Money and the Gift in the Novels of Mildred Taylor and Cynthia Voigt
In this article, I present a comparison of the representation of the uses of money and gift economies in two landmark series for young readers from the United States: Mildred Taylor’s Logan family novels (1975–2020), centred on an African American family in 1930s Mississippi, and Cynthia Voigt’s Tillerman family novels (1981–1989), centred on a white family in 1970s Maryland. Both Taylor and Voigt depict characters navigating the banking system; moreover, both show the ways in which banking is a question not just of economic competence but of social capital and indeed, of social justice. While Taylor presents money as a social tool, used to acquire things of value (rather than having inherent value) and as a means for characters to collaborate or punish one another, Voigt often presents money as a tool for individual self-actualisation. Similarly, in the gift economy, Voigt shows gifts as having economic potency whereas for Taylor these gifts instead act as conduits for social exchange. In both the Logan and Tillerman novels, gifts are used to strengthen social bonds, but can be dangerous too, creating obligations and conditions of repayment that are too onerous for the characters. Often presented as opposites, the differences between monetary and gift economies sometimes seem to collapse in these novels.
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