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Thursday, May 31, 2012

"One of those rare books that shifts the paradigm... A landmark."

The first review is out--and it's the kind of review every author dreams of receiving. Philip Nel, the author and editor of many books about children's literature and social justice, has reviewed Racial Innocence in the current issue of the journal Children's Literature. I've admired Phil and his work for a long time: they both exemplify the ethical thinking, honesty, good humor, political commitment, and quality of thought to which I aspire. I faithfully read his blog, Nine Kinds of Pie, because it always takes me in an unexpected direction, teaches me something worth knowing, or moves me. One of my favorite of his recent entries was his tender, illuminating meditation on and interview with Maurice Sendak.

Two years ago, I was thrilled when Phil listed my article, "Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race" (Social Text n. 101 [December 2009]), as his pick for the "Best Literary Criticism" that he read in 2010. And so it means so much to me, to say the very least, that this month Philip Nel called Racial Innocence

"One of those rare books that shifts the paradigm—a book that, in years to come will be recognized as a landmark in children’s literature and childhood studies…. This is not one of those scholarly books that offer a thesis and then proceed to pummel the reader into submission by piling example on top of example. Instead, it develops a certain line of argument, and then turns, moving in a different direction, developing this new direction fully before changing tack once more. Structuring the argument this way makes for a much more interesting reading experience…. [F]ew scholars can write a sentence like Bernstein can: packed with insight, theoretically sophisticated, and yet lucid—even, at times, lyrical. . . . Few critics. . . write prose that is such a pleasure to read.” Philip Nel, “Animated. Scripted. Not Innocent,” Children’s Literature 40 (2012): 305-310.

I am so honored by this response to my book. Many thanks to Philip Nel and to Children's Literature, and I hope that the book lives up to this wonderful prophesy!

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