Philip Nel > Courses > English 385: Multicultrual Children's Literature (Spring 2017)

English 385: Multicultural Children's Literature
Required Texts
Schedule of Assignments
Professor Philip Nel
Office Phone: 532-2165
Office: ECS 103
Office Hours: M 3:30-5:00 & by appointment.
MWF 2:30 - 3:20 p.m.
EH 021
Last updated Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Required Texts:


What are multicultural children's literatures? This class defines "multicultural" fairly broadly, so that it includes many components of identity: race, ethnicity, gender (including transgender), sexuality, religion, nationality, and ability. The children's and young adult literature we'll read embraces difference — sometimes successfully, though not always successfully.  We'll talk about where books excel and where they may come up short. To that end, we'll also read chapters from Critical Race Theory: An Introduction and other essays (all of which will either be on canvas or on-line).

To conclude these objectives, I offer a slightly polemical statement. Though well-intentioned, the idea of "teaching tolerance" is a misnomer: merely tolerating difference is not the answer. Rather, recognizing that we all have difference in common, we should, as Christopher Myers says, realize that our differences are interesting. We can learn from each other, if we listen to and respect differences.

ENGL 385 fulfills the Diversity overlay requirement and three credits of the American Literature overlay req. for English majors. K-State 8 Tags: Aesthetic Interpretation and Human Diversity within the U.S.

  Points Due
Quizzes 100 In class, day reading is due.
Class Participation 100 Daily.
Journal 260 Once weekly, before class begins. Group 1 due by Monday; group 2 by Friday.
Journal: Final Reflection 140 In class, Apr. 28.
Midterm Exam 200 In class, Mar. 6.
Final Exam 200 Email or submit via Canvas no later than May 9, 6 pm Central Time.
Total 1000  

Requirements: Journal | Journal: Final Reflection | Quizzes | Class Participation and Attendance | Assignments

Journal: Once a week before class, write in your journal.
    • Group 1 must write in their journals before Monday's class each week.
    • Group 2 must write in their journals before Friday's class each week.

PLEASE NOTE: Your entry will always address one of the works under discussion on the day you turn it in.

1. Open a new page in your journal. Give it a number (1 for your first entry, 2 for your second, etc.) and a title.

2. Choose an excerpt of text or an image or a combination of the two.

3.  Write a paragraph (150-200 words) on why you chose this text or image.  Don’t forget to support your claims with specific examples from the work.

What should you write about? In each journal entry, think about the ideological assumptions of the work you're reading. What does the work present as normal? Whose views of the world does it endorse? In other words, what assumptions does the text make about its readers and the world in which they live? Ideology refers to the dominant beliefs of a society. Roland Barthes once defined the word ideology as "opinion or belief, naturalized as truth." Though I long ago forgot precisely where he made that comment, the phrase has stuck with me. It gets at the invisibility of ideology. We often learn society's dominant beliefs unconsciously, without realizing that we're doing so. The phrase also illuminates the idea of a belief that we treat as a fact: because what we believe determines how we operate, ideologies can have a lot of power over our day-to-day lives. They're an efficient, often invisible way of maintaining systems of power.

Since the maintenance of and resistance to ideological systems will be at the center of our inquiry, I'm embedding this list of questions in the syllabus and suggesting that you use them as prompts for your journal entries. Chose one —  or, if it seems fruitful, more than one —  per response. (It would be impossible and inadvisable to try to address all.) So, to think about what assumptions a book might harbor, consider these questions that Nathalie Wooldridge offers:

[Source for the above: Nathalie Wooldridge, qtd. in Maria José Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman, Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors, p. 4. Bothelo and Rudman added class to Wooldridge’s list. I added race and sexuality.]

4.  Conclude with a brief reflection (60-120 words) on one of the following subjects:

    1. Why do you find this passage or image personally meaningful (if you do)?  Or what wisdom might you draw from it?
    2. What does this passage or image tell you about what multicultural children’s literature is or does?
    3. As a work of multicultural literature, where does it succeed or come up short?
    4. If you were to teach this work, how might this passage be useful in creating your lesson plan?

