantly.” (For more on the magnificence of this song, see Philip Sandifer and S. Alexander Reed’s small book on They Might Be Giants’ Flood — or this article, which is excerpted from the book.)
  7. Mavis Staples: “99 and 1/2” (2007). From the exquisite We’ll Never Turn Back, which is my favorite Mavis Staples album — a record both that hearkens back to her earlier work (as one of the Staple Singers) in the fight for Civil Rights and that pulls that message into the present and the future. The urgency, the activism, and her powerful voice.
  8. Metric: “Now or Never Now” (2018). My favorite song from last year. I love its early New Order sound. Its lyrics convey doubt, reflection, and find vocalist Emily Haines poised at a moment of decision — which, by the song’s conclusion, seem to resolve towards action. It arrives at a qualified optimism that its early verses don’t anticipate. Now or never now? Now.

And departing from the rules a bit, here are nine favorite LPs:

  • Chet Baker, Best of Chet Baker Sings (1989; recorded 1953-1956)
  • Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Ella & Louis Again (1957)
  • Aretha Franklin, 30 Greatest Hits (1985; recorded 1967-1974)
  • The Beatles, The Beatles [White Album] (1968)
  • The Clash, London Calling (1979)
  • Richard Goode, Beethoven: The Late Sonatas (1988)
  • Mavis Staples, We’ll Never Turn Back (2007)
  • They Might Be Giants, Flood (1990)
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson, Orphée (2016)

Philip Nel, Professor

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RESIST! A mix for 2019

NO 45 by Mike Mitchell
NO 45 by Mike Mitchell

To keep our spirits up amidst the cascading catastrophes inflicted by the Russian Asset and his quislings (the GOP), the resistance needs a soundtrack. Here’s my offering for 2019.

And here’s last year’s mix, which is also featured in a post that includes “75 better names for 45,” since there are so many more apt names for the Evil Orange Man.

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Children’s Literature and Comics/Graphic Novels at MLA 2019

MLA 2019 logo

Going to the MLA Convention in Chicago? Here are all the sessions on children and YA literature, and on comics.  Or, at least, this is what I could find.  If I’ve missed anything, please let me know.  Thanks!


012: Comics Fandom in Transition

 12:00 PM–1:15 PM Thursday, Jan 3, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Roosevelt 3

Presentations

1: Fandom as Import and Export in the Digital Age: Dojinshi, Comiket, and Fujoshi around Latin American Boys’ Love

Camila Gutierrez, Penn State U, University Park

2: Hi-Diddly-Ho, Tetsuo! How Bartkira’s Fandom Reimagined and Remixed Akira and The Simpsons

Charles Acheson, U of Florida

3: ‘The Concrete Representation of Our Most Subtle Feelings’: Comics Fandom in the Digital Era

Jaime Weida, Borough of Manhattan Community C, City U of New York

4: The Hybrid Lettercol: Ms. Marvel and #KamalaKorps

Leah Misemer, Georgia Inst. of Tech.

Presider

Aaron Kashtan, U of North Carolina, Charlotte

Sponsored by the GS Forum on Comics and Graphic Narratives


029: Selling Childhood

 12:00 PM–1:15 PM Thursday, Jan 3, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Atlanta

Presentations

1: Pricing Black Girl Pain: The Cost of Black Girlhood in Street Lit

Jacinta Saffold, Assn. of American Colleges and Universities

2: Selling the Ferocious Child: Riot Grrrl’s Radicalization of Consumption

Katherine Kruger, U of Sussex

3: Teenage Writers, Marketplace Consciousness, and the Deregulation of Childhood in the Age of Neoliberalism

David Aitchison, North Central C

Presider

Michelle Ann Abate, Ohio State U, Columbus

Sponsored by the GS Forum on Children’s and Young Adult Literature


076: The Graphic Novel in Spain

 3:30 PM–4:45 PM Thursday, Jan 3, 2019

 Sheraton Grand – Ontario

Presentations

1: Picturing Peripheries: Basque Identities and Blackness in the Graphic Novel Black Is Beltza

