From Publishers Weekly
In today's diverse society, it's no longer possible for an individual voice to capture a singular American view of childhood. Dissimilar experiences can each sound uniquely American, such as the stability of Patricia Elam's refreshingly functional family, in which "the only thing that distinguished us from the families on Ozzie and Harriet, Leave It to Beaver, and Father Knows Best... was our brown skin"; the quiet confusion of Michael Patrick MacDonald, who "decided that `normal' certainly meant something somewhere out there, beyond... where we lived"; or the poignant isolation of Nina Revoyr as the only Japanese child in Marshfield, Wis. This collection successfully gathers many voices, completing an impassioned picture of growing up in America. Thirty-four authors, including Chang-rae Lee, Alice Walker and John Edgar Wideman, lyrically portray their younger years. Each piece-whether describing the bluffs of Illinois, the movie houses of Paris, Tex., or Christmas in Alabama-illustrate how childhood informs adulthood. As Lisa Page writes, as we age, "the child remains, transcended, often denied, but there all the same, hiding beneath our business suits, our corporate uniforms, the camouflage we wear to communicate our grown-up selves." While most essays are magical, a few are forced and the flow of the anthology suffers from its alphabetical, rather than thematic, organization. But these are easily overlooked flaws in this beautiful compilation that proves that "childhood, of course, never ends."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Thirty-four American writers share memories of their formative years, providing windows onto the reservoirs of experience from which they draw their inspiration. Tina McElroy Ansa, whose novels of southern family life ring so true, writes of her childhood in Macon, the place that lives inside her, wherever she may be. Duty to family, the importance of religion, growing up with one parent, the threat of polio, how race defines a child's reality, the strength gleaned from knowing you are loved unconditionally by at least one person, and the necessity of "downtime" in the creative process--these are facets of childhood deemed crucial in the lives of these gifted writers. Those whose families emigrated to the U.S. have unique memories of what it is to be an outsider, exemplified by Nina Revoyr's poignant portrayal of life in a small Wisconsin town, where she was "the only Asian kid, the enemy, the freak." Appropriately celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Children's Defense Fund, this collection constitutes a memorable portrait of coming-of-age in America. Deborah DonovanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved