The stories we tell: Law and Teen Lit at LSA

Among all the other good stuff, look what Gillian Calder (UVic) will be presenting at LSA!

To the Inclusion of All Others: Story-telling “Motherhood” with Katniss, Hermione, Candy Quackenbush, Tanya and the Warrior Cats

In November 2011 the B.C. Supreme Court released its judgment in a reference on the constitutionality of Canada’s polygamy prohibition. On the way to its holding that polygamy is inherently harmful, and thus the proper subject of the criminal law, Chief Justice Bauman said the following (para 884):

… the prevailing view through the millennia in the West has been that exclusive and enduring monogamous marriage is the best way to ensure paternal certainty and joint parental investment in children. It best ensures that men and women are treated with equal dignity and respect, and that husbands and wives (or same sex couples), and parents and children, provide each other with mutual support, protection and edification through their lifetimes.

The same day that I struggled with these words during the day, I am moved to tears by rereading Katniss’ words from The Hunger Game at night (page 24-25), ” When something unexpected happens. At least, I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.

The first set of words on the family are those of an authoritative and distant voice, transmitted through the public medium of judgment, media and law and imposing a set of views with tangible consequences. The second set of words are fictional, transmitted through the private medium of a parent, working to inscribe and reinscribe an understanding of family in a lived, embodied way.  This paper aims to do the first, law, through the medium of the second, the intimate exchange of parent and child, reading aloud. It aims to be a personal and experiential story of “motherhood” that works to counter the notion that there is one model of family that is best situated to enable the healthy development of a child. Told through the voices of a series of current characters from children’s literature, difficult themes of abandonment, colonialism, single-parenting, heterosexism, whiteness and mental health will be touched upon and laid bare. As a presenter I will work to complicate the relationship between feminism, Indigeneity, extended family and the best interests of the child, by recreating the intimacy of the bedtime story.

Those of you who have read Gillian’s work (including  Penguins and Polyamory: Using Law and Film to Explore the Essence of Marriage in Canadian Family Law, Canadian Journal of Women and the Law
Volume 21, Number 1, 2009  55-89) will know why I wish I wasn’t missing this.


Incidentally, I was trying to watch The Bear (1988) the other night and couldn’t stop thinking that it was “about” single fatherhood.

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