Which “Other” in Children’s Literature?

Efruze Esra Alptekin | 01.11.2017


 

The first name that comes to mind in the social sciences on the topic of other is undoubtedly Michel Foucault. Foucault's madness-normality questionnaire gives the reader the idea that 'the normal one is a definition defined by the stronger, while in another power it is accepted that the situations that we point to as abnormal today are accepted as normal'. Erving Goffman, on the other hand, focuses on the society that makes this definition and constitutes power. Describes what the normally perceived dominant group accepts in society, that the rest of this normality is stamped and not desired. This theory, which we call social sitgma theory, says that it is a special relationship between the qualities possessed and the values accepted in society, and that when this form of relationship is negative, or when the qualities possessed by the society and those possessed by the qualities do not match the stigma comes out (Unal 28).

The stigmatized individual is less valued, his presence is not well desired in the society, or even perceived as human. The nature of the character possessed, or its goodness or badness is not debated; not being accepted in society is enough to make something unintended. Moreover, even if we encounter otherhood through the representation of the individuals who are stigmatised in literature, it is not limited to this. There are also narrations in which otherhood is discussed, otherization took place, and the other speaks himself or the other is totally rejected. Then, before we call it "the other in children's literature," let's create a "reading guide to other".

Guide to the Other

The child approaches to the text not with the sociological background but with the other that he knows in everyday life. The "other" is known in the dictionary in the daily language as follows:

1. Between two objects or people that are similar, the one which is less important or away in terms of location. Opposite: The nearer one.

2. Other than the one mentioned or known. The other. (öteki, Kubbealtı Lugatı)

The first thing we take out of this explanation in dictionary is the presence of "the nearer one". Having the other is the result of nearer one’s existence. What makes the other one, and makes the nearer one? Age, height, sex, appearance?

Bruno and Shmuel, one of the chief characters of the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas they are separated from one another by a wire netting although they were born on the same date as twins. And with a wire mesh that can be passed easily underneath. It is such that Bruno's father said, "We are superior; they are not even human. "(53). How can a fence, six fingers or thick glasses make a person "down" or different? At this point, the problem seems to be about the difference between "me and others". Just as in Crispy Philosophy, where Brigitte Labbé and Dupont Beurier told through little stories and creative questions. Brigitte Labbé makes the reader ask themselves "Who am I? What does it mean to be human? Who is not me? " and tell us that there is not a single human type, that there are thousands of different human forms, and that we must understand and try to discover differences:" If we do not understand this, then we believe that the world splits into two as 'real people' and others -fake human beings or sub human beings- in the world. We think that the family of humanity is divided into very good races and sub-races. Such thinkers are called 'racists' "(Labbé 11). At this point Labbé says and makes other say that there is not a human nature which splits people into groups as soon as they are born and that they are able to create a "I" if they do not want by rejecting "we" in which we are formed by a collective and cultural way in that we live. It repositions other in children's literature by taking it with a different philosophy technique. She calls readers not to judge but to explore the differences.

So, who is the other? If everyone else except for me is other, I am other, too for someone else, then at any moment everyone can be the other. So, let's continue by questioning the "other"

 

Question 1: Is the diversity that leads to be the other a diversity or a defect?

Since Labbé says difference is diversity, let's first determine the differences. As we will see in Pedro Mañas's book Les A.U.T.R.E.S., the differences are so numerous and unique that it cannot really be counted. The differences are determined in the most basic way are physical differences, lifestyle differences, differences of opinion and race differences. Physical differences are self-evident and easily stigmatized. Even discourses that emphasize the slightest difference besides the sarcastic rhetoric associated with physical disability like "disabled", "four eyes", "giraffe girl", "fat" causes discrimination among people.

As Jakop said in Les A.U.T.R.E.S.,   "I put my first eyeglasses at five years old. From that moment on, I stopped being Jakop Braun. I got a new name: Four eyes. And the only guilty here are unimportant glasses"(48). On the other hand, those who set a life for themselves by denying differences in lifestyle and opinion; moulds such as sex, work, home, family that the society designates are still marked as "the other" because they are different from people even if they do not have physically "flaws". John Boyne presents this type of difference to us in his book named The Child Who Accidentally Flew to The Other Side of the World.