N. Michelle Murray, Vanderbilt U

2: Espacios en blanco: Migration, Memory, and Oblivion in Contemporary Spanish Graphic Narrative

Lena Tahmassian, U of South Carolina, Columbia

3: ‘Nobody Expects the Spanish Revolution’: Forms of Politicization in Gran Hotel Abismo (2016), by Marcos Prior and David Rubín

Xavier Dapena, U of Pennsylvania

Presider

H. Rosi Song, Bryn Mawr C


150: Girlhood Teleologies: Age, Sexuality, and Development in the Long American Nineteenth Century

 7:00 PM–8:15 PM Thursday, Jan 3, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Michigan 3

Presentations

1: The Girl in the Contract: Slavery, Consent, and True Girlhood

Lucia Hodgson, Texas A&M U, College Station

2: Settler Discourses of Ability and Reform in The Scarlet Letter

Jessica Cowing, C of William and Mary

3: Perpetual Childhood: Cognitive Disability and the Representation of Childish Women

Allison Giffen, Western Washington U

Related Material: For related material, write to luciahodgson@tamu.edu after 17 Dec.

Presider

Nazera Wright, U of Kentucky

Respondent

Anna Mae Duane, U of Connecticut, Storrs


166: Archives of Images, Archives of Texts: Comics as Sources for Historical Research

 7:00 PM–8:15 PM Thursday, Jan 3, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Randolph 3

Description: Comics studies is a growing interdisciplinary field, largely (although not always) grounded in critical literary techniques. As comics scholarship grows, however, the potential of comics for researchers in other disciplines, history among them, is quickly becoming apparent. Panelists address the variety of ways that scholars can use comics as sources for historical research by showcasing projects that utilize sequential narratives in this way.

Presiders

Joshua Kopin, U of Texas, Austin

Patrick Jagoda, U of Chicago

Speakers

David Carlson, writer

Elizabeth “Biz” Nijdam, Whitman C

Margaret Galvan, U of Florida

Maryanne Rhett, Monmouth U

Rachel Miller, Ohio State U, Columbus


307: Image-Text Encounters in South Asian Graphic Narratives

 1:45 PM–3:00 PM Friday, Jan 4, 2019

 Sheraton Grand – Colorado

Presentations

1: Pulping India in Imperial Britain: Sarath Kumar Ghosh’s Short Fiction

Monika Bhagat-Kennedy, U of Mississippi

2: The Golden Age of Bangla Comics: Narayan Debnath’s Bantul the Great and Handa-Bhonda

Anwesha Maity, U of Wisconsin, Madison

3: Tracing the Creation of an Indigenous Visual Idiom in Amruta Patil’s Adi Parva and Sauptik

Anuja Madan, Kansas State U

4: Graphic Migrations: Stories about Refugees, Gender, and Citizenship

Kavita Daiya, George Washington U

Related Material: For related material, write to amadan@ksu.edu or kdaiya@gwu.edu

Presider

Kavita Daiya, George Washington U


322: Visual Translations of Early Japanese Literary Texts

 3:30 PM–4:45 PM Friday, Jan 4, 2019

 Sheraton Grand – Ohio

Presentations

1: Visualization as Participatory Reception: The Thirty-Six Immortal Waka Poets from Text to Image

Gian Piero Persiani, U of Illinois, Urbana

2: Filling the Empty Center: (Fe)Male Voices in the Manga Comics Afterlives of The Tale of Genji

Lynne Kimiko Miyake, Pomona C

3: Chihayafuru and the Future of the Classics

Lindsey Stirek, Ohio State U, Columbus

Related Material: For related material, visit mla.hcommons.org/groups/japanese-to-1900/after 1 Oct.

