Nov
07
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Danielle Lord on 07-11-2010

Here is a list of several books which I plan to focus on. The list is still a working bibliography. I have found so many novels that focus on my topic that I would like to continue reading the literature and getting greater insight into how the subject is treated in additional works.

I chose the following books from a list of YA novels on the subject due to the reasons described below:

1) All of the novels I will examine will have a protagonist (male or female) between the ages of 12-19 who are overweight or suffer from other self-esteem issues on account of their body shape, size, etc.

2) Year of publication (I won’t be examining novels published earlier than 1999) . This decision eliminated some of the first novels I read (such as Judy Blume’s Blubber), but I feel I will have enough to work with just examining current trends and not focusing as much on the historical nature of the topic.

3) Designation as “Young Adult”-  Only novels published within the YA genre will be considered. I originally started out looking at the way certain children’s books represented food and body image, which may be an overextension of the topic (?). Also, I have come across many novels on this topic that are considered to be part of the adult “chick-lit” genre (Bridget Jone’s Diary, for example). These books may be highly popular with young adults; however,they are not classified as part of the “YA lit” genre.

4) I intend to use only fictional novels. Many books published within this time frame are nonfictional–there are many memoirs on the subject of weight loss and body image. There are also a significant number of “self-help”, “empowerment” books that attempt to promote exercise and weight loss through “how to lose weight and learn to love yourself” manuals.

5) Popularity among teenagers–  I am interested in examining novels that will potentially have a strong impact on young adults. I will try to choose novels that are considered to have a certain amount of popularity among young adults as compared to other novels of the same type within the genre.

Based on the above qualifications, I have already selected the four YA novels below:

1) Mackler, Carolyn. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2003.

Fifteen year old, Virginia Shreeves, learns to cope with her own body image issues, while dealing with family problems, and her first romantic encounter.

2) George, Madeleine. Looks. New York: Viking, 2008

During her sophomore year in high school, Meghan Ball (an obese girl who suffers from being outcast socially from peers) meets and forms a friendship with an anorexic classmate, Aimee Zorn.

3) Going, K L. Fat Kid Rules the World. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2003

Troy Billings, who is almost 300 lbs at age 17, contemplates suicide but instead forms a friendship with a homeless teenager/punk rocker and joins a band.

4) Dessen, Sarah. Keeping the Moon. New York: Viking, 1999

Fourteen year old Colie, who recently lost weight and is thin for the first time in her life, but is severely lacking in self-confidence spends the summer with her aunt and forms friendships that inspire her and promote her self -confidence.

Oct
31
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Danielle Lord on 31-10-2010

From my preliminary research, I have discovered that there is an endless amount of fiction and nonfiction published that deal with the issue of body image, and various subcategories include eating disorders, obesity, dieting, plastic surgery, and much more. There has been a lot of scholarship published on these issues, but not specifically with regards to young adult literature. A few exceptions are highlighted here:

Beth Younger’s book (Younger, Beth. Learning curves : body image and female sexuality in young adult literature. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2009.) continues to be the most influential scholarship on this topic, and is the closest I can find to my own research question. Younger’s focus is on sexuality and body image within literature for young adults.She appears to be a pioneer in this particular area, and her book is a major contribution to the current literature.

Sarah Stanley. Teenage girl body representation in young adult graphic novels . A Master’s Paper for the M.S. in I/L.S degree. April, 2009. 37 pages. Advisor: Sandra Hughes-Hassell.

This is another current study that deals with a similar research topic. For her masters thesis, Ms. Stanley analyzed 27 graphic novels and found that the images reflected mostly realistic body sizes. She also found that there was a lack of images of larger female characters. Considering how popular the graphic novel genre is with today’s young adults, I believe it is an important area to consider when examining this topic within the context of current ya lit.

A third book that I feel is important to the current literature on this topic is the following:

Bowman, Cynthia A. Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Health Issues. The Greenwood Press “Using literature to help troubled teenagers” series. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Although I have not yet gotten a copy of this work, based on the summary provided, I feel it would be an appropriate source to examine. In this book scholars suggest “that teens can learn coping &health skills as well as improve their reading and writing, through fictional characters”. The book describes how certain young adult fiction can be used as “bibliotherapy” for teens who are suffering from eating disorders and other health issues. The implications of this study for my research would be to show how young adults are impacted by what they read, and how ya literature can be used for real world applications.