Race Differences; In Labbé's work, he notes that the periods in which whether Indians were human were discussed are history now. On the contrary, the controversy of race continues - even if not immediately, indirectly-. Because after the war in Syria, the balance has changed with the asylum seekers and refugees scattered everywhere, and some questions that we thought were overcome started to be asked again one by one. Sure, they were human, but did they have the right to live in a country they did not belong to as the people of that country? Or go to good schools, dress clean? At this point, many works on the subject of asylum seekers and immigrants are reconstructing the nearer-other duality through the built-in relationship between the host-tenant relationship. Çabuksığınlar[*] and The Boy in Striped Pajamas are only two of the texts that show this duality at the bottom and top.

Haven’t We Been Çabuksığın?

Jean-Claude Grumberg's story Çabuksığınlar is about a musician family who do not have either a hometown or shelter and when read as our story not others, it turns out to be the story of maintaining life, introducing oneself to aonther and a kind of not being able to be recognised around the metaphor of not bein able to get a spot. The narrator emphasizes the Çabuksığın side in every one of us by portraying Çabuksığıns who are the others and are so contrary to each other, with all the features that may be on earth. At this point, every reader turns into Çabuksığıns of the countries of which we cannot abide their rules which are drawn in a way that they cannot be accepted. At this point, he makes everyone ask the following question under-handed: "Is it Çabuksığın’s country, place, identity which is not exact or is always a part in us some kind of Çabuksığın?" In other words, it is a story of a part that cannot belong to any place and cannot take it, just because it is kicked out from somewhere. Are Çabuksığıns the Romanians, the immigrants, the blue-eyed, the black-eyed, the black or the white or the ones that the world does not want for some reason, or is it we which we get it accepted by some one part but denied on the other side? In fact, who are these Çabuksığıns or who haven’t we been one of them?

Children with Striped Pajamas and Non-Striped Pajamas

The biggest differences between Bruno and Shmuel, born on the same date, are their races. Shmuel is Polish, Bruno is German. But this difference cannot offer an explanation to the fact that Bruno lives in a house full of and servants with his family by his senior soldier father on this side of the wire knot, and Shmuel’s living apart from his mother, with thousands of people hungry, thirsty, dirty on the other side. In this book, where we testify to perhaps the greatest discovery of a nine-year-old child of a commanding officer, Bruno, we read unwillingly that Bruno does not understand the thing he could not understand. Because there is no other in child's world; Shmuel is a man, a child, and most importantly his playmate. How the wire mesh changes this and can cause his father to say: "Those people ... well, they are not people, Bruno." (53) Boyne tells his story from points of views two children who can see each other as friends, without perceiving the sense of what is neither a Polish nor a German. It shows that not being abe to see the other as human is an endless product of eager.

Question 2: Should we share our differences?

Perhaps we should distinguish between the good intentions and the bad intentions of the person questioning our difference, as Osman teacher, character of Karin Karakaşlı's novel named Four Pine Cones. Because if a person has bad intentions, he has some jurisdictions and he tries to detect what is different to exclude. But if he has good intentions, he just wonders and asks questions to know. Four Pine Cones shows the reader the possibility of being different but together.

Different but together; Four Pine Cones

In this work, Karin Karakaşlı shows that people should give each other a chance to share their differences. Four young people named Emre, Şerzan, Kumru and Mari who meet on the occasion of Osman and Umut teachers’ private classes, make a friendship by assimilating their differences despite having different social family structures and cultures.

Emre who likes to play guitar, Emre who wants a leisurely life without hesitation, Şerzan who is nervous about adapting to others, Mari who is afraid to get away from his environment and Kumru who is trying to stand strong against his father's disease ... These four children’s joining the team of Osman and Umut who criticises exam system although they are famous teachers, who care about learning each other, leads to the recognition of both themselves and others. Every day they learn new things from each other. They can talk about Kurdishness, Armenianism or Christianity, and they think about issues such as "the country". In this work, Karakaşlı shows that when we approach with the intention of knowing, we can destroy all the other walls, and we can establish real bonds only with our different characteristics which make up ourselves.

