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Deborah Ellis's Children in War Open Access


Other title
Deborah Ellis
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Cutic, Anita
Supervisor and department
Williamson, Janice (Department of English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Rak, Julie (English and Film Studies)
Deveraux, Cecily (English and Film Studies)
Williamson, Janice (Department of English and Film Studies)
Wilson, Sheena (Campus Saint-Jean)
Department of English and Film Studies
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Master of Arts
Degree level
This Master’s thesis considers Deborah Ellis’s Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli children speak and The Breadwinner series, works that have stirred lively debate about childhood, children’s literature, and censorship. These two works are the product of Ellis’s travels to Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine before and after September 11, 2001 and the experiential research she conducted by talking to women and children in those countries. Her literary work has been inspired by her activism and feminism. An engaged reading of these two works results in an in-depth analysis of children’s and youth literature set in the Middle Eastern context written by a Canadian author. The focal point of this thesis is the analysis of the representation of children growing up and living in war-stricken countries: Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel. The analysis is conducted in the context of relevant theoretical approaches: theories of childhood, critical literacy theory, critical race theory and intersectionality. The complexity of identities and inequalities depicted in both Three Wishes and The Breadwinner series proposes an integrated look into categories of gender, class, race, ethnicity. The investigation of these categories is relevant for the analysis of identity formation and leads to interesting conclusions. In the course of this thesis (the myth of) childhood innocence will be reworked and reframed in the context of heterogenous childhood experience presented in Ellis’s texts and the concepts of globalized child and universal childhood will be brought into question. Because Ellis’s figurations of the child problematize not only race and culture but gender as well, a large part of this thesis will focus on issues around gender, especially in relation to The Breadwinner series. The issue of burqa and other types of veiling is mentioned in relation to the Western refusal of accepting veiling practices as voluntary and subversive. The narrative given by the Western governments and media which represents women as victims of brown men who need to be saved by white men is deconstructed in this thesis in relation to gender. When it comes to Three Wishes it will be important to consider how the children’s voice is posited within this work, and re-posited outside of it, in a wider political context—are these children perceived as the “Other,” or as universal? Suicide bombing tampers in this work with presumed and expected children’s innocence and makes us question our empathy. The comparison of the two works, one fiction, and one non-fiction proves fruitful in the analysis of issues described above. This preliminary work reveals there is much to be done in reading the figure of the child in war and in future investigations of Deborah Ellis’s important and understudied body of work.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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