James Baldwin’s Beautiful, Complex Vision of Black American Childhood

When Tejan Karefa-Smart asked his uncle, James Baldwin, “When are you going to write a book about me?” he may not have expected his Uncle Jimmy to follow through so quickly. Baldwin’s only children’s book, Little Man, Little Man, which was published in 1976, chronicles a day in the life of three black children in 1970s Harlem. Four-year-old TJ, 7-year-old WT, and 8-year-old Blinky skip rope, dance in the streets, and run errands for their neighbors, but they also see the cops shoot a fleeing suspect, neighborhood boys do drugs, and the friendly Miss Lee drink gin out of sadness. “A children’s story for adults, an adult story for children,” Little Man, Little Man’s dust jacket beamed at the time, “that only a great novelist can produce.” And yet, reviewing the book for the New York Times in 1977, Julius Lester panned it as a great novelist’s admirable but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at producing children’s literature, and the book quickly went out of print. Almost four decades later, Little Man, Little Man is being reissued for a contemporary audience that may be more receptive to its ambition not to smooth over the complexity of growing up black in America. Continue reading at 'Slate'

[ Slate | 2018-08-30 00:00:00 UTC ]
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