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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Winner, Grace Abbott Best Book Award, Society for the History of Childhood and Youth

I am thrilled to announce that Racial Innocence has won the Grace Abbott Best Book Award from the Society for the History of Childhood and Youth. This biennial prize honors the "best book published in English on the history of children, childhood, or youth (broadly construed)." The prize committee, chaired by Stephen Lassonde and including Dan T. Cook, Johanna Sk├Âld, and Leslie Paris, wrote of my book,


Bernstein achieves what the best work in any historical subfield attempts, which is to assimilate its themes, methods, and perspectives into the mainstream of the broader discourses of historiography. Racial Innocence goes a step further by introducing a new methodology into the study of the past. Her key contribution in this vein is to deploy “scriptive things” in the service of historical imagination: that is, to highlight and analyze the ways in which objects insinuate “perfomative scripts” for their users. Bernstein uses this concept to reimagine the worlds of slave girls and women through, for example, “Topsy” dolls, or the worldview of a performative text like the various versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. . . . In short, Racial Innocence synthesizes a range of materials and methods to build a case for innocence as an important category of historical-cultural analysis. It is original, theoretically challenging, and adds fundamentally new insights to the history of childhood. It says as much about the past as the times we live in and is applicable as well to racialist discourse in children's cultures trans-nationally.

I am so grateful to be honored by a society as intellectually rich and productive as the SHCY. I've been a member of this organization for many years, and its publication, the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, is one of the few journals I read cover to cover (the JHCY recently reviewed Racial Innocence, which it called "intellectually exhilarating").

To my regret, I won't be able to attend the conference of the SHCY this June, which will be in Nottingham University in the UK. Even though I will miss the Awards Ceremony, I hope I can project my gratitude for this honor all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. It is a thrill indeed!

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