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Thesis title: Fur, Fangs and Feathers: Colonial and counter-colonial portrayals of American Indians in young adult fantasy literature
Start year: 2009
In recent children’s literature, there has been a distinct effort to embrace diversity and multiculturalism, and to include nuanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of non-white characters. Examples such as the works of Malorie Blackman or Randa Abdel-Fattah, which feature young children of colour as protagonists, avoid pitfalls associated with earlier texts, such as stereotyping and tokenism.
However, I argue that many recent children’s and young adult novels, particularly those by authors writing about a culture of which they do not have personal experience, contain similar stereotypes to those found in earlier works. For example, a common trope in young adult fantasy literature is to associate Native peoples with phenomena such as shape-shifting; a cliché remarkably similar to the colonial concept of American Indians as either ‘animalistic’ or ‘closer to nature’.
My thesis analyses the extent to which stereotypes inform the ways that non-Native authors write about American Indian peoples, and examines the methods used by Native authors to ‘write back’ against colonial portrayals of American Indian peoples. By comparing novels written by Native and non-Native authors, I examine the implications of insider and outsider perspectives, and the impacts of these viewpoints on the ways that American Indian characters are represented. My primary texts are Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize series, and Joseph Bruchac’s novel Wolf Mark.
Postcolonialism, children’s literature, North America, American Indian literature
Postcolonial literature, children’s and young adult literature, pop culture, American Indian literature
I have worked as a volunteer steward at the Story Museum in Oxford since summer 2012, and have participated in the Oxford Children’s Literature and Youth Culture Colloquium since 2009.
I enjoy creative writing, and have published two webcomics, Footloose and Cherry. I also led a creative writing workshop at St Gregory the Great’s School in Oxford (2009).