Basia’s Birthday Present

It is always interesting to find one’s work cited in a piece of academic research literature.

Basia’s Birthday Present (a short story of mine) is mentioned in The Representation of the Ethnic and Cultural ‘Other’ in Primary School Textbooks – A Comparative Case Study of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) and Ireland
by Melanie Liese B.A. School of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies
A Thesis submitted to Dublin City University in candidacy for the degree of Master of Arts October 2010.

I have no idea whether Melanie gained her Masters (I hope she did) but this is what she says about my story –

“The story of “Basia‟s Birthday Present” [by Robin Mellor] (Giants, Fishbones and Chocolate, pp.18-21, Appendix C, p.X-XI), which focuses on the subject of refugees and the hardship they often face, draws attention to an another kind of ethnic and cultural „other‟. In this story Basia, her mother and her grandmother are in transition somewhere between their country of origin and the country they intend to travel to. They are very poor, suffering from cold and hunger and therefore cannot afford a birthday present for Basia “until [they] reach another land” (ibid, p.18). After seeing Basia weeping and sad, her grandmother reminded her that they “are not the worst-off refugees” (ibid, p.19) as another refugee family just had a new baby which they needed to support additionally. Feeling empathy towards the baby, Basia made a doll of straw and sacking and offered the doll to the new baby as a present. Basia experienced the joy of giving and felt happy afterwards.

The family described here is presumably from Poland as a note at the beginning of the story tells the reader that Basia is a Polish name (ibid, p.18). Although the story does not mention any specific time or place the matter of refugees is linked to Ireland in the accompanying skills book where students are asked to consider refugees living in Ireland. This is an example of the story being applied in an Irish context.

One question draws attention to the terminology of „refugees‟ and invites students to think about the reasons behind somebody becoming a refugee: “This is a story about people who have been forced to leave their own country to look for a new home. Do you know what such groups are called? Why might people have to leave their own country?” (Giants, Fishbones and Chocolate Skills Book, p.23). “

Incidentally, Pearson Education have just taken this story for use on web resources for schools in India.

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