Professor's book favors multicultural touch on children's fables
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Once upon a time, a young black girl with long, curled hair lived at the top of an isolated tower with an enchantress.
Her name was Sugar Cane.
This Caribbean re-telling of the classic Rapunzel fairy tale is just one story featured in “Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness,” a new book of essays edited by University of Florida professor Ruth Lowery and her colleagues Vivian Yenika-Agbaw and Laretta Henderson.
Lowery is an associate professor of children’s literacy at UF’s College of Education. Her studies specialize in how immigrants, especially those from the Caribbean and West Indies, are represented in children’s literature.
Lowery, Yenika-Agbaw and Henderson are university professors and members of the National Council of Teachers of English and the U.S. Board on Books for Young People. Yenkia-Abgaw teaches at The Pennsylvania State University and Henderson at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“We each teach multicultural literature courses, and we always found it difficult to find stories from a black perspective that we could share with our students,” Lowery said. “We discovered that there was a need for more research about how cultures within the African diaspora were reflected in children’s literature.”
The essays in “Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness” analyze familiar children’s stories from the African and African diaspora perspectives. The African diaspora refers to the communities around the world that descend from the historic movement of people from Africa. The book also introduces unique folktales and traditions rooted in the black cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, the West Indies, Latin America, and the United States. For example, the book covers the stories of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood in Africa, a female West Indian version of Rumpelstiltskin, and the Pied Piper of the Harlem Renaissance.
Lowery said she hopes children’s literature students, teachers in kindergarten through graduate school, and librarians use the new book to find ways to share these diverse stories with children.
“We hear of fairy tales so many times yet we don’t realize that these stories go way back and that there are versions of these stories across every culture,” Lowery said. “You’ll hear about the Disney version of stories, but you don’t hear of others. One of our goals is exposing children and others to these multicultural stories that aren’t readily available in the mainstream culture.”
Prices for “Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness” start at $38. The book can be purchased at the publisher’s website, mcfarlandpub.com, Amazon.com and other online bookstores.