Tag Archives: gender

These Boundaries, Boxes, and Traditions Can’t Hold Me Back: Labryrinth’s Door–Anyia “Dream of a Warrior” by Jacquitta A. McManus

box

Image taken from Google Images

“I Get Out”  by Lauryn Hill

I get out, I get out of all your boxes
I get out, you can’t hold me in these chains
I’ll get out
Father free me from this bondage
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must change

To keep me in this box
Psychological locks
Repressin’ true expression
Cementin’ this repression
Promotin’ mass deception
So that no one can be healed
I don’t respect your system
I won’t protect your system
When you talk I don’t listen

And just get out
Oh, just get out of all this bondage
Just get out
Oh, you can’t hold me in these chains
Just get out
All these traditions killin’ freedom
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must change

labyrinth's door McManus, Jacquitta A. and Illustrator Toujour Byrd. Labyrinth’s Door—Anyia “Dream of a Warrior.” Worlds to Discover, LLC: 2010. http://www.worldstodiscover.com/

In our digital, 21st century world, among the interactive worlds, Xbox games, and the plethora of apps, there is still a need for story, a mythical tale to take our imagination to a world of fantasy, a narrative that pulls back the layers of adventure and exposes the true gems of wisdom underneath.

In  Labyrinth’s Door—Anyia “Dream of a Warrior,” McManus does just that.  She sheds light on the traditions that hold women back in Anyia’s village. Anyia is a determined daughter of royalty.  The royal tradition is for women to remain behind the battle lines and bear no responsibility for defending the land.  Anyia feels confined in this box.  She knows there has been a woman warrior, Amoonda.  Many people laugh at her ramblings about a “mere woman” being such a mighty warrior. Anyia is very determined to have the last laugh and to prove everyone, including her father, wrong.

As Anyia plans her escape to find Amoonda, she encounters Thor warriors, who are under Empress Zarina’s rule and pose a threat to her people, and magical beings like Pepo bugs and Erow trees.  She begins her journey of becoming the heroine that her people need.

This book has several educational implications in middle school language arts or reading classes and in world literature courses.  It highlights the art of the story, specifically the fairytale, an art form many cultures use to teach morals and traditions.  It also provides a basis for rich classroom discussion on the portrayal of women in different cultures and their struggles with different traditions and expectations.

A great culminating assignment that could be done after reading this book, along with others suggested below, in a thematic unit on gender roles would be a multigenre research paper.

The multigenre research paper breaks boundaries and traditions on its own.  Traditionally, students have written ten page research papers with annotated bibliographies and index cards as a class assignment.  The multigenre research paper allows students to use different genres, such as poetry, short stories, articles, emails, art, etc. to convey the information they have learned from their research.

I have implemented this idea twice, once in a high school classroom and the other in a freshmen composition course at a community college.  I think the most profound multigenre research paper was done one of my high school students.  The class assignment was to take a social construct or an abstract term such as gender, race, love, hate, justice, freedom, etc., research how others have portrayed or defined the term, create their own definition of the term, and represent their definition through at least three different genres.

This particular student chose to define femininity.  It was a profound representation that broke the often portrayed images of women in society/popular culture.  Students could do the same with Labyrinth’s Door.

Students can even break womanhood into different strands:  marriage, career, etc.

For information on and examples of multigenre projects, please visit these sites:

http://www.users.muohio.edu/romanots/

http://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/multigenre/introduction.htm

IMG_Jacquitta2_md 

Five Questions for Jacquitta A. McManus

How did you come up with the idea for Labyrinth’s Door?

It was a daydream that led to the idea of Labyrinth’s Door; a dream that would allow me to
tell stories I myself would have loved to have read growing up. Stories
full of characters that would go on exciting adventures in fantasy lands,
where magic was real and anything could happen. There are four books planned in the series.

Why would Anyia’s character appeal to middle school girls?

Middle school girls are at an age where they are coming of age just like Anyia. They’re
not living in a village and having to follow the traditions of an old
culture, but they are trying to figure out the path they want to take in
life, and if that path differs from what is expect they too will have to
fight for what they know to be true for themselves.