5.  Bring each entry to class on the day that it’s due.  You can bring it on a piece of paper or via an electronic device.  If you do the latter, you may only use the device to access this.  Please do not text, check social media, etc.

6. Save your journal entries in a Word document (or whatever word processor you use). This will give you a back-up, and a document for your future use (after this class).

7. Enter your journal entry into Canvas. This should be straightforward. Is it? No. Canvas was not designed for Humanities classes, and cannot conceive that we might like to have a journal. So, what I have had to do is create a separate group for each student; each student needs to post her or his journal entry into the "Discussion" area of that group.

    1. The journal is accessible via "Groups" section of our class in Canvas. Click on "Groups," and you'll find two Journals, one of which is followed by your surname & one of which is followed by my surname.
    2. For the one with your surname, click on the gear (at right) and then on "Discussions." (You will be having a discussion with yourself —  and with me, since I'll be reading these.)
    3. Start a new Discussion for each Journal entry by clicking on the big purple "+ Discussion" button at top right.
    4. In the title, give the entry a number and a title.
    5. Paste your text into the Discussion space.

I am sorry this is needlessly complicated. Should you have difficulties or questions, please ask!

        Sources: Use the MLA method for documenting sources. Don't plagiarize. When you turn in a paper, you pledge that you have faithfully abided by the guidelines for documenting sources -- most grammar handbooks provide guidelines for documentation. Remember: You must cite the sources of any ideas that are not your own. If you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas, you must give credit to the person whose ideas you are using. If you have questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course.

Final Reflection on Journal (650-1000 words).  Due April 28.

Select two significant entries from your journal, one of which must be from before the midterm.

Kansas State University's Statement Regarding Academic Honesty:
Kansas State University has an Honor System based on personal integrity, which is presumed to be sufficient assurance that, in academic matters, one's work is performed honestly and without unauthorized assistance. Undergraduate and graduate students, by registration, acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Honor System. The policies and procedures of the Honor System apply to all full and part-time students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate courses on-campus, off-campus, and via distance learning. The honor system website can be reached via the following URL: . A component vital to the Honor System is the inclusion of the Honor Pledge which applies to all assignments, examinations, or other course work undertaken by students. The Honor Pledge is implied, whether or not it is stated: 'On my honor, as a student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work.' A grade of XF can result from a breach of academic honesty. The F indicates failure in the course; the X indicates the reason is an Honor Pledge violation.


       Quizzes: Approximately 12 times during the semester, there will be a quiz. Sometimes the quiz will be announced, and sometimes it won't. But the quiz will always address the reading for that day. Because everyone can have a bad day, I will drop the lowest quiz grade.

        Class Participation and Attendance: Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. On the first day of discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. "The reading" is all the text assigned for that day. We make sense of literature by discussing it. For this reason, class participation will count for 20% of your final grade. I reserve the right to assign homework or in-class writing projects that are not listed on the syllabus.
        Class attendance is required. Since the class meets three times a week, you are granted three absences, but more than three will lower your final grade by one increment for each absence (e.g., B+ would become B). You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day. "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
        You may use a portable computer or tablet for taking notes in class -- but that's all you may use it for. If you find yourself unable to focus on note-taking and class discussion (the temptations technology offers are many and varied, I know), then you must switch to manual note-taking. Similarly, out of common courtesy, you may not text-message during class. And turn off your cell phone.

Since we'll be discussing sensitive subjects (race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, ability, and politics), here are some tips on class discussion that I am borrowing from Dr. Gary Fenstermacher (quoted by Professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas on her syllabus... which is my source):

  1. Listen and understand before you talk.  Learn to "hear" and comprehend before you draw conclusions or evaluate what others are saying.  Be mindful of cross talk, or interrupting someone who has the floor.
  2. Probe and question as a means of gaining a fuller measure of understanding.  Before you ask questions that criticize or negate, ask questions that ensure you grasp what the other person is saying.  Some examples: "If I understand you correctly, you are saying that…" "Would you help me gain a better understanding of what you are saying by explaining a little more what you mentioned about…"
  3. Do what you can to make the discussion atmosphere safe for different perspectives and be considerate about controversy over different perspectives.  Present your own positions gently and tentatively, and listen to the positions of others in the same way.
  4. Invite fellow students who are not participating to join the conversation. Ask them what they think (and take a genuine interest in their answers).  Keep an eye on the ebb and flow of discussion and take responsibility for keeping the discussion moving along, treating all participants considerately, and maintaining a balanced and gracious tone.
  5. Be aware of your own participation in class, checking occasionally to ask whether you are monopolizing the conversation or failing to contribute anything at all.

