Young Adult Literature in Australia

While the U.S. is a hot spot for entertainment and the Young Adult Literature market is successful, with Hollywood adaptations being made from dozens of different Young Adult books, Australia is boasting of similar success. The first of Australian YA stars is Melbourne’s Amie Kaufman, she has published in thirty different countries and her newest book, Gemina, is selling by the thousands (Johnson). However, there has been an issue that because of how successful America is, that when an Australian author publishes a book, it usually has to do well in America before the success travels back to Australia. Nicole Armanno, an education sales account manager for the third largest bookstore in Australia says that “it’s kind of embarrassing…that Australian YA books still need overseas success before Australia catches up, but that’s how it is” (Johnson). This unfortunate situation that Australian YA authors are in is what started the #LoveOzYA which fights to keep the literature local. The Australian Library and Information Association announced that “eight out of the 10 most borrowed YA books from ­Australian libraries for the first quarter of the year were American” (Johnson). Of the top books doing well in Australia the majority of them are American. But there has been momentum in Australia’s favor as Danielle Binks pointed out that Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, has been marketed as a bestseller (Johnson). While America is the hub for entertainment in the world right now, Australia is on the rise with dedicated authors who care about their work, and care about seeing success locally. They desire that their books impact Australian adolescents and spark in them a love for local literature. America may be on top but they’re not going anywhere. Who knows, maybe in a decade or two American books will have to go through Australia before they’re big.

Works Cited

Johnson, S. (2017, November 23). Business is booming for Australia’s young adult fiction authors. Retrieved from https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/qweekend/business-is-booming-for-australias-young-adult-fiction-authors/news-story/

On the Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe Road is a fictional road inside the city of Jellicoe, Australia. The road is home to a boarding school, the home of Hannah Schroeder, and the 7/11 that Taylor Markham’s mom left her at when she was only eleven years old. When Taylor was left by her mom it was Hannah that picked her up and took her in as her own. Throughout the next few years Taylor is suffering through the pain of losing her mom, while also asking the questions, where did she go? And could I possibly find her? Taylor is not the only character in this novel to suffer through a severe tragedy; Taylor’s mom loses her husband, suffers from a drug addiction, and battles cancer; Hannah lost her brother to a hunting accident; there was a car accident in the beginning where multiple characters lost loved ones. This young adult novel by Melina Marchetta is riddled with searing loss, pain, but just a little bit of hope.

Starting with the tragedy that is Taylor. This is the only book from the semester that deals with orphanage. Taylor doesn’t understand why her mom left her, and doesn’t understand why Hannah, her only guardian, keeps her at an arm’s distance. Hannah’s house was never finished, which warranted Taylor saying that “Hannah’s house has been unfinished ever since I can remember. Deep down I think that’s always been a comfort to me, because people don’t leave unfinished houses” (Marchetta 22). She was scared that Hannah might not truly care about her. As far as she knows she’s expendable, if her mom left why couldn’t Hannah?? It was a comfort that the house wasn’t finished because in her mind it meant that Hannah wasn’t going anywhere. Later in the novel Taylor develops a relationship with Jonah Briggs, leader of the cadets, a group from a military school that trains in Jellicoe for a few weeks every year. There were parts of Jonah’s life that made Taylor’s look like a fantasy. His father was abusive to him and his siblings and it one day led to Jonah beating his dad in the hat with a bat, leaving him dead. This leads him to a life of guilt. “I loved him, you know” (Marchetta 179), he tells Taylor. It seems that the intense pain that both of them have suffered leads to their attraction to each other. They share a common tragedy that brings them together and eventually in search of Taylor’s mother. Jonah has an intense dream about his father that causes him to go home, leaving Taylor. Again she is left and feels disposable, causing her to despise Jonah.

This novel proves to be plenty of heartache and pain. It was hard to read as someone who hasn’t experienced anything like the book, so I can only imagine the impact it has on kids that see themselves in this story. However, it shows that there is something special in having people around you struggling in the same ways. Having people who understand you and care for you proves to be a source of healing. On the Jellicoe Road talks a lot about the search for a family, but not just a blood family, but others that Taylor can belong to. The language used makes it easy to put on the shoes of the characters and feel how they feel. “These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I’m thinking” (Marchetta 201). The word crave is repeated here. She doesn’t just want someone knowing her well, she needs it. This is what drives her on her journey to find her mother. She craves it.

