By Tom Uribes, University Communications
A new children’s literature book edited by three Fresno State professors will seek to address social transformation in the wake of efforts to eliminate Chicano Studies programs. The book focuses on a study of children’s and young adult literature by and about Chicanos.
“Voices of Resistance: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Chican@ Children’s Literature,” scheduled for release this month, was compiled by its editors, Dr. Larissa M. Mercado-López, an associate professor in the Women’s Studies program; Dr. Cristina Herrera, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chicano and Latin American Studies; and Dr. Laura Alamillo, interim associate dean of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development and chair of the Department of Literacy, Early, Bilingual, & Special Education.
The 208-page book (Rowman and Little 2017) will be presented at the American Education Research Association (AERA) conference in New York this spring while a panel presentation has been proposed for the National Council of Teachers of English annual conference in November in Houston, Texas.
The book presents a rigorous collection of essays that critically examine issues of race, gender, feminism, literacy, art, and language, among many other themes, within the context of Chican@ children’s literature. The collection makes the case that children’s literature is a space and catalyst for social transformation, said Mercado-López, who also is a children’s book author.
“We noticed that there were no collections of critical essays that focused solely on Chican@/x children’s literature. It was important for us to do this considering the increasingly hostile climate for Chicanx youth and Chicanx communities in general,” she said.
Collaborating across three disciplines, the editors said they sought to create a text that would be useful to scholars in teacher education, women’s and gender studies, Chicano studies and literature. It also is designed for teachers in K-12 classrooms.
Mercado-López, who earned her Ph.D. in Latina literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio, focuses her research on Chicana feminisms, Tejana literature and intersectional feminist fitness studies.
Herrera, who earned her Ph.D. in literature from Claremont Graduate University, has published on Chicana literature, motherhood and young adult literature, among other topics.
Alamillo earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in language, literacy and culture. Her research includes examining the education of emergent bilingual children —specifically aimed at humanizing and culturally sustaining teaching practices in multilingual classrooms.
“We are excited about the possibility of our collection being taught as ‘the’ authoritative text on Chican@/x children’s literature,” Alamillo said. “Folks are also excited by our endorsers, who are important authors and scholars in the fields of literacy and education.”
The attack on Chicano Studies programs such as action by the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona to eliminate its program in 2012 also fueled the three Fresno State professors.
In August, a federal judge ruled that Arizona violated the constitutional rights of Mexican American students by eliminating the successful program, saying officials “were motivated by racial animus” and were pushing “discriminatory ends in order to make political gains.”
“Given the prominence of Chicanx children in the K-12 school system, as well as the passage of bills that criminalized Mexican American Studies and consequently banned important books in Chicanx literature, we felt that this collection was necessary and long-overdue,” said Herrera
She said the new book “recognizes that our present moment–one that is rife with continued anti-Mexican sentiment but that has given rise to our first Chicano National Poet Laureate–demands a more focused study of children’s and young adult literature by and about Chican@s.”
For Mercado-López and Herrera, this is the second book they have co-edited together. The first one was “(Re)mapping the Latina/o Literary Landscape (Literatures of the Americas).”
The foreword is written by Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate-emeritus and a former professor and department chair of Chicano Studies at Fresno State.