Monday, January 23, 2012

Questions About Power in Stories and Storytelling

We're moving to the issue of power in my Jan Term class at Saint Mary's College of California, "Race, Culture, and Power in Children's Books." I thought my Fire Escape folk might be interested in a couple of lists I'm sharing with my students.

Questions to Ask about Power in a Story:
  1. Who/what has the power to BE changed?
  2. Who/what has the power to MAKE change?
  3. Who/what has the power to PREVENT change?
  4. Who/what GAINS power and how?
  5. Who/what LOSES power and how?
  6. What KIND of power does each player have? Where did they get it? Do they use it? Why or why not?
  7. How is the child reader/listener empowered or disempowered by the story?
If I Want to Tell the Story of a "Less Powerful" Child ...
  1. Why am I writing this story?
  2. Could anyone else tell it better? Does that person have a voice I can seek to nurture or empower?
  3. Have I held enough babies in that community?
  4. Have I done my research?
  5. Am I allowing that child/teen character to be whole and real?
  6. What kind of power am I giving my fictional child/teen? Is it true to his/her context? Is it culturally appropriate or “western”?
  7. Is there an outside “savior?” If so, who is it and why? How much power am I giving that “savior” over the child/teen? 
  8. Am I reinforcing a “single story” about that child/teen? (Watch Chimamanda Adichie's brilliant TED Talk if you don't get this one.)
Anything to add?

2 comments:

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Finally got to watch the Chimamanda Adichie video. Very eye-opening. "Start the story with 'Secondly.'" Great stuff.

DanielJose said...

Love that TED talk and so glad this is up -- seems power is the least touched on topic when it comes to diversity discussions but one of the most important.
i think a breakdown of different types/manifestations of power can be helpful, because it's one of those words every one defines differently and institutional power contrasts so sharply with community or spiritual power, for instance.
anyway, great post as always!