There are satisfying points to this narrative, Taylor does eventually reunite with her mother. As mentioned before there was an accident concerning some character in the book. This is where Taylor’s mom lost her parents and her little sister. It is also where she met the brother sister combo, Webb and Hannah. She ended up marrying Webb but after he was accidentally killed she couldn’t handle the pain. She got hooked on drugs and decided she was no longer fit to be a mother, and asked Hannah to take care of Taylor for her. Hannah agreed to take her in and also agreed to not tell Taylor the truth of what happened to protect her. This seems counterproductive as it caused a lot or hurt for Tylor, but when her mom was on her deathbed she was brought to meet her. Taylor gets to have a sigh of relief but it doesn’t undermine the amount of pain she experienced through her life. The book has a promising theme of even through the hardest times, it is important to have those around you who love you.

Works Cited

Marchetta, M. (2009). On the Jellicoe Road. Australia: Penguin Australia.

Apartheid

Apartheid is a form of institutionalized racism that was prevalent in South Africa during the mid to late 20th century (Inggs 5). However, what happened after apartheid? Was it one and done? As we’ve seen in America, changing laws doesn’t eliminate racism completely. Well first we need to realize the fact that the discrimination goes far beyond race. It is no longer appropriate to define race in relation to biological or cultural origins, because of the immense processes of hybridity unleashed in contemporary life due to globalization (Inggs 45). Now if discrimination is viewed as more than just race, and race is more than biological skin color, how should we define it? Well looking at the young adult literature in South Africa we can see discrimination is being placed more heavily and class and wealth. Sarah Britten is a white writer who wrote novels with characters that were discriminated due to their class and amount of wealth instead of their race. The books emphasize the changes in perceptions of race in culture in her novels, Dolby: The Worst Year of my Life–So Far (2000) and Welcome to the Martin Tudhope Show! (2002), both of which stand out from other works in terms of experimentation with narrative voice and technique (Inggs 46). The period after apartheid in South Africa was a transitional one and we can see from looking at young adult novels from the time that the ideas of race and discrimination were clearly changing. These ideas stayed consistent even in novels that starred colored main characters. Examples of books like these would be Fiona Snycker’s Team Trilogy (2013) and Edyth Bulbring’s A Month with April-May (2013) (Inggs 47). Both of these works follow a similar pattern of discrimination based on wealth and class, even though the protagonists and author are of color.

Works Cited

Inggs, J. (2016). Transition and Transgression: English Young Adult Fiction in Post-Apartheid South Africa. SpringerBriefs in Education. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-25534-7

CODE Enhances Literature Access in Africa

CODE (Canadian Organization for Development through Education) is based in Canada. Created to help international areas in need of education, CODE focuses on “advancing literacy and education” in areas in need (CODE). CODE started off by shipping unused books to schools in Africa because they saw a need and wanted to fill that need. Today, CODE supports international authors and continues to spread education to areas in need. In 2017, CODE launched an award for African Young Adult literature to better support authors and help them be heard in schools across Africa. To Kiss a Girl by Ruby Yayra Goka was the recipient of the award this year.

The CODE Burt Award is for African authors who write young adult fiction. “The objective of the prize is to champion literacy, build language skills, and foster the love and habit of reading by ensuring that young people have access to high-quality, culturally relevant, and engaging reading materials” (CODE). This award is helping children experience diverse, locally relevant literature in areas they may not have access to good education or books.

CODE also supports professional development for teachers, local publishing, and continues to donate books to libraries in need of good books for the students in the area. CODE has expanded to work in the Caribbean, plus the 8 countries in Africa. Their continued support has grown each country’s library tremendously. In Ethiopia alone, 300,000 books have been donated to libraries across the country. CODE’s main goal is to “ensure longterm sustainability” in education so that students without access to literature and stable education can continue to learn and hopefully educate others in the future. Books these students have access to need to reflect the lives they live, so that they can relate to literature and get excited to learn.

