YA Author and Faculty at University of Colorado-Boulder
I remember my first children’s literature class at Pitt vividly. I left each session with so many new ideas that it felt like my worldview was upturned daily. That there were hidden histories and political meanings underneath the beautiful, benign surfaces of children’s books was an intensely exciting idea to me. As I continued to pursue Pitt’s certificate in children’s literature, I learned how to work with children’s texts in a number of different ways--from close reading to cultural studies to theoretical approaches. I realized that studying children’s books closely and carefully was not only exciting and interesting, but culturally and politically vital.
This realization is what led me to pursue a PhD degree in English, with a focus in American children’s literature and culture. It also clarified for me what kind of graduate program I wanted to be a part of: one that would allow me the freedom to work with a variety of texts and materials, provide opportunities to design and teach undergraduate literature courses, and feature an established community of children’s literature scholars. The thoughtful advice and support I received from the professors I worked with in Pitt’s children’s literature program helped me to pinpoint these goals, find a program that matched, and attain a position there. I ended up at the University of Florida, in a program and department I loved being part of.
It’s hard to describe how greatly Pitt’s children’s literature program influenced my scholarship and teaching. The initial excitement of working with children’s texts is still with me (close reading still seems like a treasure hunt, and researching an adventure) as is the attention to a broad range of approaches to thinking about these materials. In short, the children’s literature program at Pitt made me a more open-minded thinker in both my criticism and teaching, and for this I am so very grateful. I’m so happy to have been a part of this wonderful program!
UPDATE: Mariko defended her dissertation, "History Girls: The Personal and the Political in Historical Fiction Series for Girls, 1913-2013" at the University of Florida in 2016. She is currently faculty in the English department at University of Colorado-Boulder. Her debut YA novel, The Other Side of Perfect, was published in 2021 from Little, Brown/Poppy.