 

A work that defines good only for some: Heart

However, some works do not allow this difference. They draw a border and impose that boundary. As Edmondo De Amicis does, they describe an ideal human in Heart. The subject other than this ideal human type is flawed or even absent. Ideal human is a person who is eager to lose his life in the name of homeland, who does not resist the school or the state, who is respetful to the teacher and his parents, never objecting, full of compassion and heroism. Well, how about the ones who do not have these features? A boy who disrespects his teacher, his mother? It is undoubtedly one of the other students disgusted. Even those who are not Italians, or the ones who were killed by Italians in the war, their presence are not even mentioned in the novel. In the Striped Pajamas Boy, Bruno's father said, "They are not even human" (53). Everyone who does not comply with the good person, good citizen pattern that is described in the book is pushed both beyond the book and everyday life.

Question 3: Who determines who is the other? Or who's defines abnormal-normal?

Definition of Abnormal-Normal; The Child Who Accidentally Flew to The Other Side of the World.

Joyn Boyne discusses the necessity of questioning normal and an individual’s being itself in the context of Barnaby’s story in his book The Child Who Accidentally Flew to The Other Side of the World.

Regular person is the one who does not want to see new places, works from nine o'clock in the morning to five o’clock in the evening, never infamous, not attracting attention, not dreaming, not surprising, goes from home to work, not go to opera, watchs television programs and who does not do other unusual patterns. The greatest punishment, embarrassment, humiliation for such a parent is a child like Barnaby. Because Barnaby comes into the world as a child in the air, against the law of gravity, and does not become normal until he is eight! Although his parents struggle hard to normalize, this horrible creature is only kept under control with leashes and bags full of sand. But in the book, that presents the reader that it is inevitable that the different shall make others realise its difference, Barnaby's flight is subject to news, and his parents "release" it to the sky to get rid of this unbearable situation (80). Barnaby meets a lot of people over the course of his trip, trying to return to his family. All these people, however normal and proud they are, are stamped and rejected by their parents as "unusual". At first, if they are alone, they are able to survive as fighting, happy and enjoyable individuals to be themselves. On this path, Barnaby meets two different women who deny gender, a man who criticizes the system, an art critic with a burnt face, and Joshua who cleans up the glass to become an artist, a lot of different people he met in Circus of Freaks and astronauts in the Space Shuttle. Partnership of all of their stories; they are only rejected because they are themselves.

At this point Marjorie, whom Barnaby met, destroys the normal-abnormal descriptions in imaginary reader’s mind by saying “It does not mean that the things you find normal are abnormal because they are not the same as those that someone else finds normal, and that does not mean that you are in an abnormal situation ... They are normal. Because we are all so. The problem is that some people's normal idea in their head is different from that of other people. Unfortunately, the world we live in is such a place. Some people cannot accept things that are outside the patterns of their own heads "(Boyne 91). It also provides a sociological detection by trying to be kept under control by a leash and sand bags to reach the determined normal level. The leash and heavy bag metaphor can be read in response to school and society, homework, expectations, which allows the person to be his / her own by suppressing his / her dreams.

The Circus of Freaks is very similar to the Human Exhibitions of the 1800's in Paris. These people, different from other people in terms of their physical characteristics, are enclosed in cages and were wandered around the country and exhibited to "normal" people. There is also a small group who oppose this freaky squeaky with lots of enthusiasm. Protestors protest the situation with the pennants that say, "Let the freaks released!", "No to the detention of the freaks". (193) But the other two banners show that the protesters are as otheristic as the circus fans, except that the last banner which emphasises that they just people.

The work tells everyone that the normal is what feels good to him and that he must live according to the very nature of self-creation. Our character, Barnaby, when he was about to eventually be treated with surgery due to his being on the air, realises it is not an illness, but a feature that creates itself. And he gives up on being "normal". Because they realize that we can never be "normal". We're always "abnormal" for some. At this point he asks the question: "Who had the right to say that he was not normal? Was it a normal thing to open a hole in an eight-year-old boy's bag and send him out? Or was it really normal to want to be "normal" every second at any moment? "(266). “Moreover”, he says, "There are also things that cannot be explained simply in this world." (270), with the pride he feels due to his being different, he takes off for the new adventures in the sky.

Everyone is a bit the other; Les A.U.T.R.E.S. by Pedro Mañas

Each rule establishes a normal definition, and the ones outside this definition are abnormal and the other. So, what happens when an abnormal -defined so by the rule- defines himself as normal and they leave some others out this time?

