On the 22nd July, 2022, Muna Kalati attended an online global networking event on young adult (YA) literature and media organized by Prof. Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer of University of Tübingen, Germany , Prof. Corinna Norrick-Rühl of University of Munster, Germany, Melanie Ramdarshan Bold of the University College of London, Dr. Nithya Sivashankar and Dr. Alison Waller of the University of Roehampton, London. The goal was to produce informal conversations among YA researchers of all career stages, leading to networking opportunities.
In his presentation, ‘From Cameroon to Africa – Exploring the children and youth publishing industry’, he succinctly elucidated on the history of young adult literature from 1956 to date with a focus on major authors, publishers and the particularity of the Cameroonian young adult publishing industry to the overall literary landscape in Africa and book diversity globally. He discussed how children’s literature had historically reflected the ideology of dominant cultures in society, the effect of stereotypes in strengthening prejudices and underrepresentation of blacks. Christian Elongue’s presentation further touched on issues confronting the children and youth publishing industry in Cameroon such as border uncertainty, language barriers, the foreign veil and the prevalence of academic books.
The event which was held in two sections was attended by 30 participants from around the globe.
The discussions focused on the trends in young adult literature. Among the topics discussed were issues of sexuality, intimacy, toxicity of online culture, peer pressure, societal pressure, transmedia, culture and ethnicity.
A few of the discussions at the Global YA Networking event are presented below.
Atia Abawi’s novel, A Land of Permanent Goodbyes (2018) which talks about the ordeal of suffering, survival and resilience in young adult trauma narrative was thoroughly dissected by Arya Priyadarshini and Suman Sigroha, both researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, India. They focused on the global effects of war and destruction on the lives of young adults in the Middle East/West Asia region in recent times. They noted that issues of trauma, distress and survival have affected lives globally, its impact is evident in the significant surge in contemporary young adult fiction with such subject matter.
Daniela Ottolenghi, PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews, Buenos Aires, Argentina concentrated on the topic ‘YA readers in Argentina: reading paths through social media’. She expanded on the motivation of young adults for reading, sharing their pleasure for literature in social media and whether editorial marketing and translation plays a role in influencing their choice of reading materials.
Lidong Xiang, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University-Camden
presented on YA literature in the Chinese context by examining Chen Danyan’s 1988 novel, The Death of a Schoolgirl in which Ningge, the girl protagonist rebel against the pressures and strict disciplinary actions imposed on her by family, school, and the social environment by committing suicide. The narration of the story was from Ningge’s diary and the female journalist investigating her death. Lidong Xiang dissected the narratives of Chinese schoolgirls across literature and media from the lens of cruelty in the socialist and post-socialist eras.
In another presentation, Swara Shukla, doctoral candidate in Book Studies, English Department, University of Münster, Germany explored Wattpad, a global digital storytelling platform which has a YA-focused publishing imprint called Wattpad Books.
She explained how the Wattpad platform created a space for non-Anglophone YA readers to interact with Anglophone/Western YA readers on culture issues by introducing and exploring Wattpad as an alternate and interactive space for reading YA fiction. Swara further explored “Wattpad-South Asia”, a community-built page on the Wattpad platform. Wattpad-South Asia curates anthologies of stories written by young authors from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian cultures.
As one can see, young adult literature offers a great way for teenagers to transition from childhood into adulthood through a wide range of topics which deal with the issues bordering around puberty, adulthood and life in general. It is a way through which many young Africans can receive answers to questions and issues which were previously considered taboo and swept under the carpet. It’s therefore important for educators and development strategists to include young adult literature and children books in their approaches to educate, empower and change the mindset of young Africans.