Children’s fiction on terror is leading a youth ‘write-back’ against post-9/11 paranoia

A wave of children’s fiction which tackles topics this kind of as suicide terrorism, militant jihadism and counter-terror violence is supporting youthful viewers to rethink and resist extremism and Islamophobia, new investigate suggests.


The examine, by Dr. Blanka Grzegorczyk at the College of Cambridge, charts the emergence about nearly two decades since 9/eleven of a distinct sub-genre in British children’s literature, concentrating on themes of terrorism and counter-terror. Several of its authors, she argues, are “creating, instead than fighting, back again”: towards the simplistic and regularly racist conditions in which extremism, immigration and Islam are generally framed by politicians and the media.

This creating incorporates the novels of established and emerging writers this kind of as Malorie Blackman, Muhammad Khan, and Anna Perera. The books themselves generally confront youthful viewers with depictions of violence, perpetrated both by terrorists and the condition, and feature youthful protagonists who are variously victims, witnesses or contributors in wars joined to terror.

Grzegorczyk, a lecturer and researcher at the College of Schooling, College of Cambridge, argues that these books are encouraging a technology of youthful persons who will turn out to be adults in the 2020s to challenge the cultural paranoia of the post-9/eleven Britain in which they have grown up.

“A person accomplishment of these authors has been to make a protected house for kids to get earlier the form of considering, popularized by successive governments, that the purely natural consequence of terrorism is regularly possessing to be vigilant to and to worry the enemy ‘other’ towards whom the condition is hence justified to mobilize,” Grzegorczyk claimed.

“These are books that generally expose the inequalities and prejudices that lie guiding that. They invite the post-terror technology to consider about what needs to adjust and why, and how to resist the racism and Islamophobia that have been rampant in British culture since before they had been born. It is really creating as activism, and it invitations an activist response.”

Other investigate has documented how the wars on terror, as properly as a lot more recent atrocities this kind of as the Manchester Arena bombing, have preyed on the minds of a technology of youthful persons now on the verge of adulthood. A examine in 2018 by the investigate corporation Childwise, for example, located that just one in 3 kids aged nine to sixteen nervous about war, terrorism and global conflict a lot more than anything at all else.

Grzegorczyk’s guide, Terror and Counter-Terror in Contemporary Kid’s Literature is the to start with examine which examines the impact of a deliberate effort by children’s publishers pursuing 9/eleven and 7/7 to commission novels working with those people themes.

It analyzes dozens of titles: among them Anna Perera’s Guantanamo Boy, about an standard boy from Rochdale who is torn from his family and incarcerated devoid of cost and An Act Of Adore by Alan Gibbons, which follows the divergent paths of two childhood buddies into the British Military and terrorism.

Several books also examine the overlap amongst extremism, discriminatory profiling, and gender and social inequality. They incorporate Muhammad Khan’s I Am Thunder, about a British Asian female whose sense of marginalization leaves her vulnerable to radicalisation Nikesh Shukla’s Operate, Riot, about a group of youngsters who are pursued by the police just after just one of them films the politically-sanctioned murder of an ethnic minority youth and Rachel Anderson’s Asylum: a 2011 novel which prefigures the Grenfell tragedy with its depiction of a condemned London tower block crowded with asylum seekers, migrants and inadequate households.

Grzegorczyk’s analysis located that a recurrent topic of this literature is that it provides violence as the ‘common language’ of terrorists and governments. The novels generally feature youthful protagonists who need to type alliances across racial, cultural, religious or nationwide divides to confront the restrictions of this kind of vocabulary and give expression to a widespread humanity.

She argues that this encourages viewers not only to think about a long term based mostly on shared values, but to consider critically about the forces that have shaped the violence, worry and suspicion endemic in British culture post-9/eleven and 7/7.

The study also argues that this politically engaged and charged wave of literature—through its vivid depictions of aggression, retaliation and prejudice—has made available a technology of youthful viewers who have endured the “sluggish terror” of frequent exposure to atrocities in the media a way to take care of that creeping trauma even though empathizing with those people who have seasoned it directly.

As a result, Grzegorczyk states, the novels regularly underscore the inequalities amongst rich, privileged, white youthful Britons—who usually only witness violence and prejudice through the media—and those people from other communities and ethnicities, in Britain and somewhere else, for whom it is ever-current.

In addition, she suggests, this kind of creating might incorporate contemporary momentum and inspiration to a new wave of youth activism, witnessed in movements this kind of as Fridays For Future, American youth strategies towards gun violence, and Black Lives Matter—which involve comparable expressions of cross-cultural solidarity as those people located in the novels themselves.

“At just one degree this fiction is creating, instead than fighting, back again towards a resurgence of racist and anti-immigrant sentiment in British tradition in the context of terrorism,” Grzegorczyk additional.

“But it also positions youthful persons as the brokers of that resistance, and energizes viewers to acquire motion. At a time when we are seeing a youthful technology talking up, these books are pointing them to a new form of connectedness across cultures that moves us on from past generations’ fixation with ‘us towards them.'”

“Terror and Counter-Terror in Contemporary Kid’s Literature” is revealed by Routledge.


Dealing with ‘honour-based’ violence as terrorism will only damage a lot more women of all ages and women


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Kid’s fiction on terror is primary a youth ‘write-back’ towards post-9/eleven paranoia (2020, August 24)
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