Multicultural Literature and the Politics of Reaction
by Joel Taxel — 1997
The social climate of the United States of today is dramatically different from that which gave birth to multicultural children’s literature. Conservatism’s rise to political ascendancy has sharpened the contentious “culture wars?that surround virtu-ally all aspects of American culture. One important dimension of today’s conservative movement is a backlash against the multicultural movement. Conservative defenders of the traditional literary canon, for example, see multicultural literature as a threat to the very fabric of Western civilization. Within children’s literature circles, charges abound that advocates of multicultural literature are ignoring traditional literary values and are focusing instead on ill-defined notions of “political correctness. ?This article explores this complex issue and the challenges it poses to those concerned with the creation, production, distribution, and consumption of children’s literature. The discussion addresses questions that speak to the very nature and function of children’s literature: its status as art, as entertainment, as a source of role models and ideology for children’s “impressionable?minds. Also discussed is the relation between the politically charged question of whether books about African Americans are to be written only by African Americans, books about Native Americans by Native Americans, and so forth, and the freedom of writers to write without restriction.
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