They Also Write for Kids
Cross-Writing, Activism, and Children's Literature
A compelling study of activist cross-writing by authors better known for their work “for adults”
Outside the world of children’s literature studies, children’s books by authors of well-known texts “for adults” are often forgotten or marginalized. Although many adults today read contemporary children’s and young adult fiction for pleasure, others continue to see such texts as unsuitable for older audiences, and they are unlikely to cross-read children’s books that were themselves cross-written by authors like Chinua Achebe, Anita Desai, Joy Harjo, or Amy Tan. Meanwhile, these literary voices have produced politically vital works of children’s literature whose complex themes persist across boundaries of expected audience. These works form part of a larger body of activist writing “for children” that has long challenged preconceived notions about the seriousness of such books and ideas about who, in fact, should read them.
They Also Write for Kids: Cross-Writing, Activism, and Children’s Literature seeks to draw these cross-writing projects together and bring them to the attention of readers. In doing so, this book invites readers to place children’s literature in conversation with works more typically understood as being for adult audiences, read multiethnic US literature alongside texts by global writers, consider children’s poetry and nonfiction as well as fiction, and read diachronically as well as cross-culturally. These ways of reading offer points of entry into a world of books that refuse to exclude young audiences in scrutinizing topics that range from US settler colonialism and linguistic prejudice to intersectional forms of gender inequality. The authors included here also employ an intricate array of writing strategies that challenge lingering stereotypes of children’s literature as artistically as well as intellectually simplistic. They subversively repurpose tropes and conventions from canonical children’s books; embrace an epistemology of children’s literature that emphasizes ambiguity and complexity; invite readers to participate in redefining concepts such as “civilization” and cultural belonging; engage in intricate acts of cross-cultural representation; and re-envision their own earlier works in new forms tailored explicitly to younger audiences. Too often disregarded by skeptical adults, these texts offer rich rewards to readers of all ages, and here they are brought to the fore.
"While recognizing the shortcomings of the adult-child reader binary, They Also Write for Kids places in conversation with one another works for adult and child audiences by well-known, influential authors from underrepresented cultures. Calling attention to these important authors’ works for children, as well as adults, is a wonderful service for all literary scholars, as is the reminder of the overlap and intersection of these two audiences."- Ramona Caponegro, professor of children’s literature at Eastern Michigan University