Presider

Naomi Fukumori, Ohio State U, Columbus


325: Climate Change and Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

 3:30 PM–4:45 PM Friday, Jan 4, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Atlanta

Presentations

2: Solarpunk: A Growing Trend in Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Jennifer Harrison, East Stroudsburg U

3: Growing Down: Coming of Age in a Time of Climate Crisis

Lauren Rizzuto, Simmons C

Presider

Clare Echterling, U of Kansas

Allied organization: Children’s Literature Association.


410: Fandom Spaces

 8:30 AM–9:45 AM Saturday, Jan 5, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Columbian

Presentations

1: The Leather Pants Phenomenon: Fan Affect and the Rise of Fandom Stars

Sarah Olutola, McMaster U

2: The Curriculum of Fandom: What Are Writers Learning on Wattpad?

Jen McConnel, Queen’s U

3: Professional Spaces for Fan Fiction: Prolonging the YA Series

Carrie Sickmann Han, Indiana U–Purdue U, Indianapolis

Presider

Susan M. Strayer, Ohio State U, Columbus

Sponsored by the GS Forum on Children’s and Young Adult Literature


438: Sesame Street at Fifty

 10:15 AM–11:30 AM Saturday, Jan 5, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Roosevelt 1

Presentations

1: ‘Culture Free’? The Adaptation and Demarcation of Sesame Street in 1970s Europe

Helle Strandgaard Jensen, Aarhus U

2: Tell Me How to Get to Sesa(meme) Street: The Lore and Language of Digitally Street Smart Internet Users

Bonnie Tulloch, U of British Columbia

3: How Sesame Street Saved My Life

Jeane Copenhaver-Johnson, Ithaca C

Presiders

Philip Nel, Kansas State U

Naomi Hamer, Ryerson U



528: Making Comics, Making Meaning

 1:45 PM–3:00 PM Saturday, Jan 5, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Randolph 3

Presentations

1: Epistemologies of Slowness: Teaching Visual Literacy Using Comics

Joshua Kopin, U of Texas, Austin

2: Panel/Page: A Research Drawing Jam

Leah Misemer, Georgia Inst. of Tech.

3: Drawn Words: The Significance of Lettering in the Pedagogy and Work of Kevin Huizenga

Alexander Ponomareff, U of Massachusetts, Amherst

Respondent

Susan E. Kirtley, Portland State U

Presider

Margaret Galvan, U of Florida

Sponsored by the GS Forum on Comics and Graphic Narratives


GS Children’s and Young Adult Literature Forum: Business Meeting

3:30–4:45 PM Saturday, Jan 5, 2019

Hyatt Regency – Burnham


615: Cash Bar Arranged by the Forum GS Comics and Graphic Narratives

 7:15 PM–8:30 PM Saturday, Jan 5, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Plaza Ballroom A


661: Visuality, Race, and Childhood in the Golden Age of American Print Culture

 10:15 AM–11:30 AM Sunday, Jan 6, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Columbus H

Presentations

1: Black Girls’ Nineteenth-Century Autograph Albums

Nazera Wright, U of Kentucky

2: Rainbow Work: Color Sense and Colonial Enchantment in Golden Age Picture Books

Erica Kanesaka Kalnay, U of Wisconsin, Madison

3: Performing Black Childhood: Leigh Richmond Miner’s Photographic Illustrations of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Poems

Katharine Capshaw, U of Connecticut, Storrs

4: A Black Modern Childhood: Illustration and Photography in W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Brownies’ Book

Shawna McDermott, U of Pittsburgh

Presider

Shawna McDermott, U of Pittsburgh


697: Graphic Narratives of Disability as Multisensory Transactions

 12:00 PM–1:15 PM Sunday, Jan 6, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Columbus G

Presentations

1: You Are Not Your Illness: Narrativizing Identity in Disability and Illness Memoirs

Sohini Kumar, Stony Brook U, State U of New York

2: A Visual Cure: Exploring the Role of Drawing in Marion Milner’s The Hands of the Living God: An Account of a Psycho-analytic Treatment

Emilia Halton-Hernandez, U of Sussex

3: Traumatic Narrative Drawing in Jacques Tardi’s ‘Basket Case’