Works Cited

Global Affairs Canada, editor. “Who We Are.” CODE, 2018, code.ngo/who-we-are.

Blog Post 2: Lesson Plan for Victor Kelleher’s Taronga

One of the novels I considered using for my book review was an Australian young adult novel entitled Taronga by Victor Kelleher. I found the premise of this novel to be really interesting but I was unable to find an ebook version so I chose another novel. However, the themes, ideas, and characters of the novel are still very interesting to me and as a prospective future teacher I thought it would be interesting to develop a conceptual lesson plan about the novel.

One of the main themes Taronga is the often tenuous relationship between human life and the natural world. This theme of man vs. nature has been featured throughout literary history, so I would definitely include in my lesson plan having students research writings, poems, and novels from the past that also identify the battle between the human world and the natural world. Through these novels and poems from the past I would ask my students to compare and contrast the depictions of the human vs. nature struggle seen in those novels when put up against Taronga

Another way I would create a lesson plan surrounding Taronga is that I would play of the sense of realism that the novel creates in it’s setting and plot surrounding the destruction of the natural world. I would have my students do research on the effects of global warming, deforestation, pollution, war, and other forces that are pushing the natural world on Earth to the brink of destruction. By giving the students an opportunity to explore the real-world context for the themes and concepts that Taronga poses, I would hope it would help them gain a better understanding of the importance of the natural world and help work towards solutions for future generations of people instead of ignoring these pressing issues and just hoping they will go away.

Australia is country that features some of the most beautiful and inspiring natural environments and animals. As a novel, Taronga really focuses on these elements of Australian life and therefore would be the central topic of my lesson plan for young adults reading this novel. I would have my students research and present their findings on the history of the human vs. nature theme in literature as well as researching and presenting real world issues surrounding the destruction of the natural world.

 

Work Cited

Kelleher, Victor. Taronga. Penguin Books Australia, 2013.

Blog Post 1 : Indigenous representation in Australian young adult literature

When scanning through the lists of the most popular Australian young adult novels, I noticed a trend that is definitely not unique to this situation but is worthy of addressing nonetheless. I noticed that all the novels found on these lists were about young white people, and all seemingly did not include stories of the indigenous youth of Australia. Representation of indigenous people and minorities has definitely been lacking throughout the history of young adult literature, and despite an upwards trend in this representation, it feels as if we are still so far away from accomplishing the necessary forms of representation in young adult literature here in the U.S., and the same appears to be true for Australia as well. Australia has a colonial history just as the U.S. does, and in situations like these where a dominant  group controls the literature, it has been traditionally nearly impossible to get adequate representation in young adult literature for minority groups. Why do you think that young adult publishers have been so hesitant publish young adult novels that are centralized around the minority or indigenous Australian experience?

I believe there are a mixture of equally powerful reasons that have led to the limitation of minority and indigenous representation in Australian young adult literature. First is the most obvious; racism. The history of racism and racial inequality in Australia is quite a powerful one that has divided the country ethnically for centuries. Secondly, I think that many publishers are afraid to feature minority protagonists in central roles in Australian young adult novels due the desire for profits. These publishers may be afraid that white young adults who make up a majority of their readership could be turned off by a novel featuring an indigenous Australian character as the protagonist. The market of Australian young adult literature has been so overwhelmingly white that publishers would feel more comfortable sticking with novels that adhere to a more traditional sense and are more likely to succeed in the Australian young adult novel market.

I can’t help but feel like these are poor excuses for the lack of indigenous representation in Australian young adult novels, and I think that we have reached a point in time where many young people across the globe are gaining interest in topics of social justice and a novel featuring an indigenous protagonist could reach both commercial and critical success in Australia. For now, we as readers can just play the waiting game and support the Australian authors and publishers who work towards equality of representation in their novels.

Book Review of Melina Marchetta’s Looking For Alibrandi

Adult Themes in Young Adult Literature: Looking for Alibrandi

Note- I used the ebook version of this text so citations will include location and chapter numbers.

