Writing a critical study of Yiddish children’s literature as an NEH Public Scholar
Children’s Literature and Modern Jewish Worldmaking
“Children’s Literature and Modern Jewish Worldmaking” takes the aesthetically rich and historically indispensable corpus of nearly a thousand extant Yiddish children’s books as a novel vantage point from which to observe key movements—political and geospatial—of Eastern European Jewry during the tumultuous early decades of the twentieth century. It extends theoretical reframings of childhood into the Yiddish-speaking sphere, foregrounding the role of children’s literature in the intertwined cultural renaissance and quest for social justice that animated secularist, interwar Jewish life. This project integrates a range of concerns, including a changing understanding of gender norms, child psychology, class consciousness and struggle, and the pursuit of racial justice. Focusing on broadly resonant motifs, themes, and nodes, this accessible book probes how writers and cultural leaders negotiated the tensions between traditional and emerging forms of Jewish identity and how Yiddish-speaking Jewry deployed children’s literature to build itself a future world.