Political Activism and Publishing for a Diverse Audience: Leila Berg and Beverley Naidoo
A talk by Karen Sands-O’Connor, Visiting Leverhulme Professor, Newcastle University
What does it mean to be an activist and publish for children? At what age do children become political, and should authors “help them along” in their political development by providing stories that challenge the status quo? Today I’m going to look at two authors who have been labeled radicals or activists, Leila Berg and Beverley Naidoo. Using archival materials in Seven Stories (the National Centre for the Children’s Book) archives, I’m going to examine their development as activists and the effect that their own political beliefs had on their writing and publishing efforts for children.
First, though, I want to introduce some definitions and also talk about what an archive can and can’t do. So I want you to take a minute and think about how you define yourself. If you died this minute, what would you want people to remember about you? Now imagine you have a box, and in that box you can put things that will help people remember you in that way. What do you put in? What do you leave out?
The reason that I ask you to think about these things is that, as someone once said to me, your life story is your story; it’s not your life. Most of life is made up of random moments that don’t necessarily have much connection to each other; it’s filled with the boring and the banal and things you wouldn’t want your mother to know. Your whole life is—even by the age of six months—way too long to tell everything about. (You’d need six months.) Most people deal with the overwhelming amount of detail of their own, single and singular life by trying to (consciously or unconsciously) organize the information of their life, remembering and even highlighting some details (the day I was awarded a Leverhulme Professorship) and forgetting others (how many times a day I wash my hands). Paul de Man, the literary philosopher, argues that this means we deliberately blind ourselves to certain aspects of our lives in order to reach a state of “insight”—in order to tell ourselves or others a STORY that makes sense.
We can (possibly) deepen this sense of insight (and blindness) by recording or preserving bits of our history; by keeping a journal, for example, or by saving every bit of paper (or electronic communication) we have ever been given. Politicians (Hillary Clinton) would do well to do neither; writers tend to do both. Authors collect a huge amount of material over the course of their lifetime, even if they don’t retain ticket stubs, birthday cards, or drawings their children have done. There are contracts and letters to publishers and royalty statements; there are early drafts and unpublished manuscripts, as well as (in the case of Seven Stories) authors’ collections of their published books. There are also more ephemeral items, things that authors have saved because, for some reason, they believe them to be part of their STORY.
Archives, for authors, provide a way of saving all of these boxes, these items they choose to remember, that help to organize their lives into stories. But an archive is neither a life, nor a life story. It’s a collection of items that can be used to tell an infinite number of stories. Academics, like me, take these bits and pieces and use them to tell their own version of the story. Today, I’m going to talk about Leila Berg and Beverley Naidoo as radicals—and how the archives at Seven Stories help to tell this story. So what does it mean to be a radical? The Oxford dictionaries offer this definition: “A person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims.” Neither archive tells us much about political parties, so for the sake of this lecture, I’m just going to go with the first half of the definition, a person advocating complete/thorough political or social reform.
Let’s break this down a little; the definition says “person”, but the truth is that most radicals are adults. This is because most children (not all) are still learning about the political and social landscape, and it is not possible to be a radical when you are unaware, or even sometimes just learning, about a subject. I’ll return to the idea of children as radicals later, but for now I just want to examine whether there are any roots of radicalism in either Berg’s or Naidoo’s childhood.
These are both professional archives, which is to say that they are the story of Berg and Naidoo as writers and editors rather than as children. Berg, who was born in and spent all her life in the UK, has a slightly more extensive archive in terms of stretching back than Naidoo, who was born in South Africa and only came to the UK in 1965. (Naidoo also did not come to the UK in a way that encouraged a lot of bringing of stuff—but more on that later too.) In large part we have to take the word of the authors about their childhoods, which in terms of the archives come largely through author biographies.
Berg has two archival resources that I think are relevant here. One is her memoir, Flickerbook, which came out in 1997. The archive has the manuscript version in boxes, and her published version in the book collection. Flickerbook is a rather impressionistic memoir of Berg’s childhood; she uses a quotation from a book about making toys as an epigraph: “flicker-books . . . a series of sequential pictures . . . When the book was flipped quickly through, the pictures would provide the illusion of a moving picture” (Flickerbook front matter).
