Using Ambiguity to Resist Stereotype in the 1930s: Erick Berry’s Penny-Whistle and One String Fiddle

Tammy L. Mielke


In 1930, Erick Berry, a New York socialite and explorer, wrote about a black boy named Penny-Whistle in her picture book Penny-Whistle and then in 1939, published the chapter book One-String Fiddle about Irby, an Appalachian boy. This essay will examine the social constructs of the time period, and the Otherness of Berry’s characters and their sub- communities to unearth the subversion through these texts of the dominant social norms of the time. It argues that Berry worked against the dominant ideology of the 1930s as an insider of the majority to offer a subversive way to fight against racism and stereotypes through ambiguity in these two texts. While this might seem to be a paradox, fighting racist ideology through ambiguity, Berry used her texts to create space for resistant readings while still socializing her readers into an American political context.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680