Racism and white fragility: writing 'The wandering star', a novel for young people

Potgieter, K (2021) Racism and white fragility: writing 'The wandering star', a novel for young people. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.


This thesis consists of two parts: a novel for teens (aimed at ages 11 to 14) and an accompanying contextualising commentary. The novel, "The Wandering Star", explores concepts related to racism and white fragility through the dual perspective of two thirteen-year-old aspiring ballerinas in the context of contemporary South African society. The concept of white fragility provided a useful conceptual framework within which to view both personal and Active responses to the challenges of writing about race. Both the novel and the commentary can thus be viewed in light of my endeavour to resist white fragility and build racial stamina. Through the two strands of this thesis, I examine how I, a white South African author for young people, might approach writing the ‘other’ (in this case, a black teenage girl) in a manner that avoids cultural appropriation and harmful racial stereotypes, with the overarching goal of contributing to the diversity of children’s literature. The contextualising commentary, a personal-critical piece of writing, is divided into three chapters. In the first, ‘Beginnings’, I discuss the origins of the novel, how my research into race, particularly critical race theory, led to the insight that critically examining whiteness is a vital part of writing an antiracist novel for young people, and why good intentions matter less than impact. The second chapter, ‘Looking Outwards’, examines the process of seeking out voices and perspectives outside of myself in order to better capture the voice of my black protagonist, Naledi. I discuss actively including diverse voices in my reading, how receiving feedback from sensitivity readers aided the development of the novel, the limits of allyship and the importance of recognising unintentional white centring. The third chapter, ‘Looking Inwards’, details my search to find methods for resisting white fragility in the novel. I identify examples in the work of other white South African writers for young people where white fragility arguably prevents racism and white supremacy from being adequately addressed, and I discuss how I attempt to reverse such instances in "The Wandering Star".

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: PhD by Practice, creative writing, children's literature, YA novels, South Africa, racism, white fragility, ballet, cultural appropriation, diversity in literature, critical race theory, allyship
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2021 17:36
Last Modified: 17 May 2024 12:25
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/13737
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