Negotiating Agency, Voice and Identity through Literature
Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature seeks contributions for a themed issue on agency, voice and identity. In a fast-changing world, where power is becoming more and more oppressive and undemocratic, agency, voice and identity are the very life elements that can sustain us. Our sense of agency—our ability to assert our identity, exert our voice and make a difference in the world—is closely related to our drive to live, act and hope. Citizens who contribute to, and receive from, their local and global communities, strive to have a voice in issues that matter and to be part of decision-making processes that are of importance. Such empowerment comes from developing a strong sense of identity.
Borrowing from Moje and Lewis’ definition of agency (2007), we perceive people with agency as being empowered to make their identity, ideals, perceptions, and beliefs visible and actively tapped to enhance personal, cultural, and social aspects of their life experiences. One important way in which people do this, is by sharing their stories. Experiencing acts of agency through reading offers powerful ways to learn about other members of our local and global communities as well as consider the potential for our own agency. When it comes to conceptions of child agency, we espouse Marah Gubar’s “kinship model” (2016). Instead of regarding adults’ agency as the norm and then thinking of how children’s agency is different or lacking, the kinship model starts with the assumption that all people, young and old, are akin in their never-ending negotiations of agency and power.
We seek manuscripts that address the notion of agency as perceived and nurtured across various countries and cultures, both within literature and through the sharing of literature. In doing so, we invite a broad spectrum of possible connections through themes that address: (1) Personal agency, a strong sense of self and the potential of one’s own voice and actions; (2) Social agency, taking a stand for and/or with friends and community members; or (3) Cultural agency, speaking up and taking action in support of one’s culture (Mathis, 2016). The following subthemes are offered as suggestions in addition to ones you may have in mind:
- Critical questioning of children’s and young adult literature, in terms of who and to what extend has a voice and is able to exert agency
- Finding voice and identity in and through poetry, biographical texts, historical fiction, science fiction, or other genres
- Literary demonstrations of children having a strong voice and/or taking a stand in social issues
- Examples of sharing books with readers that promote a strong sense of identity, agency and voice and/or engaging young readers in critical discussions around such issues
- Analysis of textual and visual representations of young characters who negotiate their gender, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious, or racial identities
- LGBTQ characters’ voice, agency and identity in children’s and young adult literature
- Children developing identity through interpretive and imaginative play and interactions around literature
- Children as problem detectors and problem solvers in books, and/or children being inspired by literature to address problems
- The power of story in light of developing identity, voice and agency
- Conflicts within literary works that focus on voice and identity
- Focus on a particular author or illustrator in revealing books that build identity and agency
- “Voice” as an author’s craft and its relation to identity and agency
- Comparative approaches to agency, voice and identity across literary works from different cultures
- Translation, transfer and reception issues that pertain to agency, voice and identity
- Controversial, challenged or banned texts in relation to agency, voice and identity
Bookbird submission guidelines can be found here.