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.

Train the Trainers Opportunity: Transforming Teen Services

The State Library of Oregon is participating in YALSA’s Transforming Teen Services: A Train the Trainer Approach project and is recruiting two teen librarians to participate!

The selected teen librarians would participate in a 2.5 day face-to-face train the trainers with teen librarians from across the country. “Participants also have the opportunity to be leaders in the field and become the go-to people in their state and nationally.  Participation also provides opportunities to speak at local, regional, and national conferences and publish articles and blog posts about connected learning, computational thinking, and library youth services.”

Contact Greta Berquist (503-378-2528, greta.berquist@state.or.us) by May 1, 2019, if you have any questions and are interested in participating.

More information:

The State Library of Oregon’s Transforming Teen Services flyer

YALSA’s Train the Trainer webpage

ALA’s press release from 09/11/2018

ALA’s press release from 04/24/2018

 

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 opportunity: write for the YALSA blog!

The logo of YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services AssociationYALSA is looking for bloggers! This is a great way to get involved without having to travel to conferences, so if you’re a YALSA member, check out these details from their recruitment post:

We are looking for bloggers interested in writing about any of the following topics:

  • Connected Learning
  • Competencies for librarians/library workers engaging youth/li>
  • Advocacy/li>
  • Leadership in customer service/li>
  • Whole-library approach to serving teens/li>
  • Innovative programming/li>
  • Equity and diversity/li>
  • Youth participation/li>
  • Professional development/li>
  • Technology/li>
  • Administration/li>
  • Partnerships/li>
  • Spaces (physical & virtual)/li>
  • Evaluation/measuring outcomes and impact/li>
  • Teen trends/pop culture/li>
  • Research

We are also looking for bloggers interested in Instagram of the Week.

If you are interested in blogging please fill out the YALSA Volunteer Form (make sure to check the YALSAblog box) and the interest survey.

For more information check out the Blogger Guidelines and Blog Post Protocols.

We know there are Oregon librarians doing awesome work for and with teens — now’s your chance to tell the world! And who knows, you could win an award for it like Danielle Jones!

Finding Funding: YALSA grants

Golden dollar bill signs hang from fishing line, dark shadows cast behind themIt can be tough to find funding for all of the great ideas you want to make happen at your library. In this occasional series, we’ll highlight different funding sources you may not know about or may not know how to tap.

Every year, YALSA offers almost $200,000 in grants and awards, and if you’re a YALSA member, you may be eligible for many of them. Here are some highlights:
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OYAN Review: Salem Library’s Teen Book Club named to the YALSA Teens’ Top Ten panel

This post is an article from the Winter 2017 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Sonja Somerville of the Salem Public Library.

The logo for YALSA's Teens' Top Ten listSalem Public Library’s Speak Up! Teen Book Club has been selected for the official Teens’ Top Ten panel for 2017-2018. I’m psyched because it was a bit of a complicated application process and they choose just 20 nationwide.

Teens’ Top Ten is an annual project of the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. Announced each October during Teen Read Week, the list recognizes the best young adult books published in the previous year, as nominated and voted on by teens across the county. In 2016, a total of 28,000 teens voted on the 25 nominated books to narrow the list to the official Teens’ Top Ten. As part of the panel, Speak Up! will play a key part in choosing the list of 25 nominees for the next two years.

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