This essay explores the complex relationship that exists between the romance plot and the romanticization of the antebellum South in Raina Telgemeier’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful graphic novel, Drama. The text’s use of a Gone With the Wind-style musical as its romantic and thematic pivot point complicates its political message and calls into question its seemingly progressive stance on social issues. While critics have praised Telgemeier’s text for its racially and ethnically diverse cast of characters, the moonlight-and-magnolias musical that forms the centerpiece to Drama traffics not simply in a historical myth, but in a white-centric fantasy. In so doing, the graphic novel demonstrates the limitations of LGBTQ youth advocacy that does not remain cognizant of intersectionality, while it also highlights the problem with millennial forms of liberal multiculturalism that omit critical discussions about race.
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For more on the way in which this approach has historically been the dominant one in which LGBTQ issues have been addressed in books for young readers, see Michael Cart and Christine Jenkins’s The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969–2004 (2006).
I am indebted to Joe Sutliff Sanders for pushing my thinking one step further to this comment, and for his many helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this essay.
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Michelle Ann Abate is Associate Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults at The Ohio State University. She is the author of four books of literary criticism: The Big Smallness: Niche Marketing, the American Culture Wars, and the New Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2016), Bloody Murder: The Homicide Tradition in Children’s Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), Raising Your Kids Right: Children’s Literature and American Political Conservatism (Rutgers University Press, 2010), and Tomboys: A Literary and Cultural History (Temple University Press, 2008).
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Abate, M.A. “Springtime in the South is Like a Song in My Heart”: Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, the Romanticization of the Plantation South, and the Romance Plot. Child Lit Educ 48, 355–377 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-016-9299-x
- Graphic novels
- American culture
- Southern history
- Antebellum plantations
- The American Civil War
- Southern mythology
- Raina Telgemeier