p. 234 “‘The morning! Am I to spend the night as a darky until then?
‘Oh, Lilly, you’ll be all right, I promise!; said Agnes, though in the back of her mind she could not help feeling a little pleased at her comeuppance.'”
quandary: I do not know what to do.
Here is a title I was so excited to find, and then choose it for our school library book club, grades six through eight, until I came across this one phrase. I find it offensive, not only for my students, but for myself. While the racist noun fits the context of the time period of the late 1800’s in the United States, there is no other reference to post Civil War race issues to add depth, and it is completely unnecessary to an otherwise gripping story.
Time after time, primarily in Young Adult literature, I come across such references – although they are primarily sexual in nature – rendering a good novel for my middle school students, unacceptable. And no, I am not against free speech. I am against any gratuitous enticement aimed at these readers; I am very sensitive to this when it relates to young adults who do not have the context (through lack of age and experience) to filter these phrases. Is this marketing manipulation?
Resolution: I will present this title to my young charges, and point out this reference. Our discussion, and the direction it takes, will determine if we read The Technologists. “Yes!,” you shout, “It is a learning experience.” And, so it is.
Pearl, Matthew. The Technologists. London: Harvill Secker, 2012. Print.
Addendum. evening thoughts: After reading the author’s comment, I will have my students read the book, then ask them their thoughts about these references – Did they take note? DId they see what I missed? If so, what were their reactions? It should make for a good discussion!
21 April 2015
Following through, some of our Form II students read (and are reading) The Technologists, so we could continute this discussion beyond Mr. Pearl and myself. I include some of their responses to this one title, which all agreed, is a good book with excellent characters!
“Fewer side stories”
“Central characters are so well written, but the minor ones seem superficial.”
“It took me to page 70 to want to read it.”
“The story showed more about women’s roles than race during that time period.”
“Race issue didn’t even register.”
“More about Harvard vs. MIT and religion vs. Darwinism”
“So many characters!”
and of course, this from an all-boys’ perspective, “more action.”
It was universally agreed that it is an extremely well-written story, with detailed setting and depth of characters. It was also recommended by our students that our Head of Lower School read it over the summer! There is a vote of confidence, Mr. Pearl!