Author Archives: Dhipinder Walia

Dear Christian and Francesca and colleagues

This seems like an aggressive way to reach out to you, but I was so inspired by our conversation on disability studies and fairytales, that I facilitated a conversation on both during my composition course’s flex period.

Christian– we watched Split and looked at the different models of disability. They were super interested in talking more about the social model and the religious model. They were also interested in the way the film conflates victimhood with mental illness.

Francesca– we watched Tangled and I had them read Rapunzel. We talked about the way characters often serve as metaphors for “good” and “bad” behavior and the way that’s shifted over time. I then asked them to create an updated version of Tangled that subverts Rapunzel even more than Tangled. It was great– revisions included: the prince is in the tower; the witch is not a witch, but a plastic bottle [commentary on pollution- the princess is trapped because the air outside is too poisonous]

All this to say– thanks!



Final Project- Letter to generous readers

The tentative title of this project is: Teaching Adults through Children’s Literature. Long term, I’m interested in writing an autoethnography that blends experiences I’ve had in my Composition classroom, conversations I’ve had (accidentally and on purpose) with departmental heads and bosses, and composition rhetoric studies to support the use of postcolonial theory and now, children’s literature in the writing classroom. I’m not in the headspace yet to tell you how postcolonial theory/literature and children’s literature will intersect with one another, but I imagine it will, especially considering how “othered” both fields are in literary studies as a whole.

This particular project is a sliver of that, yet I think still able to exist independently. It has many parts, some of which I hope to complete by the end of this term, some of which I’ll need to work on after implementing my syllabus in a classroom.

What I’ve shared with you are drafts of three parts: 1) The context: I have imagined an email exchange with a chair and a lecturer who I affectionately name Y. Y is able to share their decision to incorporate Children’s Literature into the English 121-English Composition II classroom. Given Y’s familiarity with the Pathways program, public college bureaucracy, and English departments’ altruistic albeit violent desire to other, Y comes prepared with course objectives, methodologies, reading lists, and an annotated syllabus. The tone is purposefully cynical, but do let me know if you feel that takes away from your understanding of the project. 2) The Value statement pre implementation of syllabus: It’s REALLY unfinished, so please rip it to shreds. 3) The syllabus: It’s mostly fleshed out, but there are a couple of readings that I am missing. I’m also interested in possibly using children’s lit/YA lit that is open access—any tips on that would be most appreciated.

Additionally, I have three major goals for this project:

  1. Bug the shit out of academics: Because, why not? I’m reading Kynard’s Vernacular Insurrections and I’m finding there’s power in hybridity. There’s also value in messing with form and expectations. Rather than position my argument as a defense, what happens if it’s a part of a conversation free from power dynamics, academic gestures of politeness, and language that often hides meaning instead of creates it. So yes, I would never think to talk to my chair in the way I do here, but I think that’s the point.
  2. Use course objectives as a way to substantiate the value of Children’s literature in developing literacy: Fun and games aside, I have to eventually get down to business if I want this course to run. That means, I have to take each course objective listed on the ENG 121 syllabus and argue how Children and YA literature will assist me in meeting these objectives. I sort of start to do this with my scenario bits and I do it on the syllabus as well. It’s not fully fleshed out yet though.
  3. Design a syllabus that I would implement in the Fall 2018 semester: I’ve got to have a syllabus, or else nobody giving me not one course for not one student. Facts.

Finally, I left a table of contents in there so you can see where I’m hoping to take this project long-term, feedback on the table of contents is also welcomed.

I so appreciate any time you put into my project and am looking forward to all of the insight you’ll provide.


Blog Post #3 (Humor)

Magically found extra time today, so I wanted to share my thoughts on McGillis and my primary source:

I read Does My Head Look Big in This by Fattah. The novel follows 16-year old Amal after she makes the decision to wear a hijab. She makes this decision after watching a Friends episode and boldly declares “Rachel inspired me to wear a hijab.” The novel takes place a year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and though it’s set in Melbourne, Australia, it localizes the impact of the terrorist attacks, specifically within Amal’s life. Though I won’t talk about the misfires this book makes in trying to deal with bullying and hate crimes post 9/11, I do recommend reading it if you’re interested in YA literature that attempts to represent a varied Muslim experience.

The McGillis article surveys the history of humor and its emphasis on the body as either the subject or object. I’d like to investigate some of McGillis’ ideas through Fattah’s novel, but I’d like to talk about the ideas as ways to build humor communities. Specifically, within Does My Head Look Big in This, there are three communities that are built through the use of humor.

First is Amal’s attempt to build a community with her readers. I believe she does this by constantly using language to dismember, evacuate, and spotlight her body. She talks of a “punching hole in her guts,” of “salvaging her eyeballs,” of wearing a tarantula on her head, her “nappy head,” “balding head,” “nostril hair standing on edge” all to use her body as a source of humor for readers. The humor comes from her use of language—these words become things as McGillis proposes. McGillis might also argue the humor comes from Amal’s “healthy mind” steadying the language of her “sickly body.”

Amal also builds a community with her school friends through the use of body humor. Eileen, Simone, and Amal are all outcasts in school. Eileen is second generation Japanese, Simone is “fat,” and Amal is a hijabi. What is particularly interesting is Amal’s love and adoration for Simone’s curves directly after Simone makes fun of herself for having “wobbly arms” or too many layers of skin. When Simone makes fun of herself, Amal reprimands her, but then proceeds to laugh at the ridiculousness of Simone’s delusional sense of enormity. Over time, the reader too, shares in this laugh as readers see Simone and her relationship to her body as marked by delusion. Rather than deal with the unpleasantness of a teenager with severe body image issues, we laugh.