Anthony Cooke, Georgia Southern U


704: Graphic Medicine’s Textual Transactions

 12:00 PM–1:15 PM Sunday, Jan 6, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Toronto

Presentations

1: Graphic Medicine and Patient Education: Using Graphic Narrative to Improve Patient Care

Brian Callender, U of Chicago

2: Subject to or Subject Of: Medicine, Subjectivity, and the Representation of Disability in Una posibilidad entre mil

Elizabeth Jones, U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

3: Multimodal Graphic Medicine and the Material Question of Spoons

Rachel Kunert-Graf, Antioch U

Respondent

Erin Lamb, Hiram C

Presider

Lan Dong, U of Illinois, Springfield

Sponsored by the GS Forum on Comics and Graphic Narratives


722: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Postcolonial Graphic Narrative

 1:45 PM–3:00 PM Sunday, Jan 6, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Gold Coast

Presentations

1: Comic-Chronotope in Postcolonial Graphic Narratives: Contextualizing Clandestine Immigration

Susmitha Udayan, U of New Mexico, Albuquerque

2: Human Rights in the Postcolonial Islamic Graphic Novel

Esra Mirze Santesso, U of Georgia

3: Graphic Narrative and the Aesthetics of Complicity

Muhib Nabulsi, U of Queensland

4: Graphic Narratives, Transnational Aesthetics, and Political Critique in Singapore: Sonny Liew’s Frankie and Poo

Weihsin Gui, U of California, Riverside

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Migration, Refugees, and Diaspora in Children’s Literature (ChLAQ)

Children's Literature Association Quarterly 43.4 (Winter 2018): coverSeparating children from their parents is a violation of basic human rights and does not deter asylum-seekers.  Hostile to facts and compassionate only towards himself, Mr. Trump has pursued this policy with reckless indifference to its consequences.  As of the end of last month (over four months after the court-imposed deadline to reunite these families), over 140 children had still not been reunited with their parents.  And that figure does not include the over 15,000 children locked up in Trump’s child detention centers.

Writing about Migration, Refugees, and Diaspora in Children’s Literature — the theme of this special issue of the Children’s Literature Association Quarterly — will not stop the US government’s (or any other government’s) crimes against humanity. And yet, I edited this special issue, which features smart essays by six sharp scholars: Debra Dudek, Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo, Leyla Savsar, Anastasia Ulanowicz, Maria Rosa Truglio, and Sara Van den Bossche.  Why?  Not because we expect our words to awaken the consciences of those in power — if, indeed, the people who support these policies possess consciences.  We write because we speak as we can, in the venues available to us.  Because all scholarship is, in some measure, a record of the time in which it was written.  Because children’s literature can cultivate empathy.  Because children’s literature can (to borrow Rudine Sims Bishop’s famous term) serve as a mirror to young people who have been displaced — geographically, culturally, emotionally.  Because words and images can change minds.

Or, at least, that is what I believe. As I write in my introduction,

When children’s literature cultivates an empathetic imagination, it can bring people of all ages closer to understanding the displacement felt by migrants, refugees, and those in diasporic communities. Such literature can affirm the experiences of children in those communities, letting them know that they are not alone….

As scholars of children’s literature, we are not, alas, in charge of shaping humane policies for our governments. But we can, to borrow the words of Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, help people to envision “a world without borders as we have known them—a world in which nation-states are not prized or assumed.” We can guide readers to books that harness the imagination’s power to nourish empathy, and we can steer them away from those that reinforce bigotry. Thanks to our professional training, we understand that such work is necessary and complicated: A work’s propagation of prejudice can be both subtle and overt. Art is often ideologically ambivalent, humanizing in some ways and dehumanizing in others. Another thing we can do, then, is to teach people how to spot the difference. Careful, thoughtful readers can resist lies, misinformation, and scapegoating. By helping us develop the necessary critical literacies, the articles in this issue foster these vital skills.

