Suffer the Little Children

Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children's Literature

Jodi Eichler-Levine

NYU Press (publisher)

compelling work examines classic and contemporary Jewish and African American
children’s literature. Through close readings of selected titles published
since 1945, Jodi Eichler-Levine analyzes what is at stake in portraying religious
history for young people, particularly when the histories in question are
traumatic ones. In the wake of the Holocaust and lynchings, of the Middle
Passage and flight from Eastern Europe's pogroms, children’s literature
provides diverse and complicated responses to the challenge of representing difficult
collective pasts. In reading
the work of various prominent authors, including Maurice Sendak, Julius Lester,
Jane Yolen, Sydney Taylor, and Virginia Hamilton, Eichler-Levine changes our
understanding of North American religions. She illuminates how narratives of
both suffering and nostalgia graft future citizens into ideals of American
liberal democracy, and into religious communities that can be understood
according to recognizable notions of reading, domestic respectability, and
national sacrifice.
children are the idealized recipients of the past, what does it mean to tell
tales of suffering to children, and can we imagine modes of memory that move
past utopian notions of children as our future? Suffer the Little Children
asks readers to alter their worldviews about children’s literature as an
“innocent” enterprise, revisiting the genre in a darker and more unsettled

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