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ASU English Professor Jim Blasingame was recently named the Executive Director of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). A long-time member of ALAN, Blasingame previously served as President and for eight years was editor of the ALAN Review journal. ALAN promotes young adult novels and authors and, as Jim says, works for kids, teachers, librarians, and parents.
In an editorial for the ALAN Review, Blasingame said, “The crux of the work ALAN has been doing and needs to continue includes promoting and affirming equity among the diverse ways of living the human experience, promoting scholarship that highlights and defines the value of Young Adult Literature (YAL) in the lives of young readers, facilitating the growth of the genre through our advocacy, and making YAL available to meet the needs of more young people.”
Asked for examples of ways to expand diversity in YAL, Blasingame noted that ALAN continues to work with 37 publishers, gently pushing for story and author inclusion. “We can apply a little bit of pressure,” Blasingame said, noting the organization found an anonymous donor and support from ASU Red INK Indigenous Initiative as a way to provide indigenous authors the means to present at the annual ALAN Workshop.
Young adult literature should give a platform for serious social issues, Blasingame notes. “In adolescence you’re trying to figure out who you are; you’re trying on identities. Reading is vital so young people can experience life through ‘the safe distance of literature.’”
Blasingame says the Executive Director’s job is to oversee everything from getting ready for the ALAN conference to putting out the ALAN Review and the monthly newsletter. But mostly, Blasingame says, ALAN helps kids get books that make meaning of their lives. “What does it say if you look at literature texts while you’re in school and you’re not in them?”
Photo: During the 2016 ALAN Workshop, Jim Blasingame was presented the award for the ALAN Review's Best Column of the Year for "Do No Harm." The piece, which Blasingame co-wrote with ASU English Assistant Professor E. Sybil Durand, explored the harms of censorship in YA literature. Pictured from left to right are alumna Wendy Glenn (BA 1992; PhD 2001), Blasingame, Danielle King, and Ricki Ginsberg. Photo courtesy of ALAN.