Neo-Imperialism in Children's Literature About Africa
A Study of Contemporary Fiction
Routledge – 2009 – 178 pages
In the spirit of their last collaboration, Apartheid and Racism in South African Children's Literature, 1985-1995, Yulisa Amadu Maddy and Donnarae MacCann once again come together to expose the neo-imperialist overtones of contemporary children's fiction about Africa. Examining the portrayal of African social customs, religious philosophies, and political structures in fiction for young people, Maddy and MacCann reveal the Western biases that often infuse stories by well-known Western authors.
In the book's introductory section, Maddy and MacCann offer historical information concerning Western notions of Africa as "primitive," and then present background information about the complexity of feminism in Africa and about the ongoing institutionalization of racism. The main body of the study contains critiques of the novels or short stories of eleven well-known writers, including Isabel Allende and Nancy Farmer--all demonstrating that children's literature continues to mis-represent conditions and social relations in Africa. The study concludes with a look at those short stories of Beverley Naidoo which bring insight and historical accuracy to South African conflicts and emerging solutions. Educators, literature professors, publishers, professors of Diaspora and African studies, and students of the mass media will find Maddy and MacCann’s critique of racism in the representation of Africa to be indispensible to students of multicultural literature.
"Complete with notes, this is a valuable resource for those interested in African Studies or children's literature….Highly recommended."
-- Choice, June 2009
"A veritable gold mine of vigorous rebuttals against distortions of Africa found in literature for children. It is an invaluable contribution to making multiculturalism and social justice relevant in our contemporary multicultural world, which cannot afford any more irrelevancies or any more affirmations of human inequality."
- Osayimwense Osa, Virginia State University, Research in African Literatures, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 2010)
1. "Darkest Africa": A Constant Component in the Mis-education of Children
2. Book Prizes: How "Honors" Can Reward Racial/Cultural Biases
3. Feminism in Africa: Complexities and Activism
4. Anti-African Themes in "Liberal" Young Adult Novels
5. White Supremacy in Isabel Allende's Forest of the Pygmies
6. Eurocentric Feminism in African Settings
7. Recycling Apartheid for the Twenty-First Century
8. Putting Africans on Exhibit: "Ella's Dunes" and a "Bushman" Theme Park
9. Using AIDS to Stereotype Africans
10. When the West Talks to Itself: Ethnocentricity in Nancy Famer's "African" Novels
12. Credibility and Grace in Three Prize-Winning Books
Yulisa Amadu Maddy is a Sierra Leonean playwright, novelist, and literary critic who has taught at Morgan State University, the University of Iowa, and in Zambia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. His publications include Obasai and Other Plays; the coming-of-age novel No Past, No Present, No Future; and the co-authored African Images in Juvenile Literature: Commentaries on Neocolonialist Fiction (1996) and Apartheid and Racism in South African Children's Literature, 1985-1995 (2001).
Donnarae MacCann was the director of the Laboratory School Library at UCLA prior to teaching children’s literature at the University of Kansas and Virginia Tech, and African American Studies at the University of Iowa. Her publications include White Supremacy in Children's Literature: Characterizations of African Americans, 1830-1900 (1998, 2001), which won the Children's Literature Association Book Award, and the co-authored works on Africa: African Images in Juvenile Literature and Apartheid and Racism in South African Children's Literature, 1985-1995 (2001).