Agency for the child in Esperanza Rising AND The hate U give: a call to young non-Black readers

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michelle Divya Sharma (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Mark Rifkin

Abstract: There is a possibility for children’s literature to exist without colonizing the child. There is a future for this genre that encourages the child to reclaim his or her agency by recognizing the child’s capability to think critically and by producing literature that addresses the child as an equal to the adult. Pam Muñoz Ryan in Esperanza Rising (2000) does this, specifically, by recognizing the child’s political potential. I demonstrate how Ryan makes an effort to open up a political dialogue with the child, inviting the child into the public sphere to speak up for his or her own political beliefs. Ryan recognizes the political capabilities of the child to understand the plight of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States. Rather than engaging with the child as an inferior to herself, Ryan address the child as a politician appealing to a voter. Ryan brings to the child the issue of undocumented Mexican immigration and persuades them to sympathize with the violence enacted on undocumented Mexican immigrants. In creating a narrative about an undocumented Mexican immigrant, Ryan uses the children’s novel as a political platform to speak to the child as a future activist and voter. AND The Hate U Give (2017) acts as a guidebook for non-black youth wanting to get involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. First, she educates the reader on how the myth of black criminality influences the criminal justice system and allows officers to use excessive force on black folks while then acquitting these officers despite their actions. Second, Thomas informs the reader of the issues of generational trauma and code-switching, discussing the intricacies of black life in the United States. Third, Thomas teaches the reader how to access political agency as young adults to advocate for black lives. Thomas shows the young non-black reader how they can support the Black Lives Matter movement without imposing their non-black privilege onto black activists. In looking at how Thomas speaks to the young non-black reader, I argue that she utilizes the narrative to make accessible the current scholarship on the criminal justice system, on anti-black state violence, on black life in the United States, and on different forms of protesting. Thomas simplifies the language of scholarship and politics that discusses the disenfranchisement of black folks by making it readily available through the narrative of a young black woman. She uses the appeal of the young adult genre and first-person narration to make the discussion of police brutality accessible to all readers.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Black Lives Matter, Children's Literature, Mexican Repatriation, Police Brutality, Undocumented Immigration, Young Adult Literature
Ryan, Pam Mun~oz. $t Esperanza rising
Thomas, Angie. $t Hate u give
Young adult literature $x Political aspects
Immigrants in literature
Police in literature

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