2015: An Abundance of Good Things
As a reviewer, I wrote several children's book review essays for the Los Angeles Times:
- Four children’s books introduce African American experiences (January 2015).
- Two children’s books about middle schoolers between cultures (March 2015).
- YA science fiction delights: Shadowshaper and More Happy Than Not (June 2015).
- Another Kind of Hurricane, Drowned City take on Katrina (August 2015).
- A diverse mix of picturebooks, perfect for reading aloud (December 2015).
As tenure track faculty, I also wrote a few professional and research articles, with more in the hopper:
- “We always talk about race!”: Navigating race talk dilemmas in the teaching of literature. Research in the Teaching of English.
- Re-envisioning and (re)reading: Examining problematic texts. The ALAN Review.
- Making it relevant: How an African American male teacher sustained professional relationships through culturally responsive discourse. Race Ethnicity and Education.
As someone who spends entirely too much time thinking about children's literature, speculative fiction, fandom, and education, and whose past fandom experiences led to great comfort with social media, I was quoted in the press a bit.
- Entertainment Weekly picked up one of my LA Times reviews.
- I ended up talking to Flavorwire about my book project, and to fandom friends on Fansplaining about how my long-ago time in Harry Potter fandom led to my life today.
- After my first stint on a pro pass at New York Comic Con, and presenting my Spencer postdoctoral study at the National Academy of Education's annual meeting, there was drama over one picturebook featuring smiling enslaved characters, and then another. Since my Spencer postdoc researched young people's responses to literature like this, I ended up talking to the New York Times and NPR's All Things Considered.
- Finally, the news of Noma Dumezweni's casting as adult Hermione Granger in the West End production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child meant I got to chat with the BBC about the "Hermione is Black" movement in fandom, as well as the phenomenon of Hamilton, the musical that's taking Broadway by storm.
2015 was a whirlwind year, but it was also a year where I dealt with quite a number of personal challenges, including a painful and debilitating stint with costochondritis in the spring, and a particularly virulent strain of norovirus just before the holidays. However, there were plenty of good times. In March, my third niece (and fifth nibling) was born. In July, I attended my 20 year high school reunion in Detroit, and reconnected with classmates. Then in August, I had a wonderful time at the International Research Society for Children's Literature's Biennial Congress at the University of Worcester in the United Kingdom. During my trip, my first visit to England in 14 years, I spent time in London with one of my dearest friends in the world, Clare Worley, as my host, and saw Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet at the Barbican. I also had tea in Oxford with award-winning author Philip Pullman, who is just as lovely of a person as you might imagine.
Despite all this excitement, I've managed to finish 99% of The Dark Fantastic book manuscript, seven months later than I intended, but right on time to incorporate the discussions on race in Potter fandom after Noma's casting. After editing, the manuscript will be sent off to the series editor, hopefully by the end of February, if not sooner.
What's kept me from blogging? As you can see, I've been hard at "work, work..."
2016: Even More Incredible Things to Come
- Follow our @HealingFictions Twitter account, launched on New Year's Day 2016 and wonderfully managed by Penn GSE Reading/Writing/Literacy master's student Amy Brown, for our daily children's lit, YA fiction, and comics recommendations. Every day at noon, we'll feature a selection based upon our monthly theme. This month, January 2016, we've revived a hashtag created by several of us in the aftermath of the Ferguson uprising, #Kidlit4Justice.
- We are not yet posting full book reviews. We're simply making recommendations after we evaluate good books. We are particularly interested in what we're thinking of as "humanizing stories," a term inspired by Django Paris & Maisha Winn's award-winning edited volume, Humanizing Qualitative Research.
- If you'd like for me and the SuperFriends team to consider your book or comic for @HealingFictions, please send review copies to my attention at Penn GSE.
- I will invite the team to write a separate blog post about the @HealingFictions project later this calendar year.
- On the final day of each month, The Dark Fantastic (blog) will feature an interview based on our monthly theme. For this month's theme, #Kidlit4Justice, we interviewed author-activist Zetta Elliott. Next month, we'll feature interviews from legendary authors Julius Lester and Arnold Adoff, talking about their long history in children's publishing. We have several others lined up, and we are so humbled by the generosity of the authors who have agreed to speak with us thus far. You don't want to miss it.
- Next summer (2017), my SuperFriends and I plan to take our humanizing stories work from the textual to the visual -- everyone under 25 is mainly on platforms like Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat, and they avidly follow vloggers on YouTube. In order to target this audience in addition to our grown-up and professional followers, we want to do a regular video podcast -- a dark fantastic Web show about children's literature, media, and culture. (Penn is uniquely suited for this kind of project, as several notable senior faculty are pioneers in the fields of video ethnography and anthropology.) This year, we're doing the initial research and groundwork. We're also deeply considering how we might better use social media for both advocacy and groundbreaking research on today's children's literature. Stay tuned.
- Yesterday, I received a grant to launch the first phase of a multisite research project on children's responses to historical African American children's literature. The initial site visit yesterday was incredible, and if permissions are secured, I'm looking forward to immersing myself at the school for the remainder of the winter. I am thrilled to be researching in the field again.
- I have three speaking engagements lined up! These are my first-ever flyouts that are unrelated to professional conferences, so I'm pretty excited. In late March, I'll be visiting Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In June, I'll be speaking at Northern Illinois University. Of course, I'll also be attending and presenting at my regular spring meetings, American Educational Research Association (AERA) in April, as well as Children's Literature Association (ChLA) in June. Although I missed the Schomburg's Black Comics Festival earlier this month, I hope to attend ECBACC in Philly, and New York Comic Con later this year.
- Once The Dark Fantastic (book) is contracted, I'll share information about the publication timetable as it arises, and as I can. I'll need to revise it and go through peer review, but I hope to secure a contract by year's end. (I'm in an "article field," not a "book field," which is why I have to prioritize articles, now and in the future -- and I must say that I've really come to enjoy the article writing process.)
- As always, the best way to reach me and follow me is on Twitter: @Ebonyteach. It's where I chat when I take breaks from writing and email, and if I'm standing in line (one of my least favorite things to do!).
I'm expecting the extraordinary in 2016! Tomorrow afternoon, look for our #Kidlit4Justice wrap-up, and our exclusive interview with Zetta Elliott. See you soon!