       Email: My email address is Please use the subject line. You can write with questions, send a thesis statement or outline for an essay, make an appointment to meet me in my office, or do anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. If you do not receive a reply in 24 hours, please follow up —  I get a lot of email and often fall behind.

In case you you need it, Wellesley has great advice on "How to Email Your Professor."

Kansas State University's Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities:

Students with disabilities who need classroom accommodations, access to technology, or information about emergency building/campus evacuation processes should contact the Student Access Center and/or their instructor.  Services are available to students with a wide range of disabilities including, but not limited to, physical disabilities, medical conditions, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety.  If you are a student enrolled in campus/online courses through the Manhattan or Olathe campuses, contact the Student Access Center at, 785-532-6441; for Salina campus, contact the Academic and Career Advising Center at, 785-826-2649.

Kansas State University's Statement Defining Expectations for Classroom Conduct:

All student activities in the University, including this course, are governed by the Student Judicial Conduct Code as outlined in the Student Governing Association By Laws, Article V, Section 3, number 2. Students who engage in behavior that disrupts the learning environment may be asked to leave the class.


Kansas State University's Academic Freedom Statement:

Kansas State University is a community of students, faculty, and staff who work together to discover new knowledge, create new ideas, and share the results of their scholarly inquiry with the wider public. Although new ideas or research results may be controversial or challenge established views, the health and growth of any society requires frank intellectual exchange. Academic freedom protects this type of free exchange and is thus essential to any university's mission.

Moreover, academic freedom supports collaborative work in the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge in an environment of inquiry, respectful debate, and professionalism. Academic freedom is not limited to the classroom or to scientific and scholarly research, but extends to the life of the university as well as to larger social and political questions. It is the right and responsibility of the university community to engage with such issues.


Schedule of Assignments
Subject to change.

[C] = Canvas. [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library). [W] = Web (if a journal, you'll need to be logged in or log in via Hale). [N] = Not in library; I'll bring to class.

Note: "through" means "to the end of" (not "up to"). Page numbers refer to the editions assigned.

