Sarah Park Dahlen (MS '09, PhD '09), iSchool research fellow and associate professor in the Master of Library and Information Science Program at St. Catherine University, will deliver the 2020 Gryphon Lecture on November 12. Sponsored annually by The Center for Children's Books (CCB), the lecture features a leading scholar in the field of youth and literature, media, and culture.
In "(Re)Presenting Korea: The Carpenters and the White American Imaginary," Dahlen will discuss how the writings of Frances and Frank Carpenter influenced Asian American youth literature.
Frances Carpenter was a 20th century writer who authored several children's books that were partially influenced by her travels with her father, Frank Carpenter, a journalist and travel writer. In 1908, they visited Korea while Japan was in the process of annexing the country. This trip and her continuing interest in Korea thereafter, likely inspired her writing of the children's folktale collection, Tales of a Korean Grandmother (1947). This book, in turn, inspired Newbery Award winner Linda Sue Park to write Seesaw Girl, her first chapter book.
Through her analysis of the Carpenters' archives, Dahlen hypothesizes that "Carpenter wrote compassionately about Koreans, despite the larger geopolitical context in which she published, because of her visits to Korea and experiences with Korean people."
"It was at the University of Illinois that my journey with Frances Carpenter really began," said Dahlen. "I first started studying Carpenter in Dr. Christine Jenkins' History of Children's Literature class in the 2000s; only recently did I begin to revisit Tales of a Korean Grandmother and decide to make it my next research project."
Dahlen's research addresses transracially adopted Koreans in children's literature, the information behaviors of adopted Koreans, and diversity in children's literature and library education. She is co-founder of the scholarly journal Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, with Gabrielle Halko, and co-editor of Diversity in Youth Literature: Opening Doors Through Reading (2013), with Jamie Campbell Naidoo. She facilitated the creation of the 2015 and 2018 Diversity in Children's Books Infographics based on data from the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.