Reading and Writing Resistance: Acting Up, Speaking Out in YA Lit
November 2018, Houston, TX
Mark Letcher, 2018 ALAN President: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Writing a book, publishing it, buying it, and putting that book into a child’s hand may be one of the most important acts of resistance we have. Because books give children light. Books give them hope. Books give them power. This is why what we do is so vital. It’s not enough to be woke. Let’s get to work.” ~ Donalyn Miller, July 2017
We live in trying and tense times. Many of the bedrocks of a democratic society – equality, the value of civic debate, the necessity for a free and open press, and respect for expertise – have come under attack. They must be defended, and the classroom, library, and mind of each individual reader serve as crucial lines of defense.
From its inception, the field of adolescent literature has pushed against norms, offered voice for those whose voices have been minimized or silenced, and introduced us to characters who resist expectations and restrictions. In 1974, Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War highlighted individual resistance against systemic injustice. More than 40 years later, we continue to face overwhelming issues of social equity and justice. Classrooms and libraries have always been politically-charged spaces; at this moment in our histories, that has never been truer. We can no longer close our classroom doors to the world; we must invite the world in, and wrestle with its complications. Books are our vessel for doing that.
The power of adolescent literature to resist has not changed. In fact, contemporary YA lit directly engages with current social issues in valuable and vibrant fashion. Our hopes for a better and more just future rest with the readers sitting in front of us today. The decisions we make about the books we write, publish, teach, and share with others are decidedly political acts, and can allow adolescents to use literacies as a means for social and political engagement. More broadly, books empower adolescents, showing them they can fight for themselves, for others, and for a more equitable world. Books show us all that we can make a difference in times of division and tension.
At the 2018 ALAN workshop, we will celebrate adolescent literature that resists the status quo, pushes us beyond our comfort zones, and forces us to consider the tough questions.
Through keynote addresses, panel discussion, author conversations, and breakout sessions, we will explore questions such as:
- How are YA lit authors and teachers speaking up and speaking out, and how can they inspire young readers to do the same?
- How can we, as professionals, inspire curiosity and critical thinking in our students? How can we move them beyond compliance and complacency, to action and change in their worlds?
- How are underrepresented voices being heard in YA lit? How can we bring more into the conversation? What effect are movements such as #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #ownvoices having in YA lit?
- How can YA lit advocate for and advance social, civil, and educational rights?
- How is YA lit addressing pressing issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and economic inequity?
Please join us in Houston, where we’ll learn from authors, editors, teachers, librarians and students who make the personal political — on the page, in schools, and in the community at large.