January W 18 Introduction.
F 20 Dudek, "Multiculturalism" (Keywords for Children's Literature, 2011) [C]; Nancy Larrick, "The All-White World of Children's Literature" (1965) [C]; Christopher Myers, "The Apartheid of Children's Literature," New York Times (15 Mar. 2014) [W]; Maria Jose Boethelo and Masha Kabakow Rudman, Preface and Chapter 1 to Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children's Literature:  Mirrors, Windows, Doors (2009) [C]
The Danger of a Single Story
M 23 Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day (1962); Molly Bang, Ten, Nine, Eight (1983); Jerry Pinkney, The Lion and the Mouse (2009); Chris Raschka, Yo! Yes? (1993) [all R]; Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail, One Word from Sophia (2015) and Kadir Nelson, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands (2005) [both N]; Justine Larbalastier, "How to Write Protagonists of Colour When You're White" (2016) [W].
W 25 Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, "The Danger of a Single Story" (2009: read transcript or watch talk) [W]; Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese (2005), through p. 106.
  F 27 Yang's American Born Chinese (2005), to end.
Seeing the Structures of White Supremacy
M 30 Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, "Introduction" (parts C, and F through chapter's end) and Chapter I: "Hallmark Critical Race Theory Themes" (parts C through chapter's end), Critical Race Theory, pp. 4-5, 7-15, 26-41; Mildred Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), through Chapter 2 (p. 41)
February W 1 Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, through Chapter 7 (p. 170).
F 3 Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, to end; Robin DiAngelo, "White Fragility," International Critical Journal of Pedagogy (2011) [W] — click through to the pdf.
Exposing Systems of Privilege
M 6 excerpts from Lynne Reid Banks' The Indian in the Cupboard (1980) and from J.M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy (1911); Delgado and Stefancic, Chapter III: "Legal Storytelling and Narrative Analysis"; Stephanie M. Wildman with Adrienne Davis, "Making Systems of Privilege Visible" [C].
  W 8 Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian (2007), through "Thanksgiving" (p. 103).
F 10 Alexie, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, to end.
The Personal Is Historical
M 13 Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (2014), through Part II (p. 138).
  W 15 Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming, through Part IV (p. 278)
F 17 Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming, to end; Woodson, "The Pain of the Watermelon Joke," New York Times (28 Nov. 2014).
Decolonizing the Imagination
M 20 Zetta Elliott, "Decolonizing the Imagination" (Horn Book, Mar. 2010); Daniel Jose Older, Shadowshaper (2015), through Chapter 17 (p. 110)
W 22 Older, Shadowshaper, through Chapter 31 (p. 211).
  F 24 Older, Shadowshaper, to end.
  M 27 Noelle Stevenson, Nimona (2015).
March W 1 Stevenson, Nimona.
F 3 G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 & Vol. 2.
M 6 Midterm Exam.
Black Lives Matter
  W 8 Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, All American Boys (2015) through "Sunday" (p. 120); Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Reparations for Ferguson," The Atlantic (18 Aug. 2014).
  F 10 Reynolds and Kiely, All-American Boys, through "Tuesday" (p. 203); Christopher Myers, "Young Dreamers," The Horn Book (6 Aug. 2013).
M 13 Reynolds and Kiely, All-American Boys, to end; Claudia Rankine, "The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning" (New York Times, 2015) [W]; Carol Anderson, "White Rage" (from Jesmyn Ward, ed.,The Fire This Time, 2016) [C].
Intersectionality, Sexuality, and "Relatability"
W 15 Benjamin Alire Saenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012), through "Sparrows Falling from the Sky" (p. 107); Rebecca Onion, "The Awful Emptiness of 'Relatable'" (Slate, Apr. 2014).
  F 18 Saenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, through "Letters on a Page" (p. 232)
  M 27 Saenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, to end.
W 29 Delgado and Stefancic, Chapter IV: "Looking Inward"; Sara Farizian, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel (2015), through Chapter 12 (p. 101).
F 31 Farizan, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, through Chapter 23 (p. 201).
April M 3 Farizan, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, to end.
W 5 Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, I Am Jazz (2014) [R]; Alex Gino, George (2015), through Chapter VI (p. 94).
F 7 Gino, George, to end.
Abilty / Disability
M 10 R. J. Palacio, Wonder (2012), through Part One (p. 80).
  W 12 Palacio, Wonder, through Part Four (p. 185).
F 14 Palacio, Wonder, to end.
Imaginary Homelands
M 17 Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (2003), through "The F-14s" (p. 86).
W 19 Satrapi, Persepolis (2003), to end.
F 21 Francesca Sanna, The Journey (2015) [R]; Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng, Two White Rabbits (2015) [R]; Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey (2016) [R]; Viet Thanh Nguyen, "The Hidden Scars All Refugees Carry," New York Times (2 Sept. 2016)
Performance, History, Race
M 24 Lin Mañuel Miranda, Hamilton (2015)
  W 26 Hamilton (2015); Lyra D. Monteiro, "Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton," The Public Historian (Feb. 2016) [C]
  F 28 Hamilton (2015). Journal: Final Reflection due.
May M 1 Conclusion and Review.
  W 3 No class. I can't be here. So. Why not work on your Take-Home Final?
F 5 No class. (If you turn in your Take-Home Final early, it will be done early. Yay!)
  Tu 9 Take-Home Final due. Email or submit via Canvas no later than May 9, 6 pm Central Time.
For advice and for sharing their syllabi, my thanks to: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Joe Sutliff Sanders, Anuja Madan, and Sarah Park Dahlen. A good bit of the above document reflects what I've learned from them. So, this is a public thank you!

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