There are a few recurring themes in the book; one of them is about education, and another is about being Jewish. About education, Berg recalls placing certain things in the category of “educated” and other things in the category of “uneducated”. “Grown-ups who want a good education buy Devon Cream Toffee” (14). ”I say ‘anyway’. I think you don’t say ‘any road’ if you want a good education” (32). She gives two examples of the choosing rhyme Eena meena mina mo, one that has you “sit the baby on the po” and one that has you “catch a nigger by the toe” (48). Berg writes that the second one (which she herself chooses to chant) has “something to do with books and being well-educated. I think teachers like you better if you do the second one because it’s more educated” (48). In terms of Judaism, Berg writes (among other things), “Christian girls don’t wear knickers. Knickers are Jewish” (12) and “Chips in shops are Christian chips. Chips at home are Jewish chips” (18). “Yesterday two boys got hold of me in the playground and banged my head against the wall over and over, and said, “Why did you kill Jesus? I don’t know who they thought I was” (28).
The incidents I’ve quoted do not suggest a young radical at all; education is associated with middle- rather than working-class ideas, and in terms of religion she just seems to be confused. But by presenting them in this way, Berg suggests two things relevant to a story about her as a radical: one, that education and religion matter to her; and two, that child thought is very different from adult thought.
The second archival resource that I think is relevant is found in an argument she had with Humphrey Carpenter (an important children’s literature historian) over her biography in his Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, and her letters here seem to contradict the sense in Flickerbook that her religion played an important role. In a draft copy of a letter sent to Kim Scott Walwyn, the English literature editorial director for Oxford University Press (who acted as go-between for Berg and Carpenter) dated 26 July 1988, Berg describes a line of the biography that Carpenter wrote as “racist” (LB/06/01/06/47). The line in the Oxford Companion entry said that she was a “British children’s author and editor, born of Jewish parents” (?). Berg writes, “Is everyone in this reference book labelled by religion or race? . . . . I would probably not find the matter odd if my books reflected my Jewishness. In fact, of the fifty or so books for children, some quite short ones, I have written (I haven’t counted the number) and the 4 for adults, only A Box for Benny has a Jewish background, and that is not mentioned as such. So it seems odd to put it in” (LB/06/01/06/47). Although a later letter suggests that she is “content that the [revision] should remain as it is” (letter to Kim Scott Walwyn 29 July 1988; LB/06/01/06/49), her initial response is significant.
I would argue that, while Berg herself looked at her Jewish background as a means of understanding other people who were “outsiders” to mainstream society, it was not otherwise a significant part of her writing career. Therefore, highlighting it seemed to be something sinister to Berg, something akin to having her head banged against a wall but not understanding why; in a letter to Humphrey Carpenter dated 15 February 1988 (LB/06/01/06/26) she called Carpenter’s reference to her religion “a sneer”. To understand being an outsider is good for a writer; to be labeled an outsider by others is bad for humans.
In terms of Beverley Naidoo, we can find in the archives several versions of her self-produced author biography, and all of these are fairly standard (at least in terms of her childhood). She describes her childhood as middle-class, white, and “blinkered”. This is a word that appears again and again in her biographies; in 1992 she blames the South African education system for “not . . . challenging my blinkered vision” (Through Whose Eyes? 9); she was “brought up very blinkered” (July 2001; Author Highlight; Seven Stories Archive); and in a letter to Booktrust in 2002, she says that “my childhood in South Africa where I grew up blinkered to apartheid’s awful reality” (“Response to Booktrust letter 24 February 2002; Beverley Naidoo archive Seven Stories). This word certainly forms part of Naidoo’s idea of herself, but her “blinkered” childhood also made her want to ensure that other children would not suffer a similar fate. In her response to Booktrust, she goes on to say, “I always want to write stories that stir readers to engage imaginatively in the lives of my characters and that challenge narrow ways of seeing” (“Response to Booktrust letter”).
Note that Naidoo puts the second half of her response in the present tense: I always want to write stories. Her blinkered childhood, and Berg’s impressionistic one, did not immediately produce children’s writers. Both women were over forty when they began to write for children. Two aspects of both women’s lives that relate directly to them becoming writers are the idea of being an outsider, and their association with or interest in others who fell outside the mainstream.
Berg’s sense of being an outsider grew slowly. It came first through religion, as I’ve already discussed, but at least as a child she didn’t think of herself as an outsider because of it; there were other Jewish families in her area so it was more like, here are some people that do things this way and here are some people that do things another way. Politically, Berg woke up (as it were) in 1932 when she was fifteen and took part in a protest. What is written in to Flickerbook, however, would not necessarily indicate that this is what she had done. Here is the page from her memoir. The key words here are Kinder Scout, but if you do not know what that signifies, it sounds as if Berg went to a picnic on a mountain somewhere and, as she puts it, “a fight broke out” (135). If you go to the archives, however, you find that Berg researched several parts of the book—and this is one of them.