In the book, Anyia expresses her thoughts about the village’s traditions
regarding a woman’s place. What messages do you think young girls receive
from today’s pop culture?

Today’s culture has a lot of emphasis on beauty,money and popularity, from how many Facebook

and  Twitter followers you have to how many YouTube views you get, which emphasizes superficial
assets. Anyia is faced with respecting the traditions of community, where
everyone works as one for the better good of all. It’s very much a
community mentality, which is the opposite of pop culture. Pop culture is
sending out a message that everyone should be about himself or herself
unless helping others is a benefit to the one giving the help, it’s very
much a self-mentality.

What other books have you written?

I’ve written Talee and the Fallen Object, which is a great fantasy adventure series for elementary
school-aged children. It will transport kids to another world through the
description given by the protagonist, Talee.

Talee_Cover_web Synopsis of Talee and the Fallen Object:

One early Saturday morning, Talee had nothing to do. I mean nothing at
all. So she ate a puffy muffin and decided to read one of her favorite
books, Captain Jewel and the Lost City Treasure. Just when she was about
to start chapter three, out of the corner of her eye she saw a mail flyer
drop something from a bag. It fell through the air and landed on one of
the smaller floating landmasses. A bag of treasure, she thought as she
looked out the window. But is it a bag of treasure?

What advice would you give to other authors interested in creating their
own digital illustrated series for children?

Pre-production, productions, post-production and marketing are the same as a printed series. Where
things differ is the distribution aspect. And in order to effectively
distribute you have to know where you want to distribute and through what
means so that you can prepare the correct files. And you should know that
before you start production.

How did you come up with the idea for Labyrinth’s Door?

It was a daydream that led to the idea of Labyrinth’s Door; a dream that would allow me to
tell stories I myself would have loved to have read growing up. Stories
full of characters that would go on exciting adventures in fantasy lands,
where magic was real and anything could happen.

Why would Anyia’s character appeal to middle school girls?

Middle school girls are at an age where they are coming of age just like Anyia. They’re
not living in a village and having to follow the traditions of an old
culture, but they are trying to figure out the path they want to take in
life, and if that path differs from what is expect they too will have to
fight for what they know to be true for themselves.

In the book, Anyia expresses her thoughts about the village’s traditions
regarding a woman’s place. What messages do you think young girls receive
from today’s pop culture?

Today’s culture has a lot of emphasis on beauty,money and popularity.

From how many Facebook and Twitter followers you have to how many

YouTube views you get, which emphasizes superficial
assets. Anyia is faced with respecting the traditions of community, where
everyone works as one for the better good of all. It’s very much a
community mentality, which is the opposite of pop culture. Pop culture is
sending out a message that everyone should be about himself or herself
unless helping others is a benefit to the one giving the help, it’s very
much a self-mentality.

What other books have you written?

I’ve written Talee and the Fallen Object, which is a great fantasy adventure series for elementary
school-aged children. It will transport kids to another world through the
description given by the protagonist, Talee.
Talee_Cover_webSynopsis of Talee and the Fallen Object:

One early Saturday morning, Talee had nothing to do. I mean nothing at
all. So she ate a puffy muffin and decided to read one of her favorite
books, Captain Jewel and the Lost City Treasure. Just when she was about
to start chapter three, out of the corner of her eye she saw a mail flyer
drop something from a bag. It fell through the air and landed on one of
the smaller floating landmasses. A bag of treasure, she thought as she
looked out the window. But is it a bag of treasure?

What advice would you give to other authors interested in creating their
own digital illustrated series for children?

Pre-production, productions, post-production and marketing are the same as a printed series. Where
things differ is the distribution aspect. And in order to effectively
distribute you have to know where you want to distribute and through what
means so that you can prepare the correct files. And you should know that
before you start production.

Author Bio:

“All my life, I’ve gravitated to fantasy stories. Stories I felt I could
be a part of and completely immerse myself in … in my imagination.”

Jacquitta A. McManus, a little girl from Kentucky and author of two
fantasy adventure children’s books, Labyrinth’s Door – Anyia “Dream of a
Warrior” and Talee and the Fallen Object, was always drawn to fantasy
stories. It was a way for her to immerse herself into exciting adventures
in faraway lands that she otherwise wouldn’t experience. As she got older
she would find that immersing herself into those fantasy stories, as a
little girl, was just the beginning of a journey that would lead her to
writing her own fantasy adventure children’s books.

Websites & Blogs:

WorldsToDiscover.com

Talee’s World (WorldsToDiscover.com/Talee)

Journey of a Storyteller (WorldsToDiscover.com/Journey)

Social Media Links

Facebook.com/WTDiscover / Facebook.com/LabyrinthsDoor

Twitter.com/WTDiscover / Facebook.com/LabyrinthsDoor

Text-to Text Connections
*****These books are great additions to a thematic unit revolving around this book.  This list addresses a plethora of issues connected to Labyrinth’s Door–Anyia “Dream of a Warrior.”  Some of them deal with traditions, boundaries, and expectations that different women face in different cultures.  Some of them reinvent the classic fairytale of Cinderella, a story that not only captivates young girls, but if examined more closely, it also perpetuates those traditions, boundaries, and expectations.  Some of the short stories and poems examine what it means to be a woman. One of them, Shizuko’s Daughter, deals with the impact of mother-daughter relationships on a girl’s development into a woman. Of course, no examination of womanhood would not be complete without bringing in Hester Prynne’s struggle in The Scarlet Letter.  McManus’ book, paired with these texts, opens the door to critically conscious discussions about social issues and expectations.  What a wonderful way to celebrate Women’s History month! Enjoy!

mufaro's beautiful daughters Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters:  An African Tale by John Steptoe

beauty Beauty:  A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley

green angelGreen Angel by Alice Hoffman

rough face girl The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin

shizuko's daughter Shizuko’s Daughter by Kyoko Mori

woman warrior The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

the foretelling The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman

adichieThe Thing Around Your Neck  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

a step from heaven A Step from Heaven by An Na

achebe Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

aint i a womanAin’t I Woman:  A Book of Women’s Poetry From Around the World  Edited by Illona Lithwaite

efuruEfuru by Flora Nwapa

cisnerosWoman Hollering Creek & Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

bride priceThe Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta

scarlet letter The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

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Persevering Like Palm Trees in the Wind of Adversity: The Boy from Willow Bend by Joanne C. Hillhouse

boy blog

Red Wines in Antiguan Nights

By Alexandra Caselle

I’m Tanty’s beloved—

tattooed with his mark, red

wine welts on my skin.

They hum and vibrate.

They channel the other spirits,

women I have lost.

My nerves convulse with

synapses of energy,

the call of nature.

Wind rustles through trees,

earthen vessel flooded by

eternal kisses.

Light particles, dust

specks swirl into a tribe,

chanting soucouyants*.

Words flow from their lips,

an all-healing salve, soothing

my prism of pain.

Daydream disperses

like dandelion flurries.

I rub red wine welts,

left by grandaddy’s belt.

His drunken rage, Tanty’s tales

One remains; one gone.

Whisper those four words:

I’m Tanty’s beloved.  Nothing.

Inside , I’m crying.

*soucouyant = [a] woman who is said to have the ability to remove her skin and transform herself into a ball of fire which glides through the night in search of a sleeping victim whose blood she sucks. (word taken from glossary found in the back of Hillhouse’s book)

JoanneHillhouse-Lrg

Image taken from Google Images–(original source) http://www.365antigua.com/arts/literature/BoyFromWillowBendRedux.php

 

 

 

Hillhouse, Joanne C. The Boy from Willow Bend. Turnaround: 2009. 978-1906190293. 95pgs.