The issue is available via ProjectMuse.  If you are affiliated with an institution that subscribes to Project Muse, please access the articles that way.  Doing so generates revenue for the Children’s Literature Association — an organization of which I am a member.  If you lack access to the issue, I am glad to send you a pdf of my introduction.  Just drop me a line.  (Email address is at right, under “A note on mp3s,” even though I have long since removed mp3s from this blog.)

I’ll conclude with the two autobiographical paragraphs from my introduction:

I proposed this special issue, in part, because I am from a family of immigrants and am the descendant of refugees. The Nels were among those 2 million seventeenth-century French Protestants (Huguenots) whose flight from persecution introduced the word refugee into the English language. Today, my extended family (nuclear family plus cousins, uncles, and aunts) lives in five countries on four continents. We are a migratory group. In migrants, refugees, and the diasporic, I see my own family.

But I also see my family in the people who caused such displacement—from the active Islamophobe who supports a “Muslim ban” to the passive inheritors of White supremacy. I am aware that my being born in the US has everything to do with my parents being White South Africans and not Black South Africans. Their Whiteness granted them access not just to the education that made finding an American job possible, but also to the basic human rights that significantly increased the chances that they would survive and flourish. Indeed, my own flourishing is built upon a range of intersecting structures of oppression.

I’ve written more on this subject elsewhere on this blog — perhaps most directly in “Charleston, Family History, and White Responsibility” (June 2015).  For the past few years, that post has only been available via its archival presence on the Wayback Machine, for reasons explained in the footnote below.*  But there are plenty of other autobiographical posts hosted here, some of which address White Privilege and White Responsibility.

But,… returning to the special issue.  Remember: human rights do not depend upon citizenshipHumanity has no borders.


Thanks to the editorial consultants for this issue: Evelyn Arizpe, Clare Bradford, Ann Gonzalez, Gabrielle Halko, Gillian Lathey, Kerry Mallan, Robyn McCallum, Mavis Reimer, Lara Saguisag, Lee Talley, Jan Van Coillie, Lies Wesseling


Other writing (by me) on this subject:


* My father was furious at me for speaking the truth. In an effort to keep the peace, I deleted the post (though, while writing this post now, have added a link from that post to the Wayback Machine’s archival record). This effort failed; dad stopped speaking to me shortly thereafter. Incidentally, ideas expressed in it emerge in Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books (notably, the end of Chapter 3), but (unlike the original post) do so without identifying specific individuals.

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Fight Stupidity; Keep Reading: A Dispatch from the Internationale Jugendbibliothek (on KSU English blog)

Over at Kansas State University’s English Department blog, I have a post on my three months at the Internationale Jugendbibliothek in Munich.  I’ll excerpt a little bit here (the first paragraph, and the conclusion) but go over there to read the whole thing (and to see more photos).


Since the first of September I have been at the Internationale Jugendbibliothek (IJB) in Munich, Germany. Why? As part of a larger cross-cultural study of diversity in children’s literature, I’m exploring how multiculturalism functions in Germany, via German picture books — chosen in part because they pose the smallest barrier to my limited (but improving!) German, and in part because what we read when we are young can have a profound impact on the adults we become. We read these books when we are still figuring out who we are and what we believe.

*        *        *

Internationale Jugendbibliothek, early November 2018

Founded in 1949, the Internationale Jugendbibliothek does a version of this work in its advocacy for international cultural education, via promoting good books for young readers. Embodying that international spirit, its staff and the fellows who study here come from around the world. During my three months at the IJB, I’ve met — and befriended — people from France, Iran, Japan, Lichtenstein, the Philippines, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Tunisia, Ukraine, and of course Germany.

Getting to know people from around the world has not only expanded my own perspective, but has developed professional relationships and friendships that will last throughout my life.

I will leave you with a phrase I saw on a shoulder-bag in Pasing train station one morning: “Lesen gefährdet die Dummheit,” which means “Reading endangers stupidity.” While combating ignorance does of course depend upon what we read, I nonetheless endorse the optimism of that statement. Fight stupidity. Keep reading.


