18 April 2007

Julius Lester's Perspective on Children's Literature

A coupla weeks back, Julius Lester has posted the text of his speech at last month's University of Massachusetts children’s literature conference. In it he relates some telling stories about his career as a reader and a children's author, and makes observations like this:

One of the oddest things in this odd country we live in is how children are regarded as if they are another species of humanity. Most adults speak of children as if they themselves were never children. When politicians want to justify something, they claim they are doing it for the “sake of our children.”
Other observers have argued, however, that adults are comporting themselves more like children, or at least teenagers. Meanwhile, in terms of supervision and care some parents seem to treat teenagers as more like children and children like toddlers, yet in terms of discussing important issues in their own lives they treat children as more like adults. Perhaps it’s just an odd country.

Lester also mentions having written the manuscript of a novel “about a lynching told from the point of view of a fourteen year old white boy.” I had such an idea myself after reading about some of the souvenir postcards from lynchings sold in this country in the early part of the 20th century. I wrestled unsuccessfully with how to structure a story so that a boy’s involvement in a lynching could be a revelation. I never cracked that nut. I hope Lester’s project is published so I can see how he managed.

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