Although I have a great deal more research ahead of me, I have been able to narrow my ideas a bit for my own research by looking at the current scholarship. Although I began by looking at books from the 1970’s, I will most likely end up concentrating on books that have been published within the last decade. I have already found so many recent books published on the topic that I believe it would be possible (and probably wise) to narrow my focus.

Oct
24
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Danielle Lord on 24-10-2010

1) Younger, Beth.  Learning curves : body image and female sexuality in young adult literature. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2009.

“Magazines, television, and films perpetuate and reinforce the standard of beauty, but YA literature is an area of popular culture that for at least three decades has depicted, challenged, and questioned an unrealistic beauty ideal. Close examination of YA literature reveals more than just stories for and about young girls; it reveals culturally influenced portrayals of young women, sexuality, and body image that parents and teachers should discuss with adolescents” (21).

“YA fiction encourages young women’s self-surveillance of their bodies…promiscuous sexual activity is often linked to a character’s weight and signals that character’s lack of sexual restraint. These associations of weight and sexuality serve a dual purpose in YA literature; they reinforce negative ideas about body image and signal the reader to “read” a fat character as sexually and socially suspect” (4-5)

“As I have shown, body-image issues pervade YA novels. The idea that a female body has to be a certain way– i.e., thin, lean and non-voluptuous- in order to attain status and power appears repeatedly in these texts and is often held up as a cultural standard, one that should be criticized” (19).

2)  Mackler, Carolyn. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2003.

Here are some quotations that shows how Viriginia, age 15, views herself, and how her sense of body image changes throughout the novel.

“The Fat Girl Code of Conduct by Viriginia Shreves…’Go further than skinny girls. Find ways to alert him to this, such as slutty comments peppered into the conversation If you can’t sell him on your body, you’d better overcompensate with sexual perks'” (16)

“I know what it’s like to hate your body so much that you want to hurt it” (152)

“I’m fat, OK? F-A-T. But that doesn’t mean I have to hide beneath layers of fabric. That doesn’t mean I’m exactly like you used to be, ashamed of showing my body” (190)

“I hate lettuce. I’ve always hated lettuce. So maybe my mom is a skinny, lettuce-eating fiend, but I don’t have to be, too. There are ways to eat healthy that don’t involve rabbit cuisine” (240).

Oct
17
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Danielle Lord on 17-10-2010

I am still in the process of developing the question(s) I will be focusing on for my paper. I am interested in focusing on some aspect of body image in the field of young adult literature. The following is an early version of the questions I am currently asking myself: How does young adult literature reinforce and /or reduce stereotypical views of body image, standards of beauty? Is there any discernible difference between books published now (within the last decade) and books published prior to the year 2000? If any differences are found, how does this reflect upon the changing views of body image and acceptance of one’s self in modern day society. Are there any difference found in books that are published for children/tweens versus older teens?

I arrived at the above questions through the research articles and novels that I found several weeks ago during my preliminary research. I have found numerous young adult fiction novels that might be of interest to my topic. I read “Blubber”, by Judy Blume, which was published in 1974. This book focuses on issues of weight, and dealing with bullying from peers. However, it is told from the perspective of Jill, a classmate of the student who is being bullied. I also read “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler. This 2005 novel features 15 year old protagonist Virginia who is in the process of learning how to deal with her own body image problems along with other issues concerning her family, dating, etc. I noticed many differences in how the subject of weight/body image is viewed and dealt with by comparing these two novels. Most obvious was the fact that the protagonist in Carolyn Mackler’s novel was dealing with these issues firsthand instead of being viewed from the eyes of an outside observer. I am not 100% certain where my question will eventually lead, but I do see some other interesting points of comparison. For the time being, I will continue to read young adult novels and any critical research I can locate in order to expand my knowledge of the field and see if my initial opinions continue to hold true.

Oct
03
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Danielle Lord on 03-10-2010

Younger, Beth. (2003). “Pleasure, Pain, and the Power of Being Thin: Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature.” National Women’s Studies Association Journal. 15 (2), 45-56.

As mentioned in my previous entry, finding this article was an excellent jumping-off point and helped to significantly expand my research.  In this article, Beth Younger analyzed literature for young adults from 1975-1999. Her findings revealed “a link between body image, weight, and sexuality: thinner young women are portrayed as powerful and in control, while larger women are depicted as sexually passive and irresponsible”. Some of the novels she examines include: Judy Blume’s Forever (1975), Nell’s Quilt by Susan Terris (1987), Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett (1998) and Name me Nobody by Lois-Ann Yamanaka (1999). I was not previously acquainted with any of these works, with the exception of Judy Blume’s novel, and I will now be able to look into these novels further. Also of note, The ALAN Review‘s Fall 2003 “Research Connection” column focused on this article, and declared it to be among “the most recent and prominent articles concerning the field of young adult literature”.

