Teaching and Learning About Slavery: Portugal’s Role

I am just back from a delightful one week sojourn in Portugal. The weather, food, and landscape were gorgeous. But this post isn’t about that; it is about African slavery. For, alongside all the fun vacation/tourist activities, I was paying attention to what I saw and what was said about Portugal and African slavery. Now a caveat: what follows is from a teeny tiny slice of time in Portugal, in a few parts, and listening to a very few people (all white). I would like to think that if I had dug further into this topic, if I had gone to Portugal to learn about this explicitly, that there would be many people and exhibits that were more reflective, more honest, and more contrite than what I heard and saw.

A few snapshots:

  • A guide who acknowledged our interest (I’d asked about this early on), but then said slavery had gone on throughout history everywhere and, as for Portugal, those involved had done so because they’d married African leaders who were slave traders. That is, it was the Africans who got the Portuguese into it. How else am I to interpret that statement?
  • A lecturer who gave us two talks on different days. I asked about slavery and he acknowledged it, but barely said anything about it.
  • A guide who proudly stated that Portugal was the first European country to end slavery. Perhaps she didn’t know that it was because of mercenary reasons (being no longer profitable) and empire-building reasons (better ways to exploit than through slave trade). Here’s a chronology: Who banned slavery when? (Portugal was not the first by any stretch)
  • Also, what about Brazil? They spoke about it in terms of the monarchy relocated there for a while, but ….er…what about the workers there? Africans in bondage were brought to Brazil by Portuguese in droves.
  • While one guide consciously spoke of “explorations” rather than “discoveries” others did not. And so there was the celebration again and again of the various men who crossed oceans to “discover” or “explore” or whatever in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Witness The Monument of the Discoveries.
  • When given some free time in Belem I visited the Maritime Museum and was sadly unsurprised to see the exhibits featuring discovery and nothing about those “discovered.” Looking at their website here is a worksheet for students. It is in Portuguese but it doesn’t appear to consider the topic at all. (If I’m wrong please let me know and I’ll correct this.)

Now home I poked around a bit to see what I could find:

This is just a start but I encourage anyone visiting Portugal to be aware of this aspect of the country’s history and ask your guides about it. As I responded to a friend on Facebook, I would hope my very narrow window into the Portuguese and their awareness of this was not typical. And if it was, hopefully, that will change soon.

 

 

 

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In the Classroom (and Anywhere for that Matter): We MUST Do Better, Fellow White People

From Teaching Tolerance:

Slavery Simulations: Just Don’t

We’re saddened by the news of yet another classroom lesson on slavery involving a troubling simulation—but we’re not surprised. Our research has shown some common pitfalls when teaching and learning about slavery. In this edition of The Moment, we explain why mock auctions—along with simulations of the Middle Passage—do more harm than good, and we provide resources for teaching this history more effectively.

Please read the whole article here.

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Diverse Voices in Latinx Literature Conference Report

Yesterday’s mini-conference at Bank Street College of Education, Diverse Voices in Latinx Literature, was outstanding. Every panel, every panelist, every moderator, every keynoter — all were wonderful. The moderators asked great questions that inspired the panelists to give fascinating and informative answers. And added bonus — they were all delightful storytellers! Kudos to Cindy Weill and everyone else involved in creating this unique day. Hopefully, they do it again. And guess what — you don’t have to feel sad you weren’t there because the whole thing was filmed by Kidlit TV and is archived here.

Here’s the program so you can see the panel titles and speakers:

Program

9:00 – 9:30 AM: Breakfast and Registration

9:30 – 9:45 AM: Opening Remarks
Loida Garcia-Febo, President, American Library Association

9:45 – 10:30 AM: Fantasy and Illustration in Graphic Novels and Comics

  • Raúl the Third, Lowriders Blast from the Past
  • Liniers Macanudo, Buenas Noches Planeta
  • Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, La Borinqueña

Moderator:  Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

10:30 – 11:20 AM: Elevating Our Heroes Through Picture Books

  • Duncan Tonatiuh, Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México
  • Raul Colón, Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote
  • Eric Velasquez, Schomburg: The Man Who Built the Library
  • Anika Aldamuy Denise, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and StoryTeller Pura Belpré
  • Rudy Gutierrez, Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World

Moderator:  Sonia Rodriguez, LaGuardia Community College

11:20 AM – 12:20 PM: Break

  • Lunch on your own
  • Book sales

11:45 AM – 12:20 PM: Author, Book Signing Begins

12:20 – 1:10 PM: Soy yo: Developing Identities & Relationships in Latinx Coming-of-Age Stories

