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Rebecca Rabinowitz
11 November 2016 @ 02:53 am
"WTF, Crown? Um, where are the f-bombs?" by Kirkus Reviews children's editor Vicky Smith. Get your swears on.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
31 October 2016 @ 08:52 pm
Dear Natalie Babbitt,

You're one of the people who taught me that it would not be better for anyone to be here forever. But I'm sad anyway. Thank you, thank you for your work. I hope you found delicious.

Rebecca Rabinowitz
27 October 2016 @ 03:02 pm
We need so many more black characters in YA and MG science fiction. So many more.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
16 August 2016 @ 05:34 pm
Can anyone recommend a good article, essay, or post about Jewish imagery and themes in In the Night Kitchen?

Come to think of it -- is there a whole book yet about Judaism and Jewishness in Sendak's work?
Rebecca Rabinowitz
If you know anyone considering buying a made-to-order children's book from the company called Lost My Name, tell them not to.

Their picture books The Little Boy Who Lost His Name and The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name are personalized to the recipient child's first name via a plot in which the protagonist meets a sequence of animals whose first letters spell out that child's name. If the child's name is Leo, the protagonist will meet a lion first, then something starting with E, then something starting with O.

If the child's name has an I, the protagonist meets an Inuit. An Inuit is a PERSON, but here is textually parallel to animals. This is yet another example in children's lit (though this is arguably more entrepreneurship than lit) where indigenous people are framed as less than human. Do not give this company money.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
I've seen a lot of praise for Julie Murphy's Dumplin' -- praise specifically lauding the fat acceptance aspect of it -- even extending beyond the field of children's literature. One such piece is "Five Pieces of Brilliant Plus Size Media" by (or edited by, I'm not sure) Bethany Rutter. I love that the piece mentions podcast "Bad Fat Broads," which is amazing -- fat positive, funny, snarky, intersectional, and sharp as a tack.

But this piece -- and other praises of Dumplin' that I've seen -- talk about the book as if it's entirely fat positive. It's not. The main character's dearly beloved late aunt died of fatness. Really, of fatness. She died of deathfat. Watching tv. Alone. The book doesn't imply that Aunt Lucy was unloveable, but it absolutely uses her to embody the equation of fatness with tragedy. If you're deathfat, you'll die, you'll die alone, you'll die watching tv, and your low income family won't be able to afford a coffin to fit you in. Plain tragedy.

In addition to Aunt Lucy, there's another secondary character, Millie, who waddles [4]:

“Millie is that girl, the one I am ashamed to admit that I’ve spent my whole life looking at and thinking, Things could be worse. I’m fat, but Millie’s the type of fat that requires elastic waist pants because they don’t make pants with buttons and zippers in her size. Her eyes are to close together and her nose pinches up at the end. She wears puppies and kittens and not in an ironic way” [5].

In Millie, fatness is pathetic. The phrase "Millie’s the type of fat that..." specifically calls her a "type." Stereotype, archetype, not a full human. Readers are expected to recognize the type. Millie's the icky "type" of fat, present for contrast, present so that Will, the protagonist, can be fat in a different way -- a way that readers can like or feel fine about.

Why do we need to throw some fat characters to the wolves in order to offer a loveable fat protagonist? Is it a plea to the wolves? Is it bargaining? If we offer Aunt Lucy and Millie as sacrifice, can we be allowed to love the fat protagonist?

For Will, the protagonist, Dumplin's message is mostly fat positive. But even for her, there's this sentence: “For the first time in my life, I feel tiny. I feel small. And not in the shrinking flower kind of way. This feeling: it empowers me” [68]. Why is power be symbolized as smallness? Why employ the equation of smallness with power? How does this not reinscribe hegemonic fatphobia?

Do pick up Dumplin'. Do read it. Do give it to teens. But this is a great chance to have analytical conversations about literary portrayal of fatness. Dissect it. We can praise and relish exciting aspects of fat positivity without ignoring hegemonic, fatphobic aspects from the same source. We must.