Younger, Beth.  Learning curves : body image and female sexuality in young adult literature. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2009.

Several years after her original article, Beth Younger also published a book expanding on her original research. I felt that the publication of Younger’s research in this series (Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature, edited by Patty Campbell) added weight to the legitimacy of her research and shows that this topic is of recent critical interest to scholars in the young adult field. I was happy to find that Rosenthal library owns this book in their collection, so I was able to get immediate access to the work. The book contains chapters about weight/body image issues in YA literature, pregnancy & sexuality, lesbian ya lit, romance, and series fiction/chick lit analyzing series from Nancy Drew to Gossip Girl.

Reist, Melinda Tankard. (2008).”The pornification of girlhood.” Quadrant. 52 (7-8), 10.

Another article I found from Literature Resource Center did not look as promising on a scholarly level, but may lead to additional sources of information on my topic. I did a little more research about the author, and found that she has her own website. She describes herself as an “advocate for women and girls”. Her article discusses the impact of pop culture and advertising on the body image of young adults. I will have to review the article more closely; however,as I plan to focus on the portrayal of body image in literature, I think that this article may not be a perfect fit for my research, but may be useful to learn about current feminist perspectives.

Brumberg, Joan J. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.

I haven’t yet seen a copy of this work; however, based on reviews, I feel that it might be a worthwhile read to provide a historical background on the topic of young adults and changing views of body image. School Library Journal describes how the book uses primary sources (diaries, doctor’s records, etc) to show how views of body image have shifted throughout the 19th and 20 centuries.

“Laurie Halse Anderson.” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center. Web. 2 Oct. 2010.

I located this source after I searched Literature Resource Center for criticism of the novel, Wintergirls. I was unable to locate any criticism because at this point no critical articles have been published about this novel. I was able to find many book reviews, and I was successful in locating an up-to-date biographical entry about the author, Laurie Halse Anderson. CIted above, this entry from Contemporary Authors Online provides a great deal more than biographical information. It also includes a full list of publications, as well as the citation information for reviews of her works.

White, Barbara A. Growing Up Female: Adolescent Girlhood in American Fiction. Contributions in women’s studies, no. 59. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1985.

This book (which I found by browsing the shelves in Rosenthal library) is an interesting study of how adolescent girls (ages 12-19) have historically been portrayed in American Fiction. It provides a valuable historical background. The last chapter focuses on “new” trends in young adult fiction (fiction written in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s) which have occurred because of the Feminist Movement. Among the “new” trends White points out is an increased literary interest in what she refers to as “adolescent eating habits” (177) and “eating diseases with a name” (177).

Walsh, Marissa. Does This Book Make Me Look Fat? New York: Clarion Books, 2008.

This collection of personal essays and fictional short stories by a group of young adult authors is an example of the type of literary collections I would like to examine further. All of the stories are focus on the topic of body image/self esteem. I am still in the process of focusing my research question, and finding this book reminded me that I may want to cover how my topic is covered in both fiction and nonfiction young adult literature.

Wardle, J., et al. (2005). “Body image and weight control in young adults: international comparisons in university students from 22 countries”. International Journal of Obesity. 30, 644-651.

In order to learn more about this topic from viewpoints outside of the literary world, I thought that it would be beneficial to search for articles that research how modern young adults view body image and weight. There are numerous studies, often from a psychological viewpoint. What I liked about this article was that it also focused on the issue from an international perspective. It would be very interesting to analyze current young adult literature and see whether the typical ideas about body image are universal, or somewhat influenced by ethnicity/country of origin.

Heatherton, T.F. (2001). “Body image and gender”. Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. 1282-1285.

This encyclopedia entry defines some of the terms, including “body image”, that I will be focusing on within my paper. Since this topic is heavily intertwined with psychological/behavioral studies, it would be beneficial to gain a standard definition of these terms and some multidisciplinary perspective.

Hunter, Jeffrey. (2007). “Contemporary Young Adult Literature”. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 234. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007. p267-342. From Literature Criticism Online.

This article provides an overview of contemporary young adult literature & criticism. Although not fully viewable online, it is a source I would like to explore further in print for relevant themes and further sources.

Sarah Stanley. Teenage girl body representation in young adult graphic novels . A Master’s Paper for the M.S. in I/L.S degree. April, 2009. 37 pages. Advisor: Sandra Hughes-Hassell.

Through Google scholar, it is possible to find articles that cite certain works. I stumbled upon this paper because it was one of the sources which cited Beth Younger’s 2003 article. Although it is an unpublished masters thesis, perhaps this work will provide me with a greater understanding of the type of studies which might be done on this topic by future scholars. I am also very interested in graphic novels, so this paper seems like an interesting read. Although unpublished, it is indexed by Google Scholar, and the full-text is available online.

Quick, Catherine. (2008). “Meant to be Huge: Obesity and Body Image in Young Adult Novels” The ALAN Review. 35 (2).

Another article which cites Beth Younger’s 2003 article is the above article from ALAN Review. This article focused on the portrayal of obesity in young adult literature within specific novels such as “Life in the Fat Lane” by Cherie Bennett, and “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler.  I found another article worth looking for in her works cited list: “Portrayal of Obese Adolescents” by Rachel Beineke which was an earlier review of the same topic, published in ALAN Review back in 1998.

Sep
28
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Danielle Lord on 28-09-2010

Up until this point, I had not given much thought to potential research topics for my upcoming master’s thesis. I came into this semester knowing that I have a strong interest in children’s and young adult literature; however I was unsure about what specific research question I would find myself focusing upon. While pondering some possibilities for this assignment, I began by thinking about some of the novels that I had read recently, and considered whether those books would lend themselves to a more in-depth study.  I remembered reading an amazing young adult fiction novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls, earlier this year. This novel tells the emotionally riveting story of Lia, an eighteen year old who is battling anorexia and although fictional, is a hauntingly realistic depiction of the disease.

Although Laurie Halse Anderson is a highly regarded author of books for young adults, having previously been awarded YALSA’s Margaret A. Edwards award for lifetime achievement in Young Adult Literature, there is not much criticism that exists for this particular novel. Part of the reason for this may be because Wintergirls was published quite recently (March 2009).  So, instead of focusing on a particular work, I decided to broaden my research topic to include any young adult novel which deals with the body-image/self-image issues commonly faced by adolescent females. With this topic in mind, I set out to search.

I began by looking at two databases which are available from the Rosenthal Library website– MLA Bibliography and Literature Resource Center.  Using a keyword search for “young adult “and “body image”, I found the following article in Literature Resource Center:

Younger, Beth. (2003). “Pleasure, Pain, and the Power of Being Thin: Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature.” National Women’s Studies Association Journal. 15 (2), 45-56.

Literature Resource Center allows the user to refine a search based on suggestions. When I searched for “body image”, there were three specific results limited to “teenage girls”.  Using this helpful feature, I came across a related article:

Reist, Melinda Tankard. (2008).”The pornification of girlhood.” Quadrant. 52 (7-8), 10.

In the past, I have found it useful to look at the works cited list of related articles in order to get additional sources. Using this strategy, I located a citation for the following book.

Brumberg, Joan J. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.

In MLA Bibliography, using a similar search, I found a number of other subject terms which were suggested for future searches. Some of these suggestions included “treatment of weight”, “sexuality” and “self-image”.

I also took time to search CUNY+ where I located a book by Beth Younger, who was the author of the first article I had found.

Younger, Beth.  Learning curves : body image and female sexuality in young adult literature. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2009.

This book is available in the library, and I hope to be able to expand my research even further by using the references in this book and the other journal articles I have already located in order to complete my annotated bibliography assignment.

Sep
19
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Danielle Lord on 19-09-2010

For our first assignment, I decided to examine Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature, which is a refereed journal published quarterly by IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People). While preparing to complete this project, my first step was to choose an area to focus on within the vast field of “English”. I decided to look for a specialized journal in a field of great interest to me—children’s literature. Although it was not a problem to locate many scholarly journals which are focused on this subject area, a quick review of these journals indicated that locating a journal which had been published for over fifty years might become a bit of a challenge. Scholarship in the field of children’s literature seems to have developed relatively recently, and has made great strides within the past 30 years. Children’s Literature began publishing in the 70’s, as did the Children’s Literature Association Quarterly. The Lion and the Unicorn began in 1977, The ALAN review in 1988 and even more recently, in 1997, The Looking Glass began publishing an electronic journal which provides new perspectives on scholarship in the field. In comparison, Bookbird has been published quarterly since 1963 and will soon be entering its 48th year of publication. This journal seemed to best fit the requirements of this project as it provided the greatest opportunity for historical comparison.

