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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 13, 2011 1:45pm-2:00pm EST

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because the older viewers may remember bull connor and the fire hoses, and what i suspect they don't remember is that the fire hoses were trained on children, some as young as 9 years old, so one of cynthia's subjects was a 9-year-old then who spent a week in jail, and it's a gripping book published by peachtree press, and we're very much looking forward to next spring. >> we've been talking with sanford levinson, a professor at university of texas about his book "constitutional faith." thank you, professor. >> oh, thank you.
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>> booktv talked with julia about her book, "tales for little rebels," and the interview was conducted at the university of texas as part of booktv's college series. >> we are here at the university of texas in austin talking with professors who are also author, and now we are joined by julia mickenberg, co-editor of this book, "tales of little rebels: a collection of children's literature." what are these tales for little rebels? >> what are these tales for little rebels? well, my co-editor and i, phil nell, we tried to find a balance of pieces that would represent works of literature created for children by representatives of radical movements throughout the 20th century, so we have things
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from the socialist movement in the early 20th century from the come mewist movement in the 1920s and 1930s, and we have stuff representing the new left, feminism, and kind of the whole range, and we could have started earlier. there was chirp's literature associated with the abolitionist movement basically. if you get a political movement, you find there's an interest in getting children to understand the aims of that movement. >> so the socialist, the communism, ect., they each had a program to write chirp's literature; is that correct? coordinated programs? >> not exactly. it was less coordinated than you would think. in most cases, you had people who happened to be involved in these movements who got interested and started writing things. the communist party press, the example you're showing there, is a book called "the story of your
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coat," and that was published by international publishers, and there was somebody working there interested in children's literature, and she started a children's series called "the young world's books," and librarians didn't know it was the communism press because these books were sold to regular rye brairs, and, in fact, some of the best writers got their start writing stories for international publishers. would you like me to tell you that story? >> go right ahead. >> the story, the story of your coat, is a story about the different workers who made a coat starting with sheering the sheep to, you know, transtransporting it to a factory, the dyeing the role, the designer, all the steps, and the extent it's political, it talks about unionization.
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i can't remember now, but there's probably pictures of workers of different races, a very political thing to do in the 1940s. you wouldn't have that. and stories talked about unionization then, and this was a wave of stories, that same author did "story of your bread" with the idea to teach children of the mechanisms of how things work in the world meant to increase children's critical thinking skills in understanding how things are related to one another. in fact, i interviewed for my first book, that i brought along, "learning from the left," and i interviewed betty bacon, who was the person who started young world books. she was in a nursing home for old radicals essentially, and she -- oh, what was i going to say about her?
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>> children's books -- >> books about science, i know. many of the books that they published were science books, and i said, why all these science books that seems pretty, you know, if you're trying to teach kids about politics, and she said to teach materialism because she had -- she was a hard core marxist that she had the idea that markism was the only>
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>> we included the original version of dr. suess, which became popular later. dr. suess i don't believe was affiliated with any political movement other than the democratic party, but he was strongly antifascist and antiracist, and it's beginning as a story of anti-semitism, but it's really about respecting differences, and so that was published, i believe, in red book, and then it became one of those popular stories. there's a piece in there calledded the practical prince seases by jay williams, and this is part of the wave of feminist fairy tales published in the
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1970s and 1980s. i think that was a pretty popular book. one of my favorite stories in there is one called the day they parachuted cats, the drama of ecology, and it's about the unintended consequences of ddt, and it's based on a true story of where they literally had to parachute cats into the island of borneo in order to control rats, so i think some of these stories were actually quite popular, and many of the authors are actually very well-known authors who had sort of other careers with the best example of the piece by side hoses, writing under the name of a. redfield, the art editor for, i think, the new pioneer, a children's magazine, and mr. his is a story
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about a guy who owns an entire town and owns everybody in it, and is, you know, bad to his workers, and the workers eventually revolt, but it's written in a silly tone, and he is better known for his work writing i can read books like danny and the dinosaur and sammy the seal. he's a popular author. on the cover there, the artwork is by crockett dawson. >> did you add the sign he's holding? >> no, no, that was in there. he was an art editor. many of the most popular and well-known children's book authors were directly active in radical movements or quite sthettic to them -- sympathetic to them, so john is another example. >> when you look at the examples, particularly the
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mid-20th century, does it seem -- is it a little bit comical or a little bit naive the way these are set up, is that fair to say about them? >> absolutely. we were trying to include people would actually want to read. there was, you any, the nice thing is we had tons to choose from. even though there's 44 pieces in there, we were able to select it down, but we wanted to also have historical accuracy, and we wanted to include what might seem like totally ridiculous things today because they existed and because it's kind of funny in their naivety. the best example of that is abc for martin, called the communist abc, and it has things like k is for kremlin where our stalin lives, and b is for bulshe, thorn in the side. i don't want to share that with my kids as any kind of example of useful literature, but i
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think it's a historical example, and we were really doing this book as an active historical recovery to say this -- i think when people think of children's literature, they think that politics is just absent, when, in fact, all children's literature is political, it's just not usually so explicitly so, and so we wanted to recover this really long running thread that while some of these authors are well known, many of the works are, i would say most of the works are not well known. >> professor micrenberg, did they call out some of the literature and say, hey, beware, beware? did you find examples of that? >> i found some examples. one of the things i really found in my first book that focused on material that was for, that was written by radical writers, but not necessarily political because i looked at how
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children's literature was a way to be an outlet in the mccarthy area so the golden books were written by radicals or the first books or the real books and the landmark books, the popular series are by left wingers, and the politics are so subtle, people don't notice them. in that instance, there was a book on abraham lincoln by an author who was openly communist writer and she gave a reading at the milwaukee public library, and there was a huge outcountry in the newspaper saying it inked pages. many of the pieces here were published or some of them were published by presses that were obscure enough that they wouldn't have been found in other places. i would say the most ideological stuff that that communist, abc, would have such small
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circulation at the time that i don't think it generated an outcry. this is one of the interesting things about children's literature with the idea that children's literature is an escape because we think of it as policed, but because the field is mostly controlled by women and read by children, it's never given that much attention, and, you know, even today i was talking to a friend who is a children's author here at the festival, some are great artists and writers are today writing children's books, but that field is never considered literature in the way adult's literature is, and that creates problems, but it also creates the openness in that field that may not exist in other fields where the authors i interviewed said, and oh, you can say things in children's books you can't say in adult books for 20 years like
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having a black kid and white kid published in 1945. there was definitely instances. the biggest instance i found were kind of free cren corship where publishers didn't publish things. the biggest instance was related to race. many publishers didn't touch books that showed interracial friendships, for example, because they feared that no southerners, no southern book markets would buy the book, so that's where you had more censorship. >> what do you teach here at the university of texas? >> i teach a survey of cultural history from 1865 to the present. i teach a course on the 1960s. i teach a course on children's literature and american culture. i'm currently teaching a course on exile, expatriots, and political pilgrims and americans living abroad. i'm always inventing new courses because i teach to learn
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things. >> your book, "learning from the left: tales for little rebels," do you consider yourself a radical? >> no. i think i sympathize with people involved in radical movements, and i have a romantic sensibility, but i don't consider myself a radical. i hate meetings, and i also, i mean, i think people are too greedy for something like socialism to work. i think it's nice in theory, but i do, you know, support movements, certainly for environmental justice or economic justice, but i don't tend to be critical of dogma or ideology. if you take one particular line on something, and then you stop thinking. it's important to think and to think critically, and especially when i think about my own kids and educating so,


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