Cardyn Brooks introduces her new regular book feature with two reviews on the theme of ‘Beneath the Veneer of Otherness’.
Literary Canon Fodder
April 2018: Beneath the Veneer of Otherness
Fish-Boy, An Inuit Folk Tale by Vanita Oelschlager with art by Mike Blanc
Vanita Books 1 May 2018
multicultural children’s fiction
Fish-Boy’s tale feels universal in its broad strokes about an unusual orphan and an unconventional adoptive parent. Their perilous journey is reminiscent of Homer’s The Odyssey and Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (thankfully, minus any problematic racial slurs) in relation to the refuge offered by staying on and in the water versus the risks of coming ashore.
Mike Blanc’s art projects a sense of a frigid panorama filled with dynamic engagement between humans and nature. The unnamed child narrator’s innocence combined with elder Teragloona’s wisdom represent the transfer of family and community lore between generations. The geographical location of straddling the International Date Line places this tale with timeless themes about longing for home, acceptance of others’ differences, hospitality, envy, mob mentality, and responsibility for stewardship of the planet and usage of nature’s resources simultaneously in the present and the past.
Like most of the best children’s books, Fish-Boy, An Inuit Folk Tale is an entertaining jaunt for the imaginations of listeners and readers of all ages. It includes a glossary and a list of discussion topics. Actual reading level range is around third grade (or advanced younger readers?) as influenced by vocabulary and comprehension of layered intellectual concepts.
The definitions of Inuit as indigenous people of northern Canada, parts of Greenland and Alaska; a family of languages; one of three Eskimo-Aleut languages also called Inuktitut dovetails in interesting ways with the mapping of cultural and sociopolitical evolution in The American Nations by Colin Woodward.
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson
Limerence Press (an Oni Press imprint) 12 June 2018
graphic non-fiction gender studies primer
Move over, Lynn Truss and Strunk & White, to make space for the inclusion of A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns as a fundamental grammar reference. Bongiovanni and Jimerson’s use of comics panels is visually inviting and reinforces the overall tone of humor to support respectful exchanges about the connotations between gendered language and identity.
On page 61, “This book is just an intro and we encourage you to do more in-depth reading,” perfectly summarizes its focus on initiating conversation and further study. With reference charts, amusing roll-playing scenarios, and short scripts for starting non-combative discussions, Bongiovanni and Jimerson introduce readers to the basics of gender neutrality and non-binary pronoun usage. A few judiciously placed revelations about the personal pain of being misgendered stand out in their poignancy in contrast to the lighthearted approach to this necessary acknowledgement.
Hold Me in Courtney Milan’s Cyclone series and July 2017 conversations between Sara Haines and “Younger” star Nico Tortorella with young people on U.S. talk show “The View” make it clear that gender neutrality is a significant component in the mainstreaming of diversity. Gender neutrality feels like a more accurate way to confer respect to individuals who are routinely marginalized, as compared to assigning masculine pronouns as the ultimate compliment. For example, in J.D. Robb’s In Death series Lt. Eve Dallas as “sir” for her leadership authority rather than as an indication of her gender identity, and the same for the female NYC police captain in the final seasons of the now cancelled U.S. television series Castle.
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns encapsulates the idea that language is dynamic. It’s a continuum that evolves and expands with input from social, political, and technological changes. Incorporating they/them and ze/hir pronouns is more inclusive than the well-intentioned s/he from years ago.
How many more years (generations, centuries) will it take for humans to recognize our shared equal intrinsic value beneath all of the labels we project onto each other? We’ll see.
Here’s a list of suggested resources from A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns:
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