As I say, this is but an excerpt. So, for the rest, go over to the English Dept. blog to for the rest (plus more photos).

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Context, Privilege, and Pain

Last month, there was some on-line discussion about this quote (from me) in a CNN.com article:

But Nel argues that the answer isn’t simply removing “problematic” children’s classics like Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” which uses the N-word 219 times, from school reading lists.

Such stories, “if used carefully, appropriately and in context can be a way to educate people about racism,” he says.

Teaching problematic children’s classics can allow children of color to critique and disagree with a book, express anger at oppression and find the language to talk about racism while also teaching white children to identify racist ways of thinking and challenge their own racialized assumptions, Nel explains.

My thanks to all who have participated in this conversation, and my apologies for joining it a little late.

Mica Kennedy (@MicaKenBooks on Twitter) embeds the above quotation and then asks, “These texts are inherently damaging — yet somehow, it’s the job of black children to rise above and make this a teaching moment?  I. Think. The. Hell. Not.”

Dr. Debbie Reese (@debreese on Twitter) writes, “This CNN article quoting Philip Nel just makes me angry each time I look at it. Native/Kids of color will do what?!”

In response, Dr. Laura M. Jimenez (@booktoss on Twitter) writes, “There is so much wrong with the paragraph. So, so, so wrong. Mostly, @philnel’s white privilege is visible. Hell, his privilege is having a damn parade!”

These critics helpfully highlight the context absent from that quotation, and I am grateful to them for doing so. While such texts can provide a teaching moment, it is not the job of Black children to (if I may quote Mica Kennedy) “rise above and make this a teaching moment.” I can see how the above quotation might convey that impression, but I emphatically do not recommend a pedagogical practice that relies upon Black, indigenous, and children of color to educate their peers. Thanks to Ms. Kennedy, Dr. Reese, and Dr. Jimenez for their critiques.

This blog post is my attempt to publicly counter the potential harm that may be done if people walk away from the CNN.com article with the wrong impression. I wouldn’t want the excerpted quotation to enable the perpetuation of racist harm in classrooms. For example, let us imagine that a child or parent of color objects to a teacher’s inclusion of Huckleberry Finn or Little House on the Prairie, and this teacher then cites that quotation as justification for his or her argument. Indeed, should that (or something similar to that) happen, please direct the teacher to this blog post. Then, you can tell the teacher, “Actually, no. That is not what he meant at all.”

Philip Nel, Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books (Oxford UP, July 2017)Here’s a little context missing from the CNN.com quotation, but present in Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books (2017). Bowdlerized versions of racist classics aspire to remove the racism but instead re-encode it more subtly. So, if (and only if) one is going to read those books, better to read the un-Bowdlerized versions and to do so in context — in the context of books that offer accurate representations and that debunk the racism.

That said, and as also noted in Was the Cat in the Hat Black?, there are excellent reasons for not teaching or reading such books at all. Here are two paragraphs from Chapter 2 of the book:

Advocates of bowdlerizing or banning these novels correctly point to the powerful role that the original versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Doctor Dolittle have played in dehumanizing people of color. As New York librarian Isabelle Suhl wrote in 1968, “what justification can be found by anyone—and I ask this particularly of those adults who still defend Lofting—to perpetuate the racist Dolittle books? How many more generations of black children must be insulted by them and how many more white children allowed to be infected with their message of white superiority?” Racist texts can inflict real psychic damage on children of all races, but the child who is a member of the targeted group sustains deeper wounds than the child who is not. The racial ideologies of Dahl, Lofting, Travers, and Twain all but ensure that children who are (and have historically been) the targets of prejudice will suffer in ways that White children will not. The White child who encounters the n-word or Prince Bumpo or an Oompa-Loompa has the unearned privilege of not seeing people of her or his race being stereotyped. That said, as Suhl notes, such books damage White children, too, conveying to them that they are more important, and that dominating people of color is acceptable. Prejudice harms different groups in different ways, and its harmful effects are not distributed equally. Even assigning such a text risks reinforcing structural racism.

