[Last weekend I shared my favorite crowd-sourced post ever, featuring nominations of hope-full texts and voices from so many fellow AmericanStudiers. One of them, Emily Hamilton-Honey, followed up with a bunch more great suggestions, so I wanted to share them in a mini-Guest Post this weekend, not least to encourage you all to keep the hope coming!]
“I loved your blog post on hopeful media and scholarship, and I know I promised you some childhood scholarship that gives me hope. The thing that I love about scholarship on American childhoods is that it is so good at looking for the voices we don't normally hear or see in the archive, and so many scholars are doing wonderful things, in very interdisciplinary ways.
So, some wonderful books on my shelf:
Crying the News: A History of America's Newsboys, by Vincent DiGirolamo. I keep talking about this book even though I am not all the way through it - it's huge, about 650 pages, and it is absolutely breathtaking in its scope and depth. It crosses so many disciplines: childhood history, urban studies, labor studies, and media studies, just to name a few. The number of voices that are present is just stunning, and DiGirolamo pays attention to race and gender as well. The book has already won many prizes, and I think deservedly so - it is one of those books that is a defining piece of scholarship, one that everyone who comes after will have to reference.
Another one that is waiting for me, and looks just wonderful: Fantasies of Neglect: Imagining the Urban Child in American Film and Fiction. Pamela Wojcik looks at the ways that we portray childhood neglect in popular books and film, and I'm very excited to read this book. Her sources are broad, and she appears to be a keen reader of narratives. How we think about and portray child neglect (or, on the flip side, whether that neglect offers some kind of fictional freedom) seems to me to be really important, in terms of the stories we tell ourselves about what childhood should be like.
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, by Anne Boyd Rioux. I'm reading this one right now as well, and I am already delighted by the ways that Rioux is thinking about why this this 153-year-old story endures, what we still find in a narrative about a time that is so different from our own, and what girls learn about themselves by reading about the March sisters.
Finally - and this is not childhood scholarship - Eddie Glaude's Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. I cried reading this book. I love Baldwin, and we are living through a historical moment in which his writing once again feels so urgent, so immediate, and so necessary. Glaude does an incredible job of distilling that urgency, while at the same time not losing Baldwin's compassion and hope.
A couple of other things that have brought me hope recently:
The Broadway cast recording of Bandstand: A New Musical. It has been ages since I have loved a Broadway show to the degree that I love this one. It is such a beautiful, heartbreaking story about veterans persevering through loss, and trauma, and mental illness, to find some healing through music, and by telling their truths.
The choral compositions of Ola Gjeilo - they are just stunning, and so uplifting. I have sung a couple of them myself, as part of a chorus, and it is hard to explain how gorgeous they are.
Vaughn Williams' “The Lark Ascending.” There is something about knowing that Vaughn Williams lived through all the horror of World War I, and still managed to write such an incredibly beautiful piece of music in spite of that, which is very comforting and hopeful to me.
Thank you for listening! I look forward to seeing another list, if you get more contributions.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other hope-full texts or voices you’d share?