Vere Joseph Carmino is a young Antiguan boy enamored by stories.  As The Boy from Willow Bend begins, he is enchanting Kim, one of his first crushes, and others with a tale.  He gets the love of stories from his grandmother, Tanty.  The musicality of the authentic, Antiguan language resonates like wind dipping in and out of multicolored bottle trees as Tanty scolds Vere for not being in the house before dark:

   “Vere Joseph Carmino, why you won’t take telling? I tell you make sure you find yourself home before night fall, an’ every night you come running down the road after dark like some devil chasin’ you.  Then you still expect to go back an’ watch TV.  You best haul your tail inside ‘fore I get vex.”

Tanty envelops Vere into a nurturing warmth and love that is missing from his life.  His mother is gone, and his grandfather only shows affection through physical abuse.  He spends his pension check on alcohol, and Vere’s grandmother has to find odd jobs to maintain a small cushion of money for Vere’s needs.  But soon Tanty is gone and she becomes one of the many women, Makeba the Rasta Queen, Kim, and Elisabeth who abandons him.

Imagine being a youth with no one for support, only a drunk grandfather who takes out his frustration on you.  Imagine handling all of this turmoil while trying to survive poverty.  But Vere survives and develops an inner strength that frees him from his situation.

Vere’s story may take place in Antigua, but the problems he experiences are universal. The book is a great resource to discuss those experiences in the classroom and learn about different cultures and language.  Language inquiry offers adolescents to study language through a network of social constructs such as gender, power structures, race/culture, and class.  It also provides them with an opportunity to study the structure of language linguistically.  Students can examine the lexicon/vocabulary, morphology, phonetics, syntax, rhetorical features, and pragmatic nature of the Antiguan language.

They realize that different languages and dialects are more than just “slang.”

Hillhouse includes an Antiguan glossary in the back of her book, which could be used to introduce the language study. Through language inquiry, teachers will instill an appreciation for language diversity.

The Boy From Willow Bend brings two classroom activities to mind.

When I first started teaching 7th grade Language Arts in Orlando, back in 1996, I taught a multicultural literature unit called Around the Literary World in 9 Weeks.  After reading and discussing several short stories from the literature anthology, I had students to research a country, create a brochure advertising the culture, share a poem or short story by a writer from that country, bring in food indicative of the culture, and choose another activity from a list to represent their research.

During the day of the presentations, I remember how I did not think about all of the specifics dealing with the food aspect of this group project.  For each of the six periods, I had to run downstairs to the faculty lounge, heat up food, and haul it back to the classroom.  It was worth it because some students who were from some of the countries felt pride sharing their culture with their classmates. All in all, everyone, including other teachers who popped in for a bite, enjoyed it.

The Boy From Willow Bend offers an opportunity for this type of project.  Students can research Antigua and other Caribbean countries in a thematic unit.

Another activity allows students to engage in creative writing by writing prepositional poems.  I learned about prepositional poems from a Florida professional development workshop.  Students used books they have read, pictures, or any kind of prompt to write a short poem in which each line begins with a preposition. Students wrote the final drafts on construction paper and decorated the border with scraps of fabric.

Students reading Hillhouse’s book can write prepositional poems about Antigua, a place in the book, or something else from a character’s point-of-view. They can use any type of material from a crafts store to create a mosaic as a background for their poetry. Teachers can also have the students each write a poem that can be combined into one class poem. To introduce the activity, teachers may want to construct examples, write each line on sentence strips, and allow students to put them together in poems.  Afterwards, they have students create their own prepositional poems.

Here is one that I wrote for The Boy From Willow Bend:

In front of the emerald green waters

On top of the pearl white sands

Inside the grove of palm trees

Behind the shanties

Down the dark road

At the dead end

Against the brick wall stands Vere, looking

for a way out.

Here is another one written by someone else:

Above us all a star

with shiny silver reflections.

Over all the mountains it glares.

Onto the water it shines.

Through the trees it glows.

Throughout the sky it’s seen.

From my window

During the night I see a star.