In the box marked “Flickerbook” and in a folder designated “Flickerbook: Secondary sources and research material” (LB/03/03/03) there is a commemorative edition of The Daily Dispatch (The National Newspaper of the North), April 25, 1932 edition with the headline, “Mass Trespass Arrests on Kinder Scout” (LB/03/03/03/94) which details a “mass trespass, in which about 400 men and girl ramblers took part . . . organised by the British Workers’ Sports Federation, and . . . meant to be a protest against the vast tract of Kinder being closed to the rambling public” (1). The newspaper reprint came with a 60th Anniversary Kinder Scout Mass Trespass Souvenir Programme from 1992 (LB/03/03/03/103)—the same period during which many of the letters of Berg’s research on Flickerbook are dated.
Later references to her radicalization in Flickerbook are clearer; in 1935, she writes, “I’ve joined The Youth Front against War and Fascism” (155); that same year she visits her older brother in Cambridge where communism is all the rage, and the Romillys left-wing publication Out of Bounds is being passed around (Berg takes some to pass at her school as well; 162). These references show her clear transformation from middle-class, relatively well-behaved girl to communist with a Spanish Civil War lover. But the fact that her radical roots came through a protest over the right to roam wherever you wanted (rather than through an admiration of her older brother) would not be clear without understanding what the archives have to show.
Berg began writing seriously after World War II, but initially her writing was not at all radical. Her early children’s stories are extraordinarily conventional; here is a line from her 1950 The Adventures of Chunky: “When they got married and had Chunky, Chunky’s mother never had time to be a scientist because she was so busy cooking and mending and washing clothes and so on” (8; his mother is given a reprieve from the work during the war when she “paid someone to do all the work for her, and she helped Chunky’s father instead, and went back to being a scientist”—but she is still a helper scientist and not the main one).
Berg’s main characters are usually boys, and the adventures are generally of a domestic nature, happening in and around the middle-class house and garden. Berg also began to write for newspapers, but the archival evidence is that her early articles were also conventional; the earliest article that can be found in the Seven Stories archive was written for The Lady in 25 August 1960 (LB/01/0/07; hardly your communist manifesto!). An early article in John O’London’s from 2 March 1961 spelled out her philosophy of writing: “A children’s writer has no time for either sentimentality or contempt; they are both sides of the same coin, and that coin is self-love. The essential thing for the children’s writer is accuracy, just as the essential thing for the writer to draw from the child is awareness, and communication” (“Shots in the secret war” 230; LB/01/03/35). But it is not until Berg sees new people coming to London—and is able to identify with those new people—that her writing really becomes radicalized. On December 30 1963, The Guardian published an article by Berg entitled “We don’t mean you” (LB/01/0/37). Here is the beginning of the article in its entirety:
Years ago, when the war began, I spent my afternoons with a group of Englishwomen who, day after day, said Hitler was right . . . Gassing was the best thing for them . . . We ought to do the same with them here. And when I said, “How can you talk like that in front of me when you know I’m Jewish!” they opened their eyes wide in astonishment, and with startled sincerity said, “But Leila, we don’t mean you.”
A friend was standing the other night near a group of busmen in South London. Gesturing toward the long weary bus queue, they were saying: “Black bastards . . . Dirty niggers . . . Why don’t they send the pack of them home!” And among the group of busmen was one West Indian.
They don’t mean you, conductor from Jamaica.
This article, in which Berg identifies herself as an outsider and with West Indians as outsiders, is the beginning of a real change in Berg’s writing. She gets involved with the closing of Risinghill, a progressive, predominantly working-class school in Islington that banned caning and had a student body that included several different groups of the “New Immigrants” to Britain, including West Indians and Cypriots. She begins thinking about childhood and about education more and more.
Berg is certainly political in her writing about education and the working-class and immigrant population. But although she often identifies with them, she also is able to see how she is not like them, and this can be identified in an article that appeared, again in The Guardian, on November 20, 1967, entitled “The five-year gap” (LB/01/03/18). In it, she writes about “the lovingness of being-read-aloud to” for middle-class children: “This is what has always given reading its meaning for middle-class children, with their picture books from the cradle, pictures candidly looked at together, examined, