Antonia Forest, and a question of class

Anna Clare McDuff amcduff at math.sunysb.edu
Sun May 4 04:26:51 EDT 2003


On Sun, 4 May 2003, Robyn Starkey wrote:

>   I remember being incensed when I read that mean-spirited little entry
> about Forest in the Oxford Companion to Children's Lit years ago - it said
> something like, her books had merit, but they were very narrowly about a
> certain class.

	Absolutely, it's nonsensical. Actually I think a case can be made
that Forest's books are more universal *because* of her focus on one very
specific class grouping. That focus allows her the realism which lets her
characters be real living and breathing people, living within the rules,
habits & constraints of their own world. And thus we can all identify with
their humanity and with aspects of their world because it's all so clearly
laid out for us.

I just thought puh-lease! How many children's books that are
> regarded as "worthy" are about very narrow socio-economic groups? But
> somehow, if it is about poor or working-class people that's good
> literature, and anything about any other group is not.

	This seems to be a common prejudice in adult literature as well as
children's! Never underestimate the power of class prejudice to cloud
reviewers' minds. I remember when the Harry Potter thing first became a
Major Cultural Phenomenon there were loud outcries from the usual suspects
that Potter couldn't be truly inclusive because he has a vault full of
gold at Gringotts & attends a richly appointed boarding school. And kids
shouldn't read this elitist garbage, it would damage their self esteem,
and why couldn't he attend Stonewall Comprehensive? Much more literary.
Now that JK Rowling has been proclaimed to be richer than the Queen
(highly dubious as the estimates of the Queen's wealth are almost
certainly artificially low, but still, that's a lot of money) I think we
can safely conclude that Potter is Quite Inclusive Enough.

> Ann deserves everything she gets. Ginty is the misunderstood one...

	<grin>

	Anna

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