We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live Reading Group, Glasgow Women’s Library

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We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, (Detail: Selection of Titles by Lollipop Power, circa 1970s), 2017, Kim Dhillon

As part of my installation, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, at CCA Glasgow, I am running a series of reading groups through March at Glasgow Women’s Library to discuss some of these books and the ideas they explore. The groups will focus largely on the titles produced by Lollipop Power in the Chapel Hill area of North Carolina in the 1970s. The groups are facilitated by Dr Elsa Richardson.

1970s feminist children’s books sought to present stories that would broaden the possibilities for children and reflect a world for kids who wanted to grow up equal.

We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live reading group takes place on Thursdays 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th March, 5.30pm to 7pm

We’ll reflect on lead female characters; representations of fathers, grandparent carers and single, working mothers; and ask what was radical about children’s literature from the 1970s and how it can be today? Find all the sessions and book your place on the Glasgow Women’s Library website via this link.

Syllabus: We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live

 

Week 1: Representations of Genders: Boys, Girls, Parents and Carers

The feminist collectives publishing children’s books in the 1970s rose directly out of consciousness raising groups and the Women’s Liberation Movement. Dissatisfied with the literature available to children they sought to broaden the representation of genders in characters so as to present a world view that reflected their egalitarian values. This first week explores such representations in male and female characters.

Girls and Boys

 

Joshua’s Day, Sandra Surowiecki, 1977, illustrated by Patricia Riley Lenthall

Jenny’s Secret Place, Sara Evan Boyte, 1970 (digital copy), illustrated by Carol Jean Harkey

Up in the Tree, Margaret Atwood, (2010, 2nd ed.) (1978)

The Sheep Book, Carmen Goodyear, 1974

The Boy Toy, Phyllis Johnson, 1988, illustrated by Lena Shiffman

Where is Jamela?, Niki Daly, 2012

 

Parents and Carers

 

My Mother the Mail Carrier, Inez Maury, 1976, illustrated by Lady McCrady

This is My Father and Me, Dorka Raynor, 1973

Grownups Cry Too, Nancy Hazen, 1988

Just Momma and Me, Christine Engla Eber, 1975

Martin’s Father, Margrit Eichler, 1971, illustrated by Bev Maggenis

 

Supplementary Texts:

I am Jazz, Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, 2015

 

Week 2: Different Families: Lesbian Families, Diversity and Other Cultures, and Parenting Solo

One of the main aims of Lollipop Power was to present characters and stories that were representative of the growing diversity in 1970s American families. This included the first picture books in the English language to feature lesbian families, as well as representations of working mothers, working class families, single parents, and bilingual publications for an increasingly diverse Spanish-speaking population in the North Carolina area in which they worked. Lollipop Power books were printed cheaply and sold for a dollar each, and this week explores the impact, success, shortfalls, and legacies of attempting to represent diversity in children’s books. We will question the importance of children from all backgrounds and types of families seeing themselves in books, and children from more mainstream families and middle-class backgrounds seeing diverse families represented in books.

Lesbian Families

 

Lots of Mommies, Jane Severance, 1983 (digital copy), illustrated by Jan Jones

When Megan Went Away, Jane Severance, illustrated by Tea Schook

 

Diversity and Other Cultures

 

Maria Teresa, Mary Atkinson, 1979, illustrated by Christina Engla Eber

Grandparents Around the World, Dorka Raynor, 1977

 

Fathers and Parenting Solo

 

Martin’s Father, Margrit Eichler, 1971, illustrated by Bev Maggenis

This is My Father and Me, Dorka Raynor, 1973

Just Momma and Me, Christine Engla Eber, 1975

 

Supplementary Texts:

 

Heather Has Two Mommies, Lesléa Newman, 1989, illustrated by Laura Cornell

Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin, Susanne Boshce, 1981, translated into English 1983

Free to Be You and Me, Marlo Thomas and Friends, 1972, reprinted 2002

 

 

Week 3: Growing Up and Giving/Getting/Finding Voice

This week explores a longer collection of poetry aimed at an older child or adolescent reader, published by the Feminist Press in1973, and the group will consider the 1970s world from the view of the child and how that view may look now. The text is discussed in relation to the contemporary poetry of Carol Ann Duffy. What is it to find your voice in books, to give voice through literature

I’m Like Me: Poems for People Who Want to Grow Up Equal, Siv Widerberg (translated from Swedish by Verne Moberg) 1973

 

Supplementary Texts:

The World’s Wife, Carol Ann Duffy, 1999

Red Cherry Red, Jackie Kay, 2007

 

Week 4: Radical Subjects: Taboos, Radicality, and Context

Sister Apple Sister Pig is a self-described pro-choice book about abortion from a child’s point of view (available for free download on e-flux) by artist Mary Walling Blackburn. The subject matter will be discussed against 19th and 18th-century Scottish ballads and literature on infanticide, and against the Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who!, which has become a top read on pro-choice booklists for children with the refrain ‘A person’s a person no matter how small’. This week we question the role of the parent/carer/adult reader in the perception of ideas and transfer of information to children through books, and how what is radical or taboo shifts in time and context.

Sister Apple, Sister Pig, Mary Walling Blackburn, 2015

 

Supplementary Texts:

Weep Not for Me: Women, Ballads and Infanticide in Early Modern Scotland, Deborah A. Symonds, 1997

Horton Hears a Who!, Dr Seuss, 1954

 

 

 

February 2017

 

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