Indeed, there is a case to be made for removing racist books from grade-school curricula. Julius Lester has admitted that he is “grateful that among the many indignities inflicted on me in childhood, I escaped Huckleberry Finn.” He adds that, “as a black parent,” he sympathizes “with those who want the book banned, or at least removed from required reading lists in schools. While I am opposed to book banning, I know that my children’s education will be enhanced by not reading Huckleberry Finn.” John H. Wallace goes even further, arguing that Huckleberry Finn “should not be used with children. It is permissible to use the original Huckleberry Finn with students in graduate courses of history, English, and social science if one wants to study the perpetuation of racism.” We could develop this line of reasoning further, and argue that the best way to hasten the decline of a racist classic—and thus the racism it may propagate—is not to teach it at all, at any level.

Julius Lester on Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn

The chapter then goes on to explore how racist children’s books — used in context of accurate, anti-racist children’s books — might be pedagogically useful. And it is quite specific in calling out the racism of these novels. For instance, as Jonathan Arac, Julius Lester, and many others have pointed out, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is not the progressive anti-racist classic that it’s promoted as being.

Satire or Evasion: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry FinnFor more on why not to teach Huckleberry Finn, see Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn, edited by James S. Leonard, Thomas A. Tenney, and Thadious M. Davis (1992). The book includes Julius Lester’s “Morality and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and John H. Wallace’s “The Case Against Huck Finn,” both of which I quote above.  See also Jonathan Arac’s Huckleberry Finn as Idol and Target: The Functions of Criticism in Our Time (1997), which addresses how the novel’s “hypercanonization” has obscured its racism.


On the potential dangers that racist literature poses to Black, indigenous, and children of color, see Oyate’s “Living Stories”.


For advice on how to tell whether a book is racist, see Oyate’s “How to Tell the Difference” and “Additional Criteria.”

Racism damages everyone, but inflicts greater pain on its targets. As I say in the CNN.com article, “The stories that children read at a young age tell them who matters and who doesn’t matter, who’s human and who isn’t human. A story doesn’t have to tell us that explicitly. It can tell us that by failing to represent certain groups of people — omission tells us that these groups of people are not important.”

*   *   *   *   *

Thanks to Allie Jane Bruce for alerting me to the existence of this debate. When the CNN article ran, I was (and still am) traveling, and so I noted the appearance of the piece but didn’t have a chance to do more than glance at it.

Goodbye Facebook

As you may or may not have noticed, my use of social media has declined over the past year or so. I check in on Facebook once every couple of weeks. I am still on Twitter, but (with the exception of three days in Atlanta and two in England) have been on Central European Time since the first of August. So, I am sure I’m missing conversations that I should be noticing.

I also don’t fault the CNN piece for lacking the full context. Several reasons. First, the exigencies of news media tend to lose the nuances. Elisions are endemic to the medium. Second, journalism is a tough job: writers have to balance a range of information in a very compact form, and yet manage to sustain a reader’s attention. They also may not have full editorial control. A third reason that this may not be the journalist’s fault at all: I have no recollection of the interview. When the journalist kindly wrote me to say that the piece had been published, I then noted (via our earlier embedded emails at the bottom of the note) that we had talked back in April. So, during our interview, it’s entirely possible that I failed to emphasize the context provided above. If that’s the case, then the fault is entirely mine.

Two more concluding thoughts. First, I should not take for granted that everyone is aware of the unavoidable elisions and compressions of the news media. Over the course of my career, I’ve been interviewed hundreds of times. As a result, I take for granted that the entire arc of one’s argument may not appear in full. However, I recognize that my experience is unusual and so I need to do a better job monitoring — and, in cases like this, responding to — how statements are represented.

