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“Constructing an idea of the New Zealand adolescent as culturally impoverished”

April 12, 2012

Anna Jackson made an observation about the absence of certain activities in local YA fiction… which seemed interesting to me…

“On the whole, characters in New Zealand YA fiction are too actively engaged to take time for reading.”[1]

Not only are books missing from a surprising number of YA novels in New Zealand, but also in many cases art, music, film, song, television, or even Facebook, YouTube, and the cultural applications of the new technologies: collectively we seem to be constructing an idea of the New Zealand adolescent as culturally impoverished.”[2] 

Jackson goes on to qualify this statement by noting that there “are of course some obvious exceptions to this generalisation. Mahy for instance typically represents her main characters as readers – and often as writers.”[3]Witi Ihimaera is another exception whose novels like Mahy’s represent culturally rich childhoods, although in his fiction the emphasis is not on literature but on oral story-telling and other forms of cultural instruction.”[4] She also mentions Elizabeth Knox in this regard, but it seems an interesting idea to follow…

[1] 13 Anna Jackson ‘Introduction’ pp.7-26 in  Anna Jackson, Geoffrey Miles, Harry Ricketts, Tatjana Schaefer, Kathryn Walls (2011)  A Made-Up Place: New Zealand in Young Adult Fiction   (Victoria University Press: Wellington)

[2] 14 Anna Jackson Op. Cit.

[3] 14 Anna Jackson Op. Cit.

[4] 15 Anna Jackson Op. Cit.


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