Dean-Ruzicka on combating hate through YA literature

Brittian Fellow in the Writing and Communication Program, Rachel Dean-Ruzicka, gave an invited talk at a special symposium held at American University – Washington College of Law on September 27th. The symposium was held in honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Journal of Hate Studies and was organized around the theme of “Hate and Political Discourse.” The symposium brought together speakers from MIT, Ohio State, University of Hawai’i, Kalamazoo College, and the University of Limerick School of Law, among others. Rachel’s talk was titled “Combating Hate through Young Adult Literature” and covered four texts featuring neo-Nazi characters written for a young adult audience. She argues that young adult literature featuring neo-Nazi characters can be a powerful site for discouraging the development of hate. By examining texts such as Laura Williams’ Spider’s Web and Han Nolan’s If I Should Die Before I Wake, she argues that the lessons that neo-Nazi protagonists learn about values illustrates how hate ultimately is not a value worth living by. In looking at Carol Matas’ The Freak and Mats Wahl’s The Invisible, she argues that individuals have to build on that sense of values not worth living by into creating active community responses that combat hate. If this is done effectively, lives can be saved as they are in The Freak. If community leaders respond by ignoring hate speech, it can lead to death like it does in The Invisible. Her article with the same title will be appearing in the Journal of Hate Studies in October, 2012.

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