Liberating Young Children, Tours, Loire Valley, France

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My installation We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live is on exhibition at the bibliotheque in Tours (Loire Valley, France) this month as part of an international research network on the impact of the 1968 movement on the cultures of childhood.

Between early September and mid-October 2017, visitors to the central library in Tours (Loire Valley, France) will be greeted in the entrance hall by sets of wooden shelving containing a selection of militant, non-sexist and multiracial children’s books from the 1970s. They will be invited to make themselves comfortable on some cushions and plastic stools, and browse through the books. The idea is to recreate a children’s library from the ‘70s, in order to take the reader on a journey back in time to an era of protest and consciousness raising, when feminist publishing collectives held the firm belief that children’s books needed to change, in order to help change the world.

This project has developed out of We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live (2017), a mixed-media installation commissioned in 2017 by the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow. Dhillon’s work explores the legacy of DIY, feminist collectives in the US publishing children’s literature in the 1970s, focusing on the work of two of the leading presses in this movement: the Lollipop Power collective and the Feminist Press. The installation in France is a collaboration with Andrea Francke of ‘Invisible Spaces of Parenthood’, the Children’s section of the municipal library in Tours and the research project ‘The Children’s ‘68/ Le ’68 des enfants’.

The aim of the installation in France is to bring this selection of American children’s books into dialogue with books produced by similar French groups. The French militant publishing scene that mushroomed in the 1970s is represented in the main by: the avant-garde Franco-American partnership Harlin Quist Books; the Paris-based radical publishing collective ‘Le Sourire qui mord’; and the ‘du côté des petites filles’ imprint, published by éditions des femmes, which was part of the French Women’s Liberation Movement. By juxtaposing these two movements, and exploring their similarities and differences, we can interrogate the ways in which books are defined as ‘radical’ shifts in time, place, and context, and think about what we understand to be radical children’s literature today, and what we might want it to be.

Included in the installation are:

A selection of books published by the Lollipop Power collective. To challenge gender stereotyping in children’s books, they wrote about themes such as women carrying out work not typical to gender stereotypes and alternative family structures. They produced the first children’s picturebooks to represent lesbian parents (Lots of Mommies(1983); When Megan Went Away (1979), both by Jane Severance).

The works of the French collective Sourire qui Mord, including one of the best-known anti-sexist picturebooks produced in France: Histoire de Julie qui avait une ombre de garçon, written by Christian Bruel and Anne Galland, with illustrations by Anne Bozellec (1976). You can find out more about the book in our blog post here.

A selection of the titles produced by éditions des femmes ‘du côté des petites filles’ imprint, including the famous Rose Bombonne by Adela Turin and Nella Bosnia from 1975, the first overtly feminist children’s picturebook to be published in France, and Les Filles (1976), Agnès Rosenstiehl’s wry take on gender difference.

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We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live Reading Group, Glasgow Women’s Library

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We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, (Detail: Selection of Titles by Lollipop Power, circa 1970s), 2017, Kim Dhillon

As part of my installation, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, at CCA Glasgow, I am running a series of reading groups through March at Glasgow Women’s Library to discuss some of these books and the ideas they explore. The groups will focus largely on the titles produced by Lollipop Power in the Chapel Hill area of North Carolina in the 1970s. The groups are facilitated by Dr Elsa Richardson.

1970s feminist children’s books sought to present stories that would broaden the possibilities for children and reflect a world for kids who wanted to grow up equal.

We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live reading group takes place on Thursdays 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th March, 5.30pm to 7pm

We’ll reflect on lead female characters; representations of fathers, grandparent carers and single, working mothers; and ask what was radical about children’s literature from the 1970s and how it can be today? Find all the sessions and book your place on the Glasgow Women’s Library website via this link.

Continue reading “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live Reading Group, Glasgow Women’s Library”

Strangers in Their Own Land

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Disclaimer: I am trying to sell you stuff in this post:

Still wondering what happened in the US election? Distinguished sociologist Arlie Hochschild (The Second Shift; Emotional Labour) spent 5 years researching the Tea Party movement when she became ‘alarmed at the increasingly hostile split in [the US] nation’ between the two main political parties. Taking their concerns seriously and with empathy, Hochschild explores what she calls the Great Paradox: why do people on the conservative right who need the help of federal government most, despise it so much? The result is Strangers in Their Own Land, nominated for a National Book Award and now on the NYT bestseller list. You can pick one up here. And while you’re over at Amazon, do you have a budding sociologist in your family? If so, be sure to check out Coleen the Question Girl, a children’s book which Hochschild wrote in 1973 when her first son was young. It was one of the first titles published by the Feminist Press. Featuring the protagonist Coleen, who questions inequality in her hometown, the story is light-hearted and whimsical. Andrea Francke and I worked with Hochschild over the past year to update and revise the text and commission new illustrations in this 2016 edition which we have recently published. Our updated Coleen is still asking questions, and still trying to make the world a better place. Available in paperback on Amazon and in hardcopy on Blurb. Happy reading.

Work in Progress: We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live

I’m making a new work for CCA Glasgow, looking at 1970s non-sexist, multi-racial kids books made by feminist publishing collectives, particularly Lollipop Power who were in Chapel Hill in the early 70s. If everyone had been as ahead of the game as these women, maybe we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. They’re all nearly 70 now, and they’re still awesome. This is a back cover from The Sheep Book, by Carmen Goodyear, 1972.recycled

Coleen The Question Girl by Arlie Russell Hochschild: out now!

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Our revised edition of Arlie Russell Hochschild’s children’s book, first written in 1973 and published by the Feminist Press, is available for sale in hardcover on Blurb now!

Softcover on Amazon soon.

Continue reading “Coleen The Question Girl by Arlie Russell Hochschild: out now!”