Back to Stacy. She is a frequent contributor to Dr. Bickmore's YA Wednesday with three previous posts: (2015, December, 30). Reflections on Jack Gantos’ Dead End in Norvelt, Love It or List It, and Place Loyalty, Graber, S. (2016, Aug, 3) Engaging Students as Curriculum Designers: Reflections on an Insight Session at the 2016, YSU English Festival, and (May 16, 2017) "Let's Play a Game: 5 of..." . Stacy never fails to push my thinking. She has a knack for connecting YA to pop culture and film. Once again, she has me rethinking about book that I know and love. Let Stacy give you something to think about during your break.
Perhaps. Yet, in this case, I think exhaustion did me imaginative good because, upon returning to that classic story of friendship, father-daughter conflict, and loss, I saw purgatory.
I do not think it diminishes the depth of kid-lit to say that a book does and does not sound like something written for children, but rather reinforces its complexity. For instance, the same argument might be made for Creech’s (1994) Walk Two Moons, which comes as close to rendering the lonely, interior lives of female characters as Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) or To the Lighthouse (1927). What I am saying is that, upon returning to Winn-Dixie, it attests to “strange matters,” not easily recognizable or reconcilable.
What is going on here? Before you cleave too comfortably to the saccharine old, redemptive power of friendship and community theme that seems to have satisfied reviewers, think about this additional, micro-act of repetition: Opal returns to Gloria Dump, ostensibly, the only person of color in the book, and reads her the first two chapters from—of all things--Gone With the Wind (recommended by the librarian, Miss Franny). You don’t have to be James Loewen to know that’s bad news, considering the controversy surrounding Mitchell’s (1936) offensive stereotyping and romanticization of slavery. Although we learn that Gloria enjoys hearing of the soap-operatic doings of pampered Scarlett, surely Ms. Dump would have no patience for the racial epithets, the bigoted portrayal of Mammy and Jeems, and the absurd characterization of Gerald O’Hara as a “tender-hearted” slaveholder. Related to that, one of my students reminded our class of Miss Franny’s disdain for the “wild men” and “wild women” (possibly a pejorative reference to the Seminoles) who tried to enter her library back in Floridian history (DiCamillo, 2000). At first the connection seemed puzzling, but Loewen (1995) writes that the Seminole Wars were fueled by “the Seminoles’ refusal to surrender their African American members,” and that the Everglades were pursued not for their worth, but as a means “to eliminate a refuge for runaway slaves” (p. 151). At that point, I started to wonder whether the purgatorial town of Naomi, Florida was a sort of allegorical critique of the nation’s failure to attain racial equality.
Stacy Graber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next week.