Second, and as noted in Was the Cat in the Hat Black?,

While it is impossible to grow up in a racist culture and not absorb some of its messages, it is very easy to be unconscious of what you have absorbed. That is how dominant ideologies work: their messages seep in subtly, persistently, without your noticing. When I was preparing to teach the book in a college class, I picked up Helen Bannerman’s Little Black Sambo for the first time. As I read it, I had the unsettling experience of realizing that I already knew the story. This was not the first time I had encountered Little Black Sambo. Had I read Bannerman’s version? Or perhaps an edition with more grotesque racial caricature, such as John R. Neill’s? What other half-remembered stories (suffused with racial caricature or otherwise) were lurking in my subconscious? As I mentioned in the introduction, only when I reflect upon the racist culture of my childhood—the Gollies, the Uncle Remus stories, Little Black Sambo, the near-absence of narratives featuring people of color—can I begin to contemplate how it shaped my own racial and, yes, racist assumptions about other people. A writer, artist, or critic may not intend to perpetuate stereotypes, but—especially when left unexamined—ideology trumps intention…. [W]ell-intentioned people can still act in ways that reinforce racism, unaware that they are doing so. Since the United States is such a segregated country, White people live in an environment structured to prevent our awareness of race and racism. These geographies and the culture itself make it easy for Whites to avoid reflecting upon our raced selves. All who work in the field of children’s literature and culture need to reflect, and strive to do better.

As the critiques generously provided by Ms. Kennedy, Dr. Reese, Dr. Jimenez and others indicate, I need to do better.  Here are some resources to help all of us do better:

  • American Indians in Children’s Literature, established in 2006. Debbie Reese’s site offers “critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society.”
  • Brown Bookshelf, established in 2007: “A group of authors and illustrators who came together to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers.”
  • CrazyQuiltEdi‘s Diversity Resources, from Edi Campbell.
  • Latinxs in KidLit. As it says, “Exploring the world of Latinx YA, MG, and children’s literature.”
  • Lee & Low Books have many diversity initiatives, including the Diversity Baseline Survey for publishers, its Diversity Gap Studies, and many blog posts on diversity, race, and representation.
  • Oyate’s Resources “that teach respect for Native peoples, and help parents and educators to provide their children with historically accurate, culturally appropriate information about Native peoples.”
  • Reading While White, a group of White librarians pledges to “hold ourselves responsible for understanding how our whiteness impacts our perspectives and our behavior.” They publish thoughtful essays and book reviews, and offer useful resources. As they say, “As White people, we have the responsibility to change the balance of White privilege.”
  • Research on Diversity In Youth Literature, open-access journal edited by Sarah Park Dahlen and Gabrielle Halko.
  • Teaching for Change, founded in 1990, is dedicated to using education to promote social justice. As its website explains, it “provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world.” The organization offers an anti-bias curriculum, resources for teaching about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, recommended books, and ways for parents to get involved.
  • We Need Diverse Books is Ellen Oh, Malinda Lo, and Aisha Saeed’s “grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” It includes resources for writers (including advice, awards, and grants) and readers (on where to find diverse books), and opportunities for you to get involved.

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Harold and the Deluxe Edition

Today (20 Oct. 2018) would be Crockett Johnson’s 112th birthday.  In commemoration of that event, here is the second of two posts for you!  The first was an interview with the author and the publisher of the new satirical book Donald and the Golden Crayon.  The second — below — is a Harold collection featuring an afterword by me!


Harold's Imagination: 3 Adventures with the Purple CrayonJust last month, HarperCollins published three Harold stories at roughly twice their original size in Harold’s Imagination: 3 Adventures with the Purple Crayon.  Which 3?  Well, Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955), of course.  That is followed by Harold’s Fairy Tale (1956), which in turn is followed by the final of the seven Harold books, Harold’s ABC (1963).

And after that,… a brief, illustrated afterword from yours truly.  It includes Crockett Johnson’s first published cartoon, photos of Crockett Johnson, a photo of his nephew Harold Frank (for whom Harold is named), and more!  It’s also my first time writing non-fiction for a younger audience.  I hope you enjoy it!


Harold's Imagination: Afterword (first page)


Harold's Imagination: Afterword


Crockett Johnson birthday posts from previous years

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