Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino Joining Department of English in Fall 2019
Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino is joining the Department of English in Fall 2019 as an Assistant Teaching Professor. She was kind enough to answer a few questions to introduce herself to the department. Please join us in welcoming Rachel to BGSU!
What do you anticipate will be the biggest change in your move to BGSU as a new faculty member?
I’m very much looking forward to the change of being back in the classroom. My last year of my PhD, I was on a non-teaching fellowship, which often left me feeling like something was missing because teaching and learning from my students brings me so much joy. My dream has been to find a job where I would be able to primarily teach classes in children’s and young adult literature, and I still have to occasionally pinch myself that this will be my new reality. Another big change will be returning home. I grew up in Northwest Ohio, so, for me, I think one of the biggest changes will be figuring out what it means to be “back home” after much time away.
What are your goals as an instructor and new member of the Literature Program and English department?
As I’ve been planning for the upcoming year, one of my biggest goals as a teacher of literature courses aimed at pre-service teachers is to challenge my students to critique their conceptions of childhood/adolescence, and, by extension, the books written for that audience. I am excited to introduce my students to the complexity of youth literature from picture books to YA novels and to encourage them to carefully examine the power of story and its role in their own lives and in their future classrooms.
Another of my goals is to both partner with existing initiatives around community engagement and to build community engagement into my courses. One of the aspects of BGSU that made me very excited to come here was the established close relationship between the university and the wider community. Because of their focus on books written for young people, courses on children’s and young adult literature lend themselves quite naturally to engaging with young people in the larger community. I am very much looking forward to learning from current faculty and identifying opportunities for community engagement across the courses I’ll be teaching.
What are some professional projects and goals you hope to pursue at BGSU?
With respect to my own research, I’m currently in the process of considering what I want to do next with my dissertation project, which looked at the ways the diary form is used in young adult literature. I’m particularly interested in how understandings of the diary as a form of writing are used to convey various conceptualizations of girlhood in YA fiction and nonfiction. In the upcoming year, I hope to rework one of my chapters into an article-length piece, and, perhaps, to put together a course on the diary to teach at BGSU.
I’m also currently collaborating on a project on art, activism, and police brutality in children’s and young adult literature that examines how teachers can use youth literature as a catalyst for crucial conversations around equity and justice with their students. I’m looking forward to bringing this work into the courses I teach at BGSU, and sharing it more broadly in other venues in the upcoming months.
What do you consider the greatest misunderstandings about children’s and adolescent literature?
I think one of the biggest misunderstandings about children’s and adolescent books is that they function as rungs on a ladder to lead readers to “real literature” and only have value as tools for teaching child readers how to eventually tackle more “complex” books. As evidenced by my use of scare quotes, I have significant problems with that positioning. I’ve frequently encountered people who want to dismiss books that use language that is easy to decode as simple, but complexity is about so much more than how long it takes to read a book! From picture books to YA novels, there is so much excellent, thoughtful youth literature out there that has immense literary value, and I am routinely blown away by the work authors of children’s and adolescent literature are doing.
What lessons would you share with graduate students about your own work and career trajectory?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that while academia can feel very individual, it is crucial to find a team of people who understand what you are going through and who are in your corner. Dealing with the many stresses and rejections that accompany the process of writing, publishing, and job searching becomes exponentially more manageable when you have friends and mentors with whom you can celebrate successes, commiserate about frustrating feedback or yet another rejection, and consume copious amounts of junk food while writing and revising. Amongst the endless to-do list that is grad school, find your community; they will make this journey so much more bearable.
What else should English department members know?
I have a dog named Fable, and I will happily show you 6,000 pictures of her. I really enjoy baking and am always looking for new recipes/guinea pigs for trying the results. I can’t wait to get to know everyone!
What are you reading right now (for work and/or for fun) that you would recommend?
Right now, I’m reading Ibi Zoboi’s Pride, which is a relatively new young adult novel described as a remix of Pride and Prejudice. Set in a neighborhood in contemporary Brooklyn that is undergoing the effects of gentrification and starring the Afro-Latina Benitez sisters, the book is fun, thoughtful, and the perfect end-of-summer read. I highly recommend it!