Mental Illness Narrative in YA Lit

The March 2019 issue of The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults includes an article about the representation of mental illness in young adult fiction by Diane Scrofano. I’m at the beginning of my learning on mental illness representation in literature. I understand that this article is not the only perspective and the suggested theory for reviewing mental illness in YA lit may not be the best theory. For me, it is a starting point and it may be for others too.

After reading the article, I had a couple of concerns. Trying to sort the plethora of YA novels of mental illness into only three story types seems like over simplifying something that is extremely complex and personal. I wonder if this degree of simplification could be emotionally harmful to folks experiencing mental illness and misleading to those who are not?

When Wonder by R.J. Palacio was published, I remember reading about the author’s story and concerns from readers that the main character’s role was to educate others about disfigurement, help others see people with disfigurements as “normal,” and make people without disfigurements feel comfortable. Whether or not we agree on this critique of Wonder specifically, it illustrates an important type of story that is by and/or for people not experiencing disfigurement, disability, or mental illness. Diane Scrofano doesn’t discuss this type of story in her article, and just touches on #OwnVoices a little bit. How are authors’ backgrounds taken into consideration in this theory? How are stereotypes and harmful tropes taken into consideration? Scrofano’s doesn’t explain her thinking enough for me to understand how she took these issues into consideration and how that thinking informed her theory.

On the other hand, I found learning about the three story types very helpful!

  1. Type 1 Novels: Restitution and Attempted Restitution

These types of stories focus on finding a cure, or figuring out how the character can get back to living how they did before the onset of mental illness. “While many novels feature characters in different stages of denial, other stories make a shift from denying the illness (or the need for help) into admitting but hiding the illness.”

  1. Type 2 Novels: Chaos

These types of stories focus on uncontrolled symptoms that can seem chaotic, typically before diagnosis. “While books about the onset and diagnosis of a mental illness are important, in reality life with mental illness plays out in a more complicated way than it would in a simple problem novel.”

  1. Type 3 Novels: Quest and Problematic Quest

These types of stories typically start with diagnosis and explore the journey to incorporation, emancipation, or recovery. “Novels that fall into this category will emphasize how characters rebuild their lives after the chaos and crisis stage”

Additionally, the author explored how all the types of novels may be helpful and harmful to teen readers. I recommend reading the article in full to get a broader and deeper understanding of disability narrative theory and how the Scrofano applies it to YA novels that include characters with mental illness. At least look at the chart on pages 10-12 that categorize about 50 YA novels of mental illness and the chart on page 6 that attempts to align a few disability narrative theories that may of particular interest.

Article citation:

Scrofano, D. (2019, March). Disability Narrative Theory and Young Adult Fiction of Mental Illness. The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 10(1), Retrieved from http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/

Community College

CoverOfSpring2019CommunityCollegeIssue

Earlier this year, I wrote about nontraditional and vocational post-high school options. The Spring 2019 edition of the office journal of the Young Adult Library Services Association is the community college issues.

While are several good articles worth reading I want to discuss “Next Steps: Preparing Teens for Growth and Success at Community College” by Camila Jenkin, (pages 19-4). This article provides a few idea about how teen librarians and high school librarians might support older high school students transition to community college specifically. However, a lot of the suggestions are relevant to any type of college or university experience and some are also relevant to teens who go to trade school or enter the workforce after high school.

  • Talk with teen about who and how to ask for help, providing real life examples.
  • Invite current college students to be on a panel to discuss their college experience; be sure to include more than one first-generation student.
  • Talk with teen about how they find information, including the Internet and Library of Congress classification system.
  • Foster growth mindset thinking. “Many teens have been socialized to believe that they bring nothing of value.” Help them realize the valuable experiences and skills that they bring any college class… or trade school or job.
  • Encourage teens to join a club, study group, or similar soon after they start college—it can be more difficult for community college students to develop a social/support network at college and feel part of college life.
  • Learn about the options your local community college provides to students for getting text books—they are very expensive—and share that information with teens. They need to know their options before they start school, including Fair Use copyright, so they know what to do the first week off college when they don’t have their books yet.

