What I hope to accomplish with this paper is to move secondary education teachers away from predominantly ethnocentric texts such as Things Fall Apart or Palm-Wine Drinkard to something that shows culture without these tinted lenses. The text I am proposing to replace these is Aya: Of Yop City which is a graphic novel based loosely on the author’s own life, Marguerite Abouet. The reason that I feel an essay like this is necessary is because when teaching at a high school level you have to have a justification for any text you intend on teaching and if you are attempting to replace curriculum already set for the school it is even more difficult to do. During the process of this paper I intend to show the benefits of teaching graphic novels over texts, as well as the benefits of teaching specifically Aya due to it’s broad range of topics as well as it’s ability to discuss culture in a non-ethnocentric manner that stereotypes Africa or Africans.
Abouet, Marguerite, and Clément Oubrerie. Aya: Of Yop City. Montréal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2008. Print.
Aya is the primary text I’ll be working with over the course of my paper and attempting to make an argument about and for. While many of the topics in the text are of the adult nature the overall benefits of teaching this text are what have struck me as to being a reason to teach it at a secondary education level. The text itself offers looks into femininity, gender roles, economy, rights, African/Ivory Coast culture, and pregnancy. The text itself is loosely based on the authors own life and is quite realistic according to many critics.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994. Print.
Being that this is one of the most taught texts in the high school classroom in regards to African literature Things Fall Apart serves as a great comparison for my paper as to why we shouldn’t be teaching texts like this in that sort of curriculum. While it has benefits and serve as interesting to students, it fails to teach relevant culture experience and seems to focus on extremes to try and push forward an ideal.
Bucher, Katherine T., and M. Lee Manning. “Bringing Graphic Novels into a School’s Curriculum”. The Clearing House 78.2 (2004): 67–72. Web…
Butcher’s article focuses on the benefits (Similar to Carter’s article below) that graphic novels can have. However, separate from some of the discussion that Carter has, Butcher adds in the benefits of using graphic novels to give voice to minorities as well as a possible usage for interdisciplinary work which is becoming a more prominent thing in scaffolding education.
Carter, James Bucky. “Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving Toward Our “Optimus Prime””. The English Journal 97.2 (2007): 49–53. Web…
James Carter’s article is useful in that it gives solid reasoning as to the benefits of teaching a graphic novel instead of other modalities. He offers reasons such as teen angst, achievement gap, social disparity, and creation of inclusive classrooms. The article itself is sponsored by the NCTE (National Council for Teacher Education) and published in their English Journal.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Jumping Monkey Hill.” The Thing Around Your Neck. New York: Anchor Books, 2009. 95-114.
Jumping Monkey Hill highlights the problems of a novel written for or by a predominantly non-African authorship or for a non-African readership. The text while being non-fiction is still highly applicable to showing the problems of teaching certain other texts in the classroom.
Clark, J. Spencer. “Encounters with Historical Agency: The Value of Nonfiction Graphic Novels in the Classroom”. The History Teacher 46.4 (2013): 489–508. Web…
Clark’s article is extremely useful in that it is the only article I have to attempt the link between history education and graphic novels on a whole. Clark argues in one section about “Historical Agency” in which the fact that when examining any history class the student must be able to inhabit the position of the person making these decisions and living through a normal text. A graphic novel gives students exactly that, it gives a mode in which they can inhabit the role of agency. Beyond just this mode he also conducted a study with a series of teachers testing their use of graphic novels and what they garnered from studying them. In one such instance “By reading about perspectives of people in these countries, the preservice teachers were able to understand the conflicts differently. Instead of simply thinking that the United States polices “bad” or “evil” countries, the preservice teachers understood that these conflicts impacted the actions of people in those countries, more than the governments themselves” (498). While not being about Aya, most of this can still be taken into a context where a student as well as an instructor can begin to understand more about conflicts in and outside of a country at any given point in time by use of agency. It creates a humanizing factor.
J.M. Coetzee, “The Novel in Africa.” Occasional Papers for the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities 17 (1999).
Coetzee’s short story discusses the problems of an African novel written for a non-African readership. This is similar to the issue of teaching an African novel designed for a white audience to a class in a high school and claiming that it teaches cultural values.
