Laurel Snyder has written a kick-ass article about Jewish children's literature. Betsy at Fuse also talked about Laurel's article. The conversation in the comments evolved, as conversations do, as to how Laurel's thesis (good Jewish children's literature) can apply to any group.
And Wendy asked about Catholics in books.
On the one hand, as a child I assumed every character in a book was like me until I was told differently. Unless there was evidence to the contrary, the characters were Catholic like me.
Of course, that's not true. I think some authors perhaps do that deliberately (not mentioning religion at all).
So what about the Catholics?
And DO NOT refer me to that VOYA article. Personally, an article about religion in books that includes books that are anti that religion really do not meet that need. If I gave Godless to a person asking for a book about Catholics (unless the RA said, "and I want it to be a book about no longer being Catholic"), I would be doing a huge disservice to the person asking for the book. And, frankly, most of the VOYA books fall under the "religion is to be questioned and found wanting if you're smart" category. Don't get me wrong; Godless and the other books in the VOYA article are great. But it does not answer the question -- where are the books that show Catholic kids and teens?
Now to answer that question!
Well, since many authors don't mention religion, it's a bit hard for me to remember Catholic characters. Often, it falls under "the person is Catholic and they realize religion is wrong" category, or it's historical, or it's the "big Irish family with too many kids and too little money the father drinks" stereotype that is insulting (yet still exists in literature and books and movies.)
Here are the books that I can think of. Do you agree? What others can you think of?
Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm (my review here)
Clay by David Almond. (my review here) For the record: Almond is one of those few authors that asks questions about religion and belief and Catholicism, but does so in a way that is always respectful and true. His The Fire-Eaters includes abusive religious teachers; but, like Clay and Stained (below) includes wonderful things about belief and religion.
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce (my review here)
Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Litman (my review here) The main character's spiritual journey brings her back to her Jewish faith, but her flirtation with Catholicism is depicted with warmth, wisdom, and respect.
Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (my review here) A beautiful book; and this shows how a book can ask hard questions (here, about a priest and a teenage boy as well as about how people within a religion don't always live up to the principles) yet still be spiritual and belief filled.
Historically, anything by Lenora Mattingly Weber. Her books are set amongst Catholic families and were contemporary at the time they were written (early 40s through the 70s). Personally, I always liked Katie Rose better; but Beany is pretty good, also.
There aren't many Catholic publishers today; not like you see with other religions. Since most Christian publishers include books with a "have you found Jesus/convert to our brand of Christianity" moment, I hesitate to look towards them for books. I'm going way back now; but I adore the Mary Rose at Boarding School series by Mary Mabel Wirries, written and set in the early part of the 20th century, and published by Benziger Brothers. Wikipedia shows that it's currently RCL Benziger. A very quick look at their website shows no fiction.
OK, that's it for me this morning! I have listed no picture books. I cannot think of any off the top of my head, that aren't Bible Stories types of things.
What have I missed?
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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