Guest Post: Jill E. Anderson on Anne Emery’s Fictional Teen Heroine Dinny Gordon

Jill E. Anderson is the History, African-American Studies, and Women’s Studies Librarian at Georgia State University; she holds a PhD in US cultural and women’s/gender history from Rutgers University and an MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin. Her current project is on post-World War II girls’ intellectual culture, and she is blogging on this project at True Stories Backwards.

In my forthcoming Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth article, “Dinny Gordon, Intellectual: Anne Emery’s Postwar Junior Fiction and Girls’ Intellectual Culture,” I focus on popular novelist Anne Emery’s fictional teen heroine Dinny Gordon, an unusually bookish heroine for this genre.

DinnyGordonFreshmanDinny is consistently portrayed as a serious, engaged reader. Inspired to plan an archaeological tour abroad after reading a book on Pompeii while babysitting, she also creates an award-winning geology project on Pompeii. She finds her sister’s teen-oriented books frustrating, preferring instead to settle into Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And in Sophomore, she falls asleep having finished Mary Renault’s novel on Theseus, The King Must Die, a birthday gift from her history-professor father. Prof. Gordon wakes Dinny to introduce her to his teaching assistant, Brad Kenyon, a graduate student in ancient history at the University of Chicago. Brad and Dinny develop a strongly intellectual relationship: he introduces her to the Oriental Institute and to a prominent Israeli archaeologist, and helps her secure a summer apprenticeship with the archaeologist. A serious-minded girl, Dinny refuses to date boys she doesn’t find interesting, holding out for both emotional and intellectual connection. It’s implied that she will find this with Brad, though she dates several other young men first.

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Africa Focus: a Primary Source Collection

Africa Focus: Sights and Sounds of a Continent brings together an array of primary source materials related to the study of forty-five different countries. The collection features still images (photographs and slides) and audio recordings only, providing rich non-written sources for study and teaching. There are two search options: a thematic or subject search and a guided (more advanced) search.

For a complete website review, see Children & Youth in History. The website is available at http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/AfricaFocus.

Guest Post: Mona Gleason and the Limits of “Children’s Voices”

Observations on the Limits of “Children’s Voices”
Mona Gleason, Department of Educational Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia

Small Matters cover

Perhaps the one concern that binds historians of children and youth together, regardless of national context, time frame, or thematic interest, is the search for “children’s voices” in the past. Recovering and highlighting the perspectives of young people in our histories distinguishes our field from others. Many papers at SHCY conferences, published journal articles, and books in the field are devoted to finding and underscoring the child’s voice, often used as a short hand for a commitment to uncovering their “agency.” Having just completed a book entitled Small Matters: Canadian Children in Sickness and Health, 1900 to 1940, I’ve struggled quite intimately with what it means to include and highlight the “child’s voice.” After all, the perspectives of young people on this complex and multilayered history, I argue in the book, is the very thing missing in much of the Canadian historiography on health and medicine, generally, and health and childhood, in particular. My book relies heavily on the oral histories of a wide range of adults who grew up in Canada over the early to mid-twentieth century. It was critical to me that the oral histories about health experiences formed the backbone of the book. This would, I believed, literally “give voice,” however imperfect and mediated, to young people thereby establishing their agency as historical actors. It was not that simple. My attempts to “write children into” this history by including their “voices” in my analysis, brought to the surface a number of theoretical and methodological caveats that are particularly applicable to the Canadian historiography, but that also have relevance writ large. I briefly outline only two of these caveats below – there are others, but I’ll limit myself to these for this brief post.

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New Book: Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870-1914

From SHCY member Simon Sleight (King’s College London): Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870-1914. Ashgate Studies in Childhood, 2013.

From the publisher:
Baby booms have a long history. In 1870, colonial Melbourne was “perspiring juvenile humanity” with an astonishing 42 per cent of the city’s inhabitants aged 14 and under—a demographic anomaly resulting from the gold rushes of the 1850s. Within this context, Simon Sleight enters the heated debate concerning the future prospects of “Young Australia” and the place of the colonial child within the incipient Australian nation. Looking beyond those institutional sites so often assessed by historians of childhood, he ranges across the outdoor city to chart the relationship between a discourse about youth, youthful experience and the shaping of new urban spaces. Play, street work, consumerism, courtship, gang-related activities and public parades are examined using a plethora of historical sources to reveal a hitherto hidden layer of city life. Capturing the voices of young people as well as those of their parents, Sleight alerts us to the ways in which young people shaped the emergent metropolis by appropriating space and attempting to impress upon the city their own desires. Here a dynamic youth culture flourished well before the discovery of the “teenager” in the mid-twentieth century; here young people and the city grew up together.

Review:
“‘Marvellous Melbourne’, a precocious new world city of the late nineteenth century, is the site for this rich and acute study of how young people carved out their own spaces in the urban outdoors. Simon Sleight draws on a remarkable range of sources to illuminate the subversive perspectives of Melbourne’s youth. The book contributes to the burgeoning international scholarship on young people’s historical experiences, and is recommended reading for historians, geographers and sociologists alike.”—Stuart Macintyre, University of Melbourne, Australia

For more information, see the Ashgate website: http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&title_id=&edition_id=11456&calcTitle=1.