Who Is The Great Gilly Hopkins for?
This Week on the NewberyTart Podcast
Each week on NewberyTart, Jennie and Marcy, two book-loving mamas (and a librarian and a bookseller, respectively), read and drink their way through the entire catalogue of Newbery books, and interview authors and illustrators along the way.
In this episode, Marcy and Jennie discuss the 1979 Newbery Honor book The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson.
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From the episode:
Marcy: This is a book for white kids. Yes, this is a book to show how discarded, underserved children can confront their biases and turn it around. But it’s a book for white kids to learn that lesson. The Black kids reading this book are not going to get that. They’re just going to get that they’re being insulted and demeaned for the sake of Gilly’s personal growth, in my opinion.
Jennie: I completely get that, and I can’t defend it on any of that front. I will say that I do think that it is useful to have something specifically for small white racist children that might jolt some sense into them.
Marcy: I’m not saying it’s not a useful tool in that respect. I’m just saying in considering who to recommend this book to.
Jennie: Yes, exactly. It is not a book that I would say is for every reader by any means. But I know at some point over the years, it’s had to have some kind of positive impact with little racist white assholes. And I can’t help but feel like that does serve a purpose.
Marcy: It’s worth something. It is worth something.
Jennie: I say that knowing a lot of them and I’m not going to defend them. Hopefully they’ve grown out of it. But I grew up with a lot of them, and they needed something like this.
Marcy: I know. It’s worth a lot to try and change people’s minds. To change people’s minds in a non-aggressive way and make them realize the error of their ways is huge. It’s just that I have reservations.