  • Pablo Cartaya, Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
  • Angela Dominguez, Stella Diaz Has Something to Say
  • Hilda Eunice Burgos, Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle
  • Aida Salazar, The Moon Within

Moderator: Carla España, Hunter College

1:10 – 1:30 PM: Keynote: Duncan Tonatiuh

1:30 – 2:00 PM: Authors Sign Books

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Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth (Second Volume of The Book of Dust) is Anon

Seven years after readers last saw Lyra Silvertongue, sitting on a bench in Oxford’s Botanic Garden, Philip Pullman’s most beloved heroine is set to return as an adult this autumn in the second volume of his trilogy The Book of Dust.

Pullman announced on Wednesday that The Secret Commonwealth would be published in October, just ahead of BBC One’s TV adaptation of his bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy, starring Dafne Keen as the child Lyra, Ruth Wilson as the sinister Mrs Coulter and James McAvoy as Lord Asriel.

More from this Guardian article.  (Am I hyperventilating much:)

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Teaser Trailer for BBC’s His Dark Materials is Here!

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My Latest New York Times Reviews Are On Fantasy Books, Baby!

Beloved by young readers, speculative fiction often gets a very different reception from grown-ups, some of whom lament that such books lack the depth of literary fiction, especially if — horrors! — they are popular ones in a series. It took a tsunami of media attention to get such adults to capitulate to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and, once they did, they raved about the series as an exception, seemingly unaware of its distinguished lineage. Fortunately, others feel differently, aware that some of the most inventive, enthralling, provocative and (yes) literary writing for children comes in this form. Setting their stories in invented places, a magical version of the real world or far across the universe, these authors explore weighty themes in highly original ways. For established fans, new readers and open-minded skeptics, four new titles offer distinctive and rich reading experiences.

Read on here to see what I thought about Corey Ann Haydu’s Eventown, Anna Ursu’s The Lost Girl, Catherine Doyle’s The Storm Keeper’s Island, and Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl.

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Thoughts on Newbery: This Monday’s Announcements

I was delighted to be in the room where it happened (well, where it was announced) this year in Seattle. I was 2nd in line due to the energy of my roommate, the irrepressible Susannah Richards, who — as she does — helped the ALSC and convention center staff — manage the line. Meanwhile, I ate donuts offered by another front-liner, agent Barry Greenblatt, and had some fantastic conversations with members of this year’s Notables committee and others.

Oh, and also was talked into this photo. Why this guy was there, I’m not really sure.

Anyway, the real point was the announcements. Sitting directly behind the committee members (due to my hardworking roommate) was great fun. Having been in their seats, I know how incredibly exciting and moving it is to have your selections announced.

Now as to those selections — a reminder: every committee is made up of a group of individuals. A different group of individuals would probably make a different selection. This year’s committee members worked hard all year and then really hard last weekend to make their decisions. Having been there I know how difficult it is to reach consensus. You have to give up beloved titles to get to those that you all can agree on. So while we observers may be surprised and perhaps disappointed in the results, I urge that we respect those who made them. (A few years ago I wrote a post for the Nerdy Book Club that is still relevant: “Top Ten Things You May Not Know About the Newbery Award.”)

While the Newbery winner, Meg Medina’s Merci Suárez Changes Gears, was not among my personal top choices, I had read it with pleasure and think it a terrific choice, one I’d easily have gotten behind if I’d been on the committee. Here’s what I wrote on goodreads last April after reading it:

Lovely spot-on middle grade featuring a close extended Cuban-American family, a realistic middle school, and a warm story. Merci is a delightful character to spend time with along with her friends and family.

Also had read and liked the honors, Veera Hiranandani’s The Night Diary and Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s The Book of Boy.

I was glad some of my personal favorites were recognized in other awards.

  • Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X received the Printz Award, the Pura Belpré Author Award, and an  Odyssey Honor (which is how I experienced the book).
  • Kekla Magoon’s The Season of Styx Malone received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award
  • Jonathan Auxier’s Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster received a Sydney Taylor Book Award
  • Varian Johnson’s The Parker Inheritance received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award and an  Odyssey Honor (narrated by Cherise Booth).

But it was the Children’s Literature Legacy Award that meant the most to me. It was posthumously given to Walter Dean Myers, one of the great men of this tiny word of books for children.

 

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