Gallo, Don, and Stephen Weiner. “Bold Books for Innovative Teaching: Show, Don’t Tell: Graphic Novels in the Classroom”. The English Journal 94.2 (2004): 114–117. Web…
Gallo and Weiner’s piece is all about defining and moving towards using graphic novels within a classroom. My favorite quote within this text is “A well-done graphic novel offers the immediacy of the prose reading experience, with the pictures and the words working simultaneously, making a graphic novel not only something one reads but something one sees as well, like reading and watching a movie at the same time.” (115) The duo bring up countless texts that would fit within a classroom, but mainly the fact that there is such a copious amount of these it makes for an argument in the way of “see all these other texts that people are teaching with and why? This is why Aya is such a good idea for the classroom.”
Gateward, Frances K., and John Jennings. The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art. Print.
The article I’m focusing on here in this book is by Sally McWilliams and it is all about Aya. What McWilliams does here is situation the graphic novel as being more than just a typical trope about African life instead, showing that it is indeed far deeper and far more about actual life on the Ivory Coast. This article is incredibly good for justification and benefits of this text in general in comparison to other graphic novels and focuses mostly on the strength of the novel itself. It discusses feminism, classism, and gender stereotypes.
Handloff, Robert E. ed. Ivory Coast: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1988.
Handloff’s account of the Ivory coast is useful in that it gives the history of the location where Aya takes place. The use of this text is evident in that the history informs the novel as it is based (loosely) on the author’s life and experiences that occurred during the time period of the history. This is useful for my paper as both a bolstering of the argument of teaching history alongside the novel and is also useful for understanding the history in which I read the novel itself.
Hansen, Kathryn Strong. “In Defense of Graphic Novels”. The English Journal 102.2 (2012): 57–63. Web…
Hansen’s piece is all about the defense of the graphic novel as the title entails. Initially she brings up something I intend on discussing in my piece as for why I wanted to use Aya and that is the ability for graphic novels to be used interpretively as many different tools in the English classroom. She however immediately discusses the tools I’ll be wanting to use, that of introducing different cultures. “Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2000), a tale about a young Irani girl, and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (2006)” (57). After giving some general reasons as to why she believes graphic novels are solid use in the classroom she immediately reverses to address the criticisms directed at the use combating ideas such as “existence of objectionable material in some means cutting all”, “a tool for lazy readers”, and “equation to students with an inability to read”. While Hansen brings up a plethora of counters to this she still believes that the overall initial use and ability to teach using these texts outweighs that of the dissenting voices against them. Citing ESL function, analytical skill improvement, inclusion of visual analysis, cultural exchange, and subject matter outside of the normal reachable realm of standard texts.
Schwarz, Gretchen. “Expanding Literacies Through Graphic Novels”. The English Journal 95.6 (2006): 58–64. Web…
Schwarz’s article seems more practical than previous articles involving the use of graphic novels in education by talking about the usage of, obviously, multiple literacies. He makes the argument that students will learn about more than just dialogue, plot, and character, (all of which are important) but they will also learn about visual elements (arguably becoming more important everyday) such as “color, shading, panel layout, perspective”(59). A strong point that Schwarz makes that is undoubtedly going to be used in my report “New media call for a “new rhetoric,” one that includes visual as well as verbal understanding and ability.” Besides this claim there is also a text cited from Visual Communications: A Writer’s Guide by Susan Hilligoss. The handbook itself states “College students … prepare their work with sophisticated computers and printers that rival the output of commercial printing … They have access to a wealth of graphics via the internet and inexpensive collections of clip art, as well as the means to create digital photographs and artwork. They make pages for the World Wide Web and effectively publish their work to a large audience … In short, the world of college writing has changed.” While Schwarz combines all of this information into a nice package, he manages to show why educators should be using graphic novels. His reasoning spans from social justice and general literacy to cultural knowledge and expanding student horizons.
Whitted, Qiana. “‘And the Negro Thinks in Hieroglyphics’: Comics, Visual Metonymy, and the Spectacle of Blackness.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 5.1 (2013): 79-100. Web.
Dr. Whitted’s article discusses my primary text, Aya, stating the benefits of the text and how while other texts focus on the “spectacle” of Africa, with Aya, it focuses on the everyday life of a real Ivory Coast African. Using Dr. Whitted’s article in conjunction with everything else I’ve found I should be able to make an argument for the benefits of teaching this specific graphic novel over other texts that discuss Africa.