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ERIC Number: EJ832224
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 9
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 41
ISSN: ISSN-1068-3844
Weaving Colors into a White Landscape: Unpacking the Silences in Karen Hesse's Children's Novel "Out of the Dust"
Simon, Lisa
Multicultural Education, v16 n2 p22-30 Win 2008
The children's novel "Out of the Dust" (Hesse, 1997) is an evocative portrayal of the drought and dust storms that devastated Midwestern farms in the 1930s. Through the voice of her 13-year-old narrator, Karen Hesse intertwines history and free verse poetry to create what many readers find to be a moving depiction of the Oklahoma Dustbowl experience. The novel's power has been widely recognized, winning a number of prestigious honors, including the Newbery Medal. In addition to its critical success, "Out of the Dust" is a valuable text in the classroom. With the same setting as the opening of "The Grapes of Wrath" (Steinbeck, 1939) and with a writing style and vocabulary that make it immensely readable, "Out of the Dust" helps build background knowledge for students' understanding of Steinbeck's novel. By using "Out of the Dust," teachers offer students not only an engaging text, but one that can provide academic scaffolds to other historical and literary texts. As a result of all that this celebrated children's text offers, it is much more likely to be singled out for acclamation than critique. It is the author's stance in this article, however, that using Hesse's novel in the classroom is problematic without a critical literacy framework. That novel, like many current and classic texts, depicts the 1930s Dustbowl exclusively in relation to White experiences. Using that novel without questioning the limitations of those representations serves to privilege White experiences and to marginalize the experiences of Oklahomans of color as well as significant aspects of Oklahoma and U.S. history. The process of uncovering those marginalized stories with the goal of problematizing the dominant depiction of the Dustbowl is the focus of this article. (Contains 4 figures and 1 note.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Oklahoma