Bookbird defines it own subject coverage within the field of children’s literature by only publishing articles which have an international perspective. According to their submission guidelines, the journal is open to any topic of interest in international children’s literature. Bookbird is only published in English, although it welcomes articles written in any native language and in many cases, provides a translator to aid authors who do not speak English as their native language.

For the purposes of this assignment, I examined the content of over ten issues, ranging from the first issue published in 1963 to a recent issue published in January 2010, and found a marked difference in the content of the articles published during this period of time. The following are some of my observations.

Looking at the first issue of Bookbird, published in 1963, I was surprised to see that there was a distinct lack of scholarly articles. There were IBBY reports on “Children’s literature and developing countries”, “International news”, and “Aims and Resolutions”. IBBY was initially founded in 1953 in Switzerland, and their journal reflects the organization’s belief that children’s literature can be used to promote international understanding, peace and communication in a post WWII world. Many of the earliest articles written for the journal discuss children’s literacy and promoting literature. There are lists which highlight award winning children’s books, including the 1963 Hans Christian Andersen award (of which Scott O’Dell’s “Island of the Blue Dolphins” received honors). Looking at an issue published six years later, I began to notice an increase in scholarship. The journal still had significant coverage of IBBY activities; however, literary criticism articles (such as “Lloyd Alexander: wishful thinking or hopeful dreaming”) appeared by 1969. Still, the majority of the journal was not dedicated to what we might consider scholarship.

In the 1973 issue, I examined a list of prize-winning books which were featured as part of International Children’s Book Day. I noticed that the majority of the awards on this list were originating from the USA, Canada or various European countries. Despite the “international” focus of this journal, I began to wonder if the earliest years of this journal were indeed “international” or somewhat restricted to North American/European literature. I did not notice a significant change in this focus at first, but slowly, by 1983, other nations such as India were being included in the awards section.

Another decade later, in March 1993, I was somewhat surprised to see that the front cover of the journal now featured an image of a Native American man. Up to this point, none of the journals I had seen had any illustrations or photographs on the cover. The ’93 issue contained several articles on the topic of American Indian literature for children. Another scholarly article title that caught my eye was: “Being Different than the others: problems of ethnic minorities in the themes of German children’s literature”. I had not found earlier issues that focused on ethnic minorities, or on Native American literature and culture.

I also browsed through the November issue from this same year, 1993, and found an interesting new topic — Children’s literature in the electronic age. This was the first time that I had noticed any mention of new technologies within the journal. I also noticed that a much larger percentage of the articles were about Non-European /North American works, and there were a number of articles from South America (specifically, Bolivia and Argentina) which stood out to me. The Winter 1998 issue continued to be increasingly diverse, and included a featured article on W.E.B DuBois, puppetry in Argentina, and theater for children in India.

In February 2003, the journal focused on the current popularity of children’s nonfiction literature which is a common topic of conversation among today’s scholars and librarians. I liked how this issue discussed the current trends in the nonfiction market in the United States and the creation of the ALA’s new Siebert Award for informational children’s books, along with a series of other articles which covered nonfiction works in the global community.

In recent years, Bookbird has become increasingly scholarly, and has become a publication with truly international coverage. A 2007 issue featured an article on the Development of Mexican Children’s literature juxtaposed with “Revival of an old image: Little Black Sambo in Japan”, an article about racism, and the images of Africans within Japanese literature.

The final issue I examined was the January 2010 issue (Volume 48, Issue 1). In this issue, I could most clearly see contemporary topics and get a sense of how much the journal has evolved through its history. There were many scholarly articles in this issue, and topics ranged greatly. Some of the articles were : “The Arab world in children’s books: Finding Palestine”, and “Face to Face: Self and other in Israeli children’s literature” which both focused on topics such as peace, war, suicide bombings and politics within Middle Eastern/Israeli children’s literature. Other articles in the same issue focused on fantasy/science fiction such as “Fantasty, myth and the measure of truth: Tales of Pullman, Lewis, Tolkien, MacDonald and Hoffman”. According to the abstract, this article discussed German Romanticism and compares the above works with fantasy in German literature. Yet another article was about the recent popularity of gothic elements in children and young adult literature.

I found this week’s assignment to be very useful and I learned a great deal about the development of academic study in the field of children’s literature by studying Bookbird throughout its history.

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