English department sponsors event to discuss movie adaptations of literature


Jessica Pellegrino – General Assignment Reporter 

It is impossible to visit the movies without seeing a poster for the latest film adaptation of the trendy young adult novel of the moment.

Between The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, and the Divergent series alone, the box office numbers are littered with the presence of YA Literature. So, it is no wonder that the New York Best Sellers List is a large majority young adult literature.

Southern’s English Department sponsored a program on Feb. 20 called “Literacy, Identity, and What Students are Reading—Graphic Writing, YA Literature, and their Place in the Academy.”

The program, brought in part by Professor Andrew Smyth, was an effort to promote literacy, inside and outside of the classroom, through faculty development.

The program featured a guest speaker and discussion. Nora Raleigh Baskin, Young Adult author, led a discussion on the state of YA, and its place in the literary world.

When teaching summer school in an inner city area of Stamford, Baskin attempted to teach the students reading level appropriate. When they were not understanding the books, she became concerned.

“I asked the simple question, ‘When you are reading, do you see the story in your head?’ When I realized they did not, I understood why my methods were not working,” said Baskin.

After this, Baskin realized that she needed to find literature that was relatable to the class, so she had the class read novels set in cities about diverse groups.

Baskin said diversity is essential in children’s literature. “If a story is truly good enough, the story of a single character can reflect a much larger story,” said Baskin.

In other words, one story can symbolize the whole trope it addresses. The idea of story writing is to take a small story and make it universal.

Baskin herself does this within her books. She has books which tackle subjects including loss, religious identity, divorce and disabilities.

One of Baskin’s novels to garner the most attention is called “Anything but Typical.” The novel follows a 12-year-old autistic boy who writes.

Baskin does not think that “young adult” should be a way of categorizes novel. She said, “‘Children’s book’ is not a genre…just saying.”

Baskin then attempted to define what the real difference between children’s and adult literature is. She believes there is a distinction.

“I have a responsibility that adult authors do not; I have to be realistic,” said Baskin. “I can’t give the children reading my books false hope, but I still have to leave them with hope, regardless. Unlike in adult literature, which can unapologetically leave the reader bereft.”

Young adult writers have to answer to parents, school boards, and librarians. Baskin said the librarians are the “gatekeepers” of her books. They are responsible for the books’ availability in school. One swear word can throw book sales for a loop, since students consume literature at school.

“I raise the questions, through my books, but is the job of the reader to answer them,” said Baskin. “I like to think of myself as an artist. My medium is not dancing or music or painting. My medium is words.”

Baskin’s next novel, “Ruby on the Outside,” will be available in June of this year. The novel will follow a young girl whose mother is currently in jail.

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