The idea that Young Adult literature does not or should not contain mature themes and content is strongly challenged by Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi. Within the pages of this novel we as readers are taken on a journey of the growing and shifting perspectives and understandings of the world surrounding an Australian teenager named Josie Alibrandi, her family, and the friends, teachers, and fellow students she interacts with. Through this intellectual and witty teenager, we as readers experience wide breadth of deeply complex topics and themes that explore religion, cultural identity, love, family, suicide, and the mind of a rebellious teenager. Looking For Alibrandi is an emotional journey that’s mature themes and content will engage young adults while also providing the necessary complexity and depth necessary for an adult reader to enjoy this novel and walk away from it feeling satisfied as a reader. In my opinion, this novel fits in incredibly well with the other novels we have read this semester. The themes experienced in this novel mirror those that were constant throughout our readings this semester. By addressing these often emotional and private concepts such as cultural identity, depression, and love, Looking For Alibrandi creates an unique experience through the vibrant and interesting cast of characters in which readers can easily find themselves drawn in. There are many scenes and characters in this novel that create huge amounts of tensions in the novel. For example, Josie is constantly experiencing conflict with her very strict and extremely catholic grandmother, and Josie is similarly distraught by the unexpected reappearance of her estranged father. These conflicts and others like them push the narrative forward and keeps the reader’s attention and interest throughout the entire novel. Looking For Alibrandi is undoubtedly a novel that bridges the gap between young adult novels and novels for adults.

For me, one the most interesting elements of the novel lies in the relationship between Josie and her estranged father who has reappeared in her life. Josie’s father, Michael, abandoned Josie and her mother when Josie was young. This sense of abandonment that Josie experiences from growing up without a father, especially within the context of existing in devoutly catholic community, has shaped and molded Josie’s identity. This is exemplified when Josie sees her father for the first time when he comes to her house. Josie had created and infinite amount of images of what and who her father was and was still in shock when she saw him. Josie’s thoughts when she first sees him are, “I looked at him and at the moment every image I had of my father flew out the window. I thought he’d be tall. He wasn’t. I thought he’d be good-looking. He wasn’t. I thought he’d look like a weakling. He didn’t.” (Marchetta Location 516 Chapter 3) For me, I find the inclusion of a protagonist of a young adult novel living in and navigating the world from the perspective of a single parent household is a topic that is extremely poignant to a modern audience. There are millions of children and young adults who are in a similar situation as Josie, and this form of representation for these children and young adults is incredibly important. By increasing representation and diversity in young adult literature, doors are being opened and opportunities are being created for more and more people to experience and identify with young adult literature. Looking For Alibrandi is a novel which clearly succeeds in this notion and has received critical and commercial success, while also being translated into a film version of the novel. If having your novel turned into a film isn’t the holy grail of young adult literature, I don’t know what is.

Overall, Looking For Alibrandi is a powerful and moving novel that contains very serious and mature themes. One of those themes is the topic of suicide. Suicide is an unbelievably complex topic that rarely makes it into the pages of young adult literature. With the suicide of Josie’s friend and sometimes love interest, John, Looking for Alibrandi takes a dark yet necessary turn in regards to representation. Suicide is without a doubt one of the most serious and sad issues facing our world, and young people are killing themselves at higher rates than ever before. Issues that are so serious such as suicide need to be addressed in areas such as young adult novels more often in order to increase awareness and perhaps offer avenues of support and identification for young people who are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts and tendencies.  Young people are naturally drawn to entertaining forms of media and Looking for Alibrandi and other novels like that can definitely fill that role for young people. By being incredibly entertaining and containing some extremely serious and complex social issues, Looking for Alibrandi is a novel that succeeds in a large number of ways. I am very thankful for the opportunity to read and review this novel as I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of engagement with the novel I felt while reading it. This is a novel I would recommend to anyone, of any age, and that’s what makes it an absolutely outstanding young adult novel.

Works Cited

 

Marchetta, Melina. Looking for Alibrandi. Penguin Group (Australia), 2015.

