Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Mrs. Autumn Mortenson

Second Advisor

Dr. Amy Sonheim

Third Advisor

Dr. Jeff Root

Abstract

Senior year of college, I enrolled in Issues of Communication, a class focused on pinpointing the issues of racism and the long-term effects of microaggressions, defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously of unintentionally expresses a prejudice attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority}" ("microaggressions"}. One of our guest speakers, Dean Bryan McKinney of the Hickingbotham School of Business, came to present "The Field," a short story written by his father, JV McKinney, about living in the 1950's segregated Arkansas Delta. Dean McKinney played a recording of his father reading "The Field," and I felt immediately moved by it. I had also grown up in a small Arkansas town with racial tension and a somewhat divided community. I grew up with African American neighbors, Mr. Ray to the right and Mr. Mario to the left. My father shunned these neighbors for no other reason than the fact that they were different. My father was raised to believe different meant a slew of other things, like lazy, rude, loud, and a burden on society. In reality, our neighbors were families just like us, trying to make it through the day onto the next, just like us.

As I sat in class, hearing JV's voice read his story, I cried. I cried with Bryan McKinney, mourning the loss of his father. I cried with JV, mourning the fallen state of this world where we are blinded by our own misconstrued understanding. About a week went by, and I could not get "The Field" out of my mind. I kept listening to JV's recording online and feeling what he felt. I had so many unanswered questions--What does racial reconciliation look like on a realistic face-to-face scale? How do children's books shape our views as adults? How important is racial representation and diversity in children's books? How do I represent controversial subject matter to children? Do I, as a white person, have the right/the voice to illustrate a children's book about racial reconciliation?

To get answers, I started a thesis and created a plan to read various picture books. From those books, I would select aspects I like and that reflect "The Field" accurately, then select a design strategy of how I want the book to look and feel. Next I would break the book down into pages. Then finally, I would illustrate it.

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