Accuracy Is Not Enough: The Role ofCultural Values in the Authenticity of Picture Books By: Weimin Mo and Wenju Shen
Culture influences the way we view ourselves, society, and human relations and interactions. Because of the spontaneous nature of cultural perception, it is not easy for us to view reality from a cultural perspective that differs from out own. Mistakesof inauthentic cultural depiction are inevitable if only a few concepts are used as cues to create picture books.
Progress in Cultural Authenticity:Achievement Over a Half Century • The mainstream culture in the U.S has been strongly influenced by Eurocentrism. • Asian cultures and Asian-Americans were once the least represented in pitcure books
The practice of viewing the world from a European perspective and with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of European culture.
Progress in Cultural Authenticity: Achievement Over a Half Century• The mainstream culture in the U.S has been strongly influenced by Eurocentrism.• Asian cultures and Asian-Americans were once the least represented in pitcure books However….
However, Harada (1995) studied issues of ethnicity, authenticity, and quality in Asian American picture books from 1983-1993 and the results indicated: Characters in more than 90% of the works are positive, non-stereotyped portrayals Asian American characters assume a proactive role in resolving their own problems and forging cross-cultural bonds in almost 80% of the stories Derogatory language and parodied speech are absent from all of the work Historical information, when present, is accurately presented in all of the titles. Cultural details, when included, are authentically described almost 70% of the work. Asian-Americans are realistically depicted through illustrations and photographs in almost 80% of the books (pp. 140-141)
"Authenticity is not just accuracy or the avoidance of stereotyping but involves cultural values and issues/ practices that are accepted as norms of the social group" (SM pp. 200). Some cultural facts and practices may be realistically reflected in the story but may not be considered authentic because member of the culture do not agree with each other on interpretation of their values. This chapter mainly focuses on examining several aspects of the connection between cultural authenticity and issues of cultural values.
Example: 1939 Caldecott winner Mei Li , written and illustrated Thomas Handforth According to the authors this book has authentic literary quality but lacks aesthetic authenticity because he is not accurate in his judgment of value authenticity. He depicts Mei Lis mother with bound feet, a practice that was long despised and rarely practiced when the book was written. For these reasons we can conclude that Mei Lis artwork is non-stereotyped but the book is not authentic because it does not reflect the cultural values of the time period.
The main character Mei Li refuses toaccept the inferior position the Confucianethical code designated for women andhas exciting adventures at the New YearFair.The story reflects the dismissive Chineseattitude toward oppressive anddiscriminative attitude toward theConfucian ideology.However, Handforth’s aestheticauthenticity is not as accurate, forinstance: the bound feet of Mei Li’smother. Long before this time the practiceof binding women’s feet had fallen out ofacceptance and style.
Several studies indicate that folktales represent an extremely high percentage of multicultural books. They have become "one of the primary tradition-bearers of the 20th Century" Authenticity is violated when the literary and aesthetic principals do not reflect the culture of origin. The values at the heart of a book must be part of and reflect the chosen culture Cultural authenticity involves examining the connections between a social practice and the central code of a culture.
Allcultures have overlapping areas of value especially when it comes to the nature of humanity. Those who endorse inhuman actions tend to have trouble forcing people to follow or fail to control the situation after a period of time. To deny the compatibility of cultural values is a denial that values of different cultures in human history have overlapped and converged. Authors and illustrators need to consider the implications of the cultural values they introduce in their stories (SM, pp. 206)
The relationship between authenticity and intercultural conflict also needs to be considered. Example: when a folktale is adapted from one culture to another, the author or illustrator must consider the possible value conflict between the two cultures. Adaptation is a process of cultural filtering This stems from oral story-telling when storytellers would tailor their stories to the audiences taste. The values readers will accept is based on their historic, social, economic, and material development of their cultural group. Other cultures, for example, do not always appreciate Americans’ enthusiasm for introducing American values. American’s are also usually unable to accept the values of inequality and neglect of individuality. “Folktales are not born and nourished in isolation; they grow from social experience and cultural tradition” (Hearne 1993, p.33 [as quoted in SM. Pp. 208]).
A great number of picture books make a few mistakes in cultural depiction, but it is unfair to accuse them of being stereotyped because the illustrator may not have had a fixed pattern in their mind. Authors and illustrators CAN create works even if they are not “insiders” to the culture they are portraying however, as long as the work is authentic.
Cultural authenticity is a complex, multidimensional issue. Authors of picture books need to carefully select and adapt stories that authentically reflect the culture of origin and at the same time ensure that their value implications are both universal and reflect the values of the recipient culture. When authors and illustrators attend to these issues, various aspects of culture including: cultural values, customs, and objects will be accurately and authentically depicted.