To learn more about additional themes in The Boy From Willow Bend, Althea Romeo-Mark has written an in-depth critical analysis of Hillhouse’s book here:http://aromaproductions.blogspot.com/2012/03/from-dead-end-alley-to-willow-bend.html

 

For more information about language study and inquiry, please see the article, “Feeling the Rhythm of the Critically Conscious Mind” in The English Journal Vol. 93, No. 3 (Jan., 2004), pp. 58-63.

Author Information

“Five Questions for Joanne C. Hillhouse”

http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/five-questions-for-joanne-c-hillhouse

Text-to-Text Connections

Here are more examples of Caribbean young adult and contemporary novels, short stories, and nonfiction that can be used with The Boy From Willow Bend in a thematic unit.  I have also included poems from American poets that would fit into some of the literary themes.  Even though City of Beasts is set in the Amazon rainforest, I still think it would fit into a thematic unit involving these works.

fresh girlFresh Girl  by Jaira Placide

behind the mountains Behind the Mountains  by Edwidge Danticat

before we were free Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

esmeralda santiagoWhen I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

city of the beasts City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende

annie johnAnnie John by Jamaica Kincaid

brother i'm dyingBrother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat

flight to freedomFlight to Freedom by Ana Veciana-Suarez

cuba 15  Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

browngirl, BrownstonesBrown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall

krik krak Krik?Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

in darknessIn Darkness by Nick Lake

“Parsley” by Rita Dove http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172128

“Harlem Dancer” by Claude McKay  http://www.poetry-archive.com/m/the_harlem_dancer.html

“NaPoWriMo: Poems 4-6”  by Stacia L. Brown  http://stacialbrown.com/2011/04/08/napowrimo-poems-4-6/

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No Color, No Gender, Nothing Can Hold Her Back: Flygirl By Sherri L. Smith

FLYGIRLSmith, Sherri L.  Flygirl.  $7.99.  Penguin Books/Speak: 2008. 978-0-14-241725-6.   Ida is one determined eighteen-year-old.  Tired of living on her family’s farm, collecting silk stockings, and cleaning houses, she feels the open sky calling her.  Flying is in her blood.  Her father flew crop duster planes when he was alive and taught her how to fly.  Her brother was already serving as a WWII medic.  It is her time to shine.  But race and color pose a problem.  Well, not for people like Ida.

Ida’s drive and determination enables her to devise a plan.  She would pass as white and join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) organization.  Ida succeeds and adapts to the culture and expectations of the organization.  But she realizes passing comes with a price.  She alienates herself from her best friend, Jolene.

She strains her relationship with her mother, especially when Ida has to refer to her mother as a housekeeper during a family visit to the field. Ida consistently has to stay in character and wear a mask.  Every part of her charade must be intact because one little slip-up could betray her real identity.  Can you imagine having to hold it together?  The lines from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming,” come to mind http://www.potw.org/archive/potw351.html :

                               Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

In the skies, Ida doesn’t have to worry about the farce.  Her ability to handle a plane is what matters.  The sky symbolizes freedom.  It provides the catalyst for her to be who she really is.

womanlutionpress logo(Clip art designed by Mike Smith)

Middle grade and adolescent readers will constantly wonder if Ida will be discovered as they engage in the storyline.  Through Smith’s deft development and description of Ida’s character, readers will want to emulate this strong teen.

Discovering Its Educational Value

Text-to-Text Connections

Here are just a few classic, contemporary, and young adult novels that could be paired with Flygirl:

  • Product DetailsTsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions–a postcolonial novel African novel set in Rhodesia that deals with a young girl trying to come of age under the scope of European expectations of beauty and gender. It can be tied into Ida’s ruse of trying to fit in with the WASPs by passing white and how it affects her and her relationships. http://www.wmich.edu/dialogues/texts/nervousconditions.html
  • Product DetailsSharon Flake, Money Hungry— a young adult novel that traces Raspberry’s ambition to earn money any way she can despite her circumstances.  Her drive and determination mirror Ida’s. http://www.sharongflake.com/books/money/

Educational Resources

These resources give additional information that ties into the historical connections within Flygirl:

What other novels, stories, and/or memoirs can you think of that feature women or young teens who have the drive and determination that Ida possesses?

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