By T. Dickinson
The next time you go to the library or search online for a good read, look for Little Red Readings: Historical Materialist Perspectives on Children’s Literature, edited by Angela E. Hubler (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2014). Angela Hubler started teaching Women’s Studies and English at K-State over 25 years ago. She now serves as the Interim Head of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. You may think that her new book sounds too heavy to both satisfy your intellectual curiosity and your need to be entertained and surprised. But this book does both.
Just start by looking at the cover and you get drawn in. You see an old etching or a woodprint of a boy and a girl who hold a banner that says: “The New World—its foundations to be justice; love to be the spirit of its inhabitants.” This is a good summary of where Women’s Studies takes you: to justice and love. In her introduction, you learn what Angela Hubler sees as the difference between how poststructuralists and feminist historical materialists think about changing ideas, which is a critical part of social change. But changing ideas is not sufficient for bringing about change, Dr. Hubler argues, because it’s also vital “to understand the relationship between ideas—or discourse—and material reality, which must also be analyzed.” Poststructuralists, she writes, collapse the two and turn away from “the possibility of knowing reality.” On the other hand, feminist historical materialists, like Dr. Hubler, seek to provide a “theoretical framework that accounts for discursive and material realities, subjectivity and politics” (p. six). Even though these words might sound a little intense, the reader is pulled into children’s stories with a new, exciting framework. Angela Hubler provides a great introduction that reviews the literature on frequently considered theoretical perspectives in the humanities and social sciences.
But the fun does not stop there! The chapters are so inviting, it’s hard to put the book down. Remember, the subject is children’s literature, so we’ve read many of the books. Topics are considered such as the expression of class-related aggression against young characters in children’s books (such as Anne of Green Gables), materialism and money in Mary Poppins, activist children in India who are represented in books, an analysis of multicultural films such as The Karate Kid, various types of violence represented in children’s Bible stories and fairy tales, analysis of dystopian fiction like The Hunger Games. Sound interesting? Pick up Little Red Readings. And take some classes with Angela Hubler. You’ll find them listed with the other GWSS classes.