Foreign Literary Awards; Or Lack There Of

I wanted to find a foreign young adult literary award and maybe discuss the books that had won it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any non-American, non-European awards in the top award lists. Now I’m sure there’s a few out there, but I could not find them. Instead I found list after list of American and Canadian young adult literature awards. That’s not to say that the books that have won these awards are inherently all American stories or even written by American authors, but there’s something to be said about the appreciation of young adult literature if there are no awards being given. Teachers, young adults, and other young adult literature readers often look to the award winner lists to pick their next read. Many people will never read amazing stories because they’ll never see it. If other countries had bigger awards they could create a bigger voice for foreign young adult literature and thus increasing the visibility of adolescents who happen to have struggles that differ from the average American teenager. Awarding young adult literature authors the awards they earn not only helps them with marketing of their book but it can often times give a platform to that author to be able to take a stance on an issue or start a movement if necessary. It’s obvious that literary awards are prestigious, but maybe they should be more inclusive as well.

Translation for Understanding

 

Currently there is a movement to translate more non-American young adult literature to English. I think this is mostly because American young adults are searching for a more demanding story. The American adolescent story has become redundant and mundane. Young adults are beginning to look for new material and finding that the compelling stories they want are either targeted towards adults or are in non-English languages. There are also claims that non-American young adult literature should be used more in American middle and high schools. Gretchen Schwarz wrote an article titled The Power of Foreign Young Adult Literature,and in this she explained that “foreign YA literature can open up the world to American readers, creating new understanding of and appreciation for other cultures” (Schwarz). So not only are young adults seeking out foreign literature for better reading material, but they can also learn about other cultures they may not ever have had the chance to. Schwarz also says, “It is all too easy to pass judgment on other nations for their past atrocities and crimes” (Schwarz), when she was discussing that there aren’t many books that discuss the Holocaust from the perspective of Germans or Poles, or even depict them in a good light. Books with the story of the Germans and Poles who helped Jews escape to safety exist somewhere and having the opportunity to share them with American students would be a great first hand learning experience.

Schwarz, Gretchen. “The Power of Foreign Young Adult Literature.” JTE v25n1 – The Evolving Classroom: A Study of Traditional and Technology-Based Instruction in a STEM Classroom, Digital Library and Archives of the Virginia Tech University Libraries, scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/spring96/schwarz.html.

 

#LoveOzYA Movement

This semester we’ve been learning about how it is important for students to read books on diversity, specifically reading about things that they can relate to and that open their mind to new ideas. One group, #LoveOzYA, started a movement in Australia in 2015 to bring local content to their Australian teen readers, claiming that diverse books in the classroom should include local content. “We all want the same thing – to draw the attention of Australian teens to Australian books that speak to their experience, and unite the youth-lit community by: promoting a united message, centralising information, and raising the profile of local content” (#LoveOzYA). Teachers, writers, and readers have banded together to build the movement and bring more local Australian texts to high school classrooms across Australia.

The movement began when the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) comprised a survey that found most books read by Australian teens were books imported from the United States (#LoveOzYA). The movement began online, connecting readers with local content and expanding their knowledge on books written by Australian natives. One book I was surprised by was The Book Thief, which was marketed as general fiction in Australia but Young Adult Fiction in the United States (#LoveOzYA).

The #LoveOzYA website includes a Q&A section with authors, a book list, information on local terms and ideas for readers, a newsletter, a podcast, and links to other social media sites like twitter and facebook. This website is designed for teens in Australia to interact with local content, local authors, and understand the diversity found in Australia. The main point of this movement is connection: it’s connecting the Australian youth with Australian literature and diversity, instead of having Australian youth only read books from the United States. The creators of #LoveOzYA wanted to show off Australian literature, its wide reaching scopes, and its impressive talents. Check out books such as Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, StormDancer by Jay Kristoff, and One Would Think the Deep by Clare Zorn.

 

Works Cited

#LoveOzYA, editor. “About.” #LoveOzYA: Read Local, 2018, loveozya.com.au/. Accessed 7 Dec. 2018.

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