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Children’s literature still in an utopian state, says Malayalam writer N S Madhavan

By November 21, 2017No Comments

Source : Times of India

MANGALURU: A two-day national seminar organized by World Konkani Centre as part of Vishwa Konkani Literary Festival on ‘Writing for children today: revisioning the moods, modes, methods and media’ expressed concerns at children’s literature being bereft of social realities and presenting a utopian world. Writers passing on their prejudices to young impressionable minds in the name of literature too was questioned with need for course correction stressed on.

N S MAdhavan

Eminent Malayalam writer N S Madhavan in his key-note address at the inaugural cited example of books penned by Enid Blyton as a good example where racial prejudices have been pushed in the name of children’s literature with characters such as Golliwogs. Even Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe sought to justify slavery in its own sort of way, Madhavan said adding these works of children’s literature were out of sync with conflicts in the real world.

With children exposed to excess information, Madhavan said it is difficult to imagine how much to write for them and what to write for them. Citing the recent reportage of Solar Scam that broke out in Kerala, details of which made even the adults cringe, he said, “With newspapers playing major part in information dissemination, one wonders if children should be kept away from such literature and the role such politics play on knowledge that children gather.”

Children’s literature also does not stir up environment concerns in children, get them to recognise power struggles, recognize inequalities that exist in society nor does it condition them to react to these prevalent issues, he rued. While there is also the question of how much of reality that young minds can be kept away from, Madhavan said while this is stark reality that Kerala has around 30% single mother running families, children’s books gloss over the absent fathers.

On the other hand, the Harry Potter series authored by J K Rowling openly discusses the issue of Albus Percival Wulfrick Brian Dumbledore aka Prof Albus Dumbledore being a gay. “This is an acceptance of the fact that society can and should co-exists with differences even with personal sexual orientations,” he said. Even gender issues are swept under the carpet starting with academic textbooks and stereotypes of women being stuck to household chores fostered, he said.

Extending his argument further, Madhavan said books such as Bread Winner and Sparrow Girl authored by Deborah Ellis and Sara Pennypacker have sought to break the stereotypes surrounding women in general and girls in particular by highlight the role that protagonists Parvana and Ming Li play in Afghanistan and China in the two novels respectively. “Children’s literature should break such stereotypes and bring the readers in sync with modern realities,” he argued.

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