Children's Fiction about 9/11: Ethnic, Heroic and National Identities

Children's Fiction about 9/11: Ethnic, Heroic and National Identities

Children's Fiction about 9/11: Ethnic, Heroic and National Identities

Children's Fiction about 9/11: Ethnic, Heroic and National Identities

Synopsis

In this pioneering and timely book, Lampert examines the ways in which cultural identities are constructed within young adult and children's literature about the attacks of September 11, 2001. Looking at examples including picture books, young adult novels, and a selection of DC Comics, Lampert finds the co-mingling of xenophobia and tolerance, the binaried competition between good and evil and global harmony and national insularity, and the glorification of both the commonplace hero and the super-human. Specifically, Lampert identifies three significant identity categories encoded in 9/11 books for children--ethnic identities, national identities, and heroic identities--arguing that their formation is contingent upon post-9/11 politics. These shifting identities offer implicit and explicit accounts of what constitute good citizenship, loyalty to nation and community, and desirable attributes in a Western post-9/11 context.

Lampert makes an original contribution to the field of children's literature by providing a focused and sustained analysis of how texts for children about 9/11 contribute to formations of identity in these complex times of cultural unease and global unrest.

Excerpt

“But then on September 11, 2001 something so huge and horrible hap
pened that the whole world shook.” (Kalman, 2002, p. 23)

The Impact of 9/11 on Children’s Literature

On September 11, 2001, (9/11) amidst attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a new context was set for considerations of identity and culture. The idea that the world will never be the same again has become commonplace and part of a now taken-for-granted discourse. ‘9/11’, as the attacks have come to be known, is often described as the “day that shook the world” (Hawthorne & Winter, 2002, p. xvii), with the popular press post–9/11 repeatedly claiming that the world has changed in profound and lasting ways (Sullivan, 2002; Eccleston, 2003). So great has been the attention given to this notion that, according to Murphet (2003), the target of the attack, Ground Zero, is now one of the great consecrated fetishes of our time. In a similar vein, Jones (2003) claims that the term ‘September 11’ has become more than a date. ‘Since September 11’, we say, ‘prior to September 11’, or ‘in the wake of September 11’. September 11 is thus an historical moment from which the cultural forces and identities that emerged may be examined.

The focus of this book is on cultural identities within fiction written for young people about 9/11. In some ways, it is surprising enough that any children’s books have been written about 9/11 at all. This fact in itself shocks, given the startling images evoked by the event, and the complexities of information with which the young readers of these books must grapple. Indeed, some of the books are truly graphic. They come complete with apocalyptic images of planes crashing into buildings, and references to despair, evil and seemingly inexplicable horror. Nonetheless, children’s books have an honorable tradition . . .

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