Finally, Amal builds a community with the racist and silent students and teachers of her school through humor that attempts to subvert the gaze of the colonizer. Tina constantly attacks Amal for being Muslim, asking her if she feels bad for terrorist attacks, and calling her hijab a tablecloth. In reaction to these comments, Amal makes comments like “I just read the world’s shortest book called ‘My Thoughts’ by Tina.” Or, in response to a teacher who asks Amal to give a speech on Islam to help students understand why terrorists attacked an area in Bali, Amal asks said teacher to give a speech on what it means to be Christian to better explain the Ku Klux Klan. Rather than respond to the material that comes from the colonizer’s gaze, Amal throws their gaze back onto them, frustrating them, but creating humor for everyone else.

Other things I wish I could talk about but won’t: There’s a neighbor who alienates her son for converting to Judaism. She’s a cranky lady who Amal manages to befriend through a sort of “humor as a form of honesty.” Also, Amal is using humor to create relationships between people with extremely different ideologies. It enables orthodox Muslim relatives to relate to Amal and by extension the reader—I wondered if that was the author’s agenda at work (‘Stop equating religiosity with propensity to commit politically motivated terror attacks.’).


Discussion Questions for Challenger Deep

Hi everyone, I am looking forward to talking about this text with all of you. I hope we get to play with the text in all sorts of ways, but for now, here are some more focused questions:

  1. Can we draw for a minute? So much of what Caden teaches the text is the failure of language to completely capture cognition and other brain related activities. For that reason, I thought I’d put his teaching into practice by drawing on a page of the text. My goal was just to draw what I was feeling as I read the page. Might you try this as well and let me know about the experience? Of course, I totally get the whole “Aren’t we too grown to be doodling in our textbook” angle, so I’ll pose it as a grownup question as well: What did you think of the drawings in the text? What value did they have for you as a scholar? What value might they have for a YA audience?
  2. Form: In what ways does Shusterman use form to illustrate the inner workings of a young boy with Schizophrenia? (I’m thinking about the slippery use of first person and second person point of view)
  3. Communities: I’ve learned from this class about the value of community building in disability theory and disability literature. I wondered what types of communities were being built in this text for a person with a mental illness. I am especially interested in your impressions of the different parents here. How do they compare to the other parents we’ve seen (I’m thinking of our conversation on “violence” and Ari’s parents).
  4. Language: This novel messed me up OR this novel rattled my sense of reality OR this novel was a ship full of cognitive navigators– Sorry, I’m being annoyingly meta, but the point there was this text is about language and its excess and lack. What do you think the text is saying about language? Any specific moments when we’re on Caden’s voyage that you felt were especially important commentaries on language?
  5. Time: Where are we really though? Just kidding. But also, what was your reaction to the collapsing of time. I mean clearly, there’s some elasticity here since his delusions include people we know he met later on in the narrative when he’s in the hospital. Did you find that purposefully confusing? A commentary on time and mental illness?
  6. Mental Illness and Art: What did you think of the intersection Caden makes between artists and mental illness? Also– how impressive is his tale of seeking Challenger Deep & how impressive is that ship!



Discussion Questions for Skim

Hi everyone, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the following questions:

  1. I was mesmerized by Skim’s mom’s note that Skim should tell everyone she’s the moon in the school play as opposed to the night sky. For me, it highlights a central question of the text: How and When is Skim made visible? How and when is Skim made invisible? Of course, there are so many approaches we can take in answering this question since this is a graphic novel, but I’m especially interested in visibility of her queerness, her racial identity, and her subcultural identity(ies).
  2. Lisa goes on (and on) about Katie’s “scar” as a girlfriend of someone who has committed suicide. On the other hand, Skim talks about “marks” we all have whether we want them or not. Is there a difference between scars and marks in the texts’ mind? Do you think Lisa’s experiences of scarring are different than Skim’s experiences of “marks?”
  3. I’m obsessed with all of the bathroom scenes in this novel. I don’t know why. This might be such a silly question, but do you find value in a YA novel that gives its readers access to girls talking in the bathroom, washing their hands in the bathroom, etc.? If value is an awkward word, what about is there a reason why we have it in this text?
  4. What is the responsible way to deal with Ms. Archer and Skim’s relationship? On the one hand, I get there’s so much going on there with sexual identity, coming of age, experimentation. But on the other hand, Ms. Archer totally abuses her power. Right? Am I supposed to forgive her for that because she gives Skim an A and runs away? Because I don’t forgive her. I guess what I’m asking you is, how did you understand their relationship? Is that kiss supposed to be as innocent as Mr. Tushman “not seeing” the bullying that Jack and Auggie experience? Or is it more layered?

See you Thursday!


Secondary Source for SKIM


I was unable to put my secondary source in the dropbox, so I’ve included it below.

The article focuses on the narrative strategies of the novel, Obasan, and provides historical context on multiculturalism in Canada. While I haven’t read Obasan, yet, I’m interested in Davis’ points on “silence to speech” as a flawed representation of progress and how that intersects with the “transgressive eating” we see in Skim. I’m also interested in Skim’s school as an imagined community and Skim’s role in making the fractures of this imagined community visible, so Davis’ points about Canada’s imagined communities feel especially important.


I’m looking forward to discussing!