Social Emotional Learning

YALSA

Young Adult Library Services Winter 2019 focuses on social emotional learning (SEL) and has several great articles. If you aren’t as familiar with SEL, “Reading Between the Lines of Social and Emotional Learning,” by Jessica Newman and Deborah Moroney, is the a good place to start (pages 16-21).

“5 Ways to Incorporate SEL at Your Library: Supporting Multi-dimensional Learning,” by Kathleen Houlihan (pages 22-25), provides some practical suggestions–most are free/low-cost and relatively easy to implement. Additionally, two of the five ways to incorporate SEL align with the research on effective communication about teen services discussed on this blog last month.

  1. Describe program outcomes to adults using SEL
    • Adult stakeholders need to understand the value of your program in terms of teen development, including social emotional development.
    • A handy chart connecting library programs to SEL facets is included in the article.
  2. Describe program outcomes to teens using SEL
    • Idea: Create and distribute certificates for teen who complete programs at your library that list the skills they learned.
    • Telling teens explicitly what they learn helps them identify and communicate their strengths and skills.
    • It also “empowers teens to explain the value of their participation in activities to parents who may see it as just something ‘fun’ to do.”
  3. Talk about failure (yours, not theirs)
    • “If you’ve been reading the news lately, you’ll know that youth in the United States have a serious lack of confidence in their abilities.”
    • Teens need adults to talk about their own failures and model failure–what happened when we failed, what did we do about it, how did we feel about it, and what did we learn.
  4. Why you are awesome
    • Give kids specific compliments to help them identify their strengths.
    • No: You’re awesome.
    • Yes: Wow, you’re tenacious! You stuck with the activity, trying several different approaches until you found one that worked.
  5. Create space for teen leaders at your library
    • Teen Library Council
    • Teen volunteer programs

YALSA opportunities: Summer Funding, Selected Booklists

The logo of YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services AssociationApply Now for the 2019 Summer Learning Grants!
Eligible YALSA members can now apply for the Summer Learning Resources Grant and the Teen Summer Intern Program Grant. Both grants are worth $1,000 each and are generously funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Twenty-five recipients will be selected for each grant. Apply by January 1, 2019.

Be on a Selected Booklist Blogging Team!
Are you interested in serving on a selected list blogging team in 2019? If so, please fill out this form by September 30, and indicate if you are interested in Quick Picks, Great Graphic Novels, Amazing Audiobooks, and/or Best Fiction for Young Adults. If you have questions, please contact Stephen Ashley, Hub Member Manager.

YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten: Vote and Apply to Be a Reading Group!

Did you see that YALSA’s 2018 Teens’ Top Ten shortlist was announced?

Voting is open through Teen Read Week (October 7-13), so have your teens vote on their favorites soon!

And if your teens really love to read, apply before October 1st to be a reading group for the list! Fifteen groups will be selected from the applicants to fulfill a 2 year term, which begins in January of 2019 through December 31, 2020. Curious about what the experience is like? Read more about Salem Public Library’s participation in the Teens’ Top Ten.

Slides for OLA 2018 Sessions Now Available

Whether or not you were able to join us in Eugene for OLA, you can now view the slides for most presentations on Northwest Central. Of particular interest to OYAN members:

Mark your calendars: the 2019 OLA-WLA Conference will be held at the Hilton Vancouver in Vancouver, WA from April 17-20, 2019!

2018 Teens’ Top Ten nominees announced — plus a giveaway

the logo for YALSA's Teens' Top TenYALSA has officially announced the 2018 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees — and they’ll be giving away sets of the nominees!

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year. Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country selected by YALSA to participate (including the Salem Public Library!).

This year’s list of nominees features 25 titles that were published between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The nominees are: Continue reading