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Unsettling Narratives

Postcolonial Readings of Children’s Literature

By Clare Bradford
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature, Children’s Literature
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Paperback : 9780889205079, 288 pages, April 2007

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Unsettling Narratives: Postcolonial Readings of Children’s Literature by Claire Bradford


Part One
“When Languages Collide”: Resistance and Representation

1. Language, Resistance, and Subjectivity

2. Indigenous Texts and Publishers

3. White Imaginings

4. Telling the Past

Part Two
Place and Postcolonial Significations

5. Space, Time, Nation

6. Borders, Journeys, and Liminality

7. Politics and Place

8. Allegories of Place and Race



Bibligraphy and References



Children’s books seek to assist children to understand themselves and their world. Unsettling Narratives: Postcolonial Readings of Children’s Literature demonstrates how settler-society texts position child readers as citizens of postcolonial nations, how they represent the colonial past to modern readers, what they propose about race relations, and how they conceptualize systems of power and government.

Clare Bradford focuses on texts produced since 1980 in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand and includes picture books, novels, and films by Indigenous and non-Indigenous publishers and producers. From extensive readings, the author focuses on key works to produce a thorough analysis rather than a survey. Unsettling Narratives opens up an area of scholarship and discussion—the use of postcolonial theories—relatively new to the field of children’s literature and demonstrates that many texts recycle the colonial discourses naturalized within mainstream cultures.


  • Commended, Honor Book, Children's Literature Association 2007


``By emphasizing the fact that texts produced by the Indigenous must be read in accordance with their cultural and narrative practices, Bradford frees up a breathing space for Indigenous texts which are, otherwise, read according to the textual and critical modes of dominant communities. Given the subject area of her work and the theoretical tools that she is employing Bradford's book is an intervention that is both timely and necessary. ''

- Anna Kurian, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 30, no. 2, May 2009

``In Unsettling Narratives, Clare Bradford deploys her wide-ranging knowledge of postcolonial theory to explore the social and political implications of a fascinating variety of texts for children and young adults produced in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U. S.A. With a passionate commitment to confronting and moving beyond the conventional ideologies of race and space that tend to constrain herself and others, and an insightful awareness of subtleties and nuances, Bradford offers readings that are fiercely intelligent, refreshingly honest, and--most unsettlingly--very persuasive. ''

- Perry Nodelman, professor emeritus of English, University of Winnipeg, author ofNot a Nickel to Spare (2007) and, with Mavis Reimer, The Pleasures ofChildrens Literature.

``Clare Bradford's newest book is groundbreaking, and its title, Unsettling Narratives, hints at the complexity of the subject matter and its multiple dimensions. ... Bradford is. ..the first to apply comparative literary techniques across the board to the children's literature originating in these four countries [namely Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States]. ... She does an especially good job of pinpointing how indigenous stories become subsumed by European paradigms when told by cultural outsiders no matter how well-versed the authors may be in the cultures about which they are writing. ... [But] an infusion of new tools is needed to take the discussion beyond authenticity of the texts themselves and into the greater realm of how the texts represent stated and unstated ideologies in America. These tools are what Bradford offers in Unsettling Narratives. It is an ambitious book, grounded in the theories of postcolonial studies and filled with examples of close textual readings and analyses that are nuanced rather than reductive. Although Bradford's intention it so examine how children's texts represent indigenity, her examples provide models for reading all children's texts by, about, or referencing cultures marginalized in the United States. Her opening example of Lynne Cheney's America: A Patriotic Primer alone is practically worth the price of the book. ''

- Susan Stan, Children's Literature Association Quarterly, Vol. 33, no. 2, Summer 2008

``Clare Bradford's Unsettling Narratives fully lives up to the claim on the back cover that the volume will `open up an area of scholarship and discussion . .. relatively new to the field of children's literature. ' The volume is thorough, provocative, and persuasive. ... One of the biggest strengths of this text is the breadth of material which is analyzed in close detail: Bradford examines as many as fifteen texts in detail to a chapter, including novels, picture books, and films, and this wealth of material not only gives her argument a persuasive strength but also showcases the rich material of postcolonial children's texts which have until now been relatively neglected. ... This volume is coherent, thought-provoking, and well-written, moving beyond the conventional and obvious analyses of race, identity, place, and language which so often occur in the study of children's literature, to provide a fresh insight and a provocative new perspective. ''

- Jennifer Sattaur, International Research Society for Children's Literature, July 2008

``Unsettling Narratives: Postcolonial Readings of Children's Literature provides a significant contribution to the fields of First Nations/Aboriginal studies and comparative Postcolonial studies, as well as the development of theoretically grounded postcolonial analyses of children's literature. ''

- Suzanne James, Canadian Literature, 200, Spring 2009

``Provides an in-depth view of what children's and young adult books tell readers about native populations, immigration, race relationships, and the development of nations, and what they have to say about the place of these Native peoples in today's societies. ... [D]efinitely. ..useful. ..for assuring the accurate portrayal of indigenous cultures in the library and the classroom by recognizing the political implications of these portrayals. ''

- Janet Hilbun, School Library Journal, February 1, 2008