Les A.U.T.R.E.S. starts when a very normal boy, Franz begins to close his right eye with a bandage due to on lazy eye syndrome on his left eye. A bandage as small as a palm turns Franz into Morteye. With his name, his posture, identity, everything changes, and he becomes a shy and insecure person. He starts hanging out alone apart from the majority in the garden. At that moment, he notices other strange things. He realises that all of the odd types have different appearances than normal people and they stick together on their own. Nerd Jakop, who wants to stop this, invites all strangers and new-strange Franz to get together and organize them secretly. The strangers who are overwhelmed by being alone, who are sick of insults and not being able to be recognised, all agree to organize. They name themselves as Les A.U.T.R.E.S. and determine their code. It seeks to accept strangeness as a peculiarity and to regard this strangeness as something that is not something to be oppressed or insulted, but rather a proud feature. There they constitute a union that will always get new members who are harmed due to their differences. The Union negotiates with passwords in itself, organizes meetings, even though it does not aim revenge they make the person who makes joke to feel strange when they make fun of a strange person. Because they make everyone think that even if it is not a physical difference from birth, they ought to own some kinds of strange side. At this point, while being in the community leads to isolation, others of the story organize and create their own antidotes. Organizing enables every strange child to feel well and even makes Les A.U.T.R.E.S. famous in time and causes many people to try to prove that they are strange in various ways in order to participate.

On the other hand, the work shows us how much by our definitions of beautiful and expected are determined by fashion. Is where the majority and attraction gathered flawless? Or is it possible to make being a strange, flawed person attractive? In the end, everyone is actually assumed to be a little strange. By stating "Actually we are all a little weird. If we were not, how would we be distinguished from each other? "(Mañas 101), it is shown that being strange is basically not a reason to be excluded, or even that we may need what seems to be the flaw tomorrow.

 

Other without other: The Child who Came with Fog

The work tells the story of life Mirna with a child whom she finds in a foggy day and whose name is Tim, when Mirna needs to get out of the house for getting a bit away from her lonely and unhappy life. It shows that a person can learn by choosing and living everything from having a name to knowing things that exist in the world. While showing how to learn living without being in a rush as a method of education, it deals with the other issue through the definition of foreigner.

Mirna and Tim show how quickly two people can meet after they know that they are alien to one another equally. Even though Mirna's home and life vitalises together with Tim, they are disturbed by Mirna's sister and authorities. By centering questions such as "Does every child belong to one?", "Will I be strangers him if he is strangers to me?", He discusses whether the children belong to the state if they do not belong to anyone, normality of making mistakes and that an event can happen to everyone.

Differences such as physical, racia, territorial are not suggested for the otherness in The Child who Came with Fog. Tim's not belonging to that house or Mirna is enough to make him a stranger. Mirna thinks that this strangeness is supposed to be overcome bygetting know each other, and by feeding through binary fairy tale books they heal each other as they meet.

Again, in Child Out of the Tin Can, the harmony that Berti Bartolotti, a disorganized woman who does not fit the usual mother type, and Konrad, who is one of the very "perfect" children who come out of the mailbox one day, is mentioned together with external adultery. This time the other is looked reverse. The matter of fact is the otherhood of the uniqueness.

Conclusion

The normal definitions that are accepted in society and the presence of those who are immediately "stigmatise" others when they go beyond these qualities seen in every book that is the subject of this paper. However, it is also needed to be realized that the point they resemble is the relation between school and the other. When we look at their efforts to address studies regarding compulsory education and non-formal societies, we can see that these studies problematise school as an institution that produces a single-type individual, and that the teacher is also uniquely modeled and blunted. In the works I mentioned, the existence of the family and classical school structure and the teacher model that does not trust the students makes the teacher think the role of the teacher in building the other. As a matter of fact, the first person to thinks Frank was "crippled" because of the bandage was Franz’s teacher,also it is the teacher who tells Tim that he cannot learn to read and that he cannot do what others are doing. Moreover, the same teacher shows Konrad as a very intelligent, intelligent and superior child and keeps them apart from others, causing other children to get angry and upset at Konrad.

As a result, there are works in the children's literature that build other but there are also works in which the other speaks. In all these narrations, school is included in the story because it is a place to describe otherness. Reader is prompted to break its prejudices regarding othering and to recognise differences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

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[*] [*] Translator’s Note: Literally means “seek-assylum-quickly family”


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