Rodriguez’s Chapter 3 in Teaching Culturally Sustaining and Inclusive Young Adult Literature focuses on the inclusion aspect of the book. Adolescent concerns often center around identity and belonging. Adolescents that identify as members of out-groups, those that are not part of the dominate cultures norms, often have trouble finding belonging or being happy with their identity. The importance of incorporating diverse young adult literature should be readily apparent from the needs of adolescents. While students that identify with minority populations may feel excluded from main stream norms if they can see parts of themselves in literature it can help them feel like the belong at least in our classrooms and hopefully instill a learning space with a sense of inclusion that all are welcome.
Miller’ Queer Literacy Framework offer one literary lens approach to analysis literature beyond just selecting a wide variety of novels. Actively engaging with the novels is necessary to bring students to understand diverse and foreign perspectives. Critically thinking through even diverse texts as Sensoy and Marshall’s piece “Save the Muslim Girl!” illustrates. Young adult fiction, and all literature, can either intentionally or unintentionally reinforce stereotypes and norms. The example used in the piece covers how the typical girl in Western authored literature about Muslim girls puts them in a passive position, condemns the veil and burka wholly, and that they need to be saved by the West. This then puts forth the message that the “East” needs to be saved, that they do not work to save themselves (therefore serving as propaganda pieces that encourage foreign military intervention), and that individuals religious choices can be offhandedly condemned.
Even diverse literature with good intentions can be problematic which just increases the need to apply critical literacy consistently and continuously in a classroom. Approaching topics on marginalized groups in a way that further stereotypes them will only push them away and continue the cycle of suppressing differences while at the same time making a classroom setting hostile. As Ari says in the novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, “I hated being volunteered. The problem with my life was that it was someone else's idea.” Adolescents do not want to be someone else’s idea. They want to be themselves just as everyone does.
Providing mirrors to our oppressed student groups is important to give those students a voice and sense of belonging while telling them it’s okay to be them. However, a great amount of care is needed to select literature that avoids stereotyping. Along with that engaging with the texts is necessary to both critically think on literature so we can further prevent harm and also so that students that do not find themselves looking into a mirror can instead use diverse young adult literature as a window to better understand their peers as individuals.
Resource: The Queer Literacy Framework has been attached so other educators and readers can look it over and potentially use it as a literary lens in their classroom to further student critical reading.