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Reviewed by:
  • Asian Children's Literature and Film in a Global Age ed. by Bernard Wilson and Sharmani Patricia Gabriel
  • Lucia Obi
    Translated by Nikola von Merveldt

ASIAN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE AND FILM IN A GLOBAL AGE. Local, National, and Transnational Trajectories. Edited by Bernard Wilson and Sharmani Patricia Gabriel. Series: Asia-Pacific and Literature in English. Palgrave Macmillan / Springer Nature Singapore, 2020, 398 pages. ISBN: 978-981-15-2630-5

While postcolonial studies have long addressed the marginalization of non-Western literatures, the book market, which obeys the rules of global capitalism, still causes unequal circulation of children's literatures. There are more children's books on the Western market about Asia that perpetuate notions of "backwardness" and "exoti cism" than there are books from Asia itself that reflect the reality of contemporary Asian societies. Conversely, neocolonial practices, such as cultural appropriation and reinterpretation of "cultur ally authentic" non-Western sources, determine the flow of the commodity of "children's literature" from Asia. Research on Asian children's literature is also dominated by Western discourses and aesthetic concepts.

It was high time for this book, whose authors present Asian children's literature and films as expressions of their specific cultures of origin, but also within the complex symbiosis of their local, national, transnational, global, and glocalized networks.

The methodologically varied contributions cover diverse children's media from the Asian American diaspora, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.

The concept of "children's literature" rooted in national contexts and transporting collective ideological interests can certainly be observed in Asia. Even though "Asia" is not conceived here as a static, homogeneous entity, but rather as a heterogeneous space with many centers and peripheries, complex local cultures, and constant historical change in the wake of globalization, regional thematic emphases can be identified in the discussion of children's literatures. The book is organized to reflect this.

The first chapter deals with East Asian literature from Taiwan, China, South Korea, and Japan, which focuses on changes in family structures and a redefinition of gender roles. Andrea Mei-Ying Wu looks at transnational cultural dynamics and the local appropriation of the term "child heart" (tongxin), which was adapted from romantic Western notions of childhood into Chinese literary theory and was influential in the development of Taiwanese children's literature in the postwar period. Xiangshu Fang and Lijun Bi reflect on the redefinition of the family shaped by Confucianism or nationalist political movements evident in Chinese children's books from 1978 to 2014. Three South Korean films presented by Sung-Ae Lee manifest similar social pressures through family structures. They are considered a metaphor for society as a whole, showing the negative consequences of nonconformity, but also the possibilities for change it can bring. A social transformation—a redefinition of family, away from heteronormative, monocultural, and patriarchal structures and binary gender roles—becomes more evident in contemporary Japanese children's literature presented by Yasuko Doi. Bernard Wilson sees in the Japanese anime version of Andersen's "Mermaid" a challenge to social norms with their social construction of gender. [End Page 97]

The literature selections from South and West Asia, India, Sri Lanka, and Iran grouped together in the second chapter are presented by region, yet they focus on the globally significant children's literature theme of inequality and marginalization of young people due to their age, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Sonia Ghalian traces concepts of childhood in Hindi films since the 1950s that reveal fundamental changes in Indian society. Suchismita Banerjee explores the question of representation of queer lifestyles in Indian heteronormative society through the new phenomenon of LGBTQIA+ literature for children and young adults. Neluka Silva addresses the demonization of alterity along ethnic and ideological lines in Sri Lankan society through two popular children's novels by author Prashani Rambukwella. Amir Ali Nojoumian and Amir Hadi Nojoumian analyze the aesthetic approach to the representation of childhood and child protagonists in films by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.

The third section of the book, with contributions on Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, focuses on apparently completely different Southeast Asian literatures that draw on local oral traditions or...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1918-6983
Print ISSN
0006-7377
Pages
pp. 97-98
Launched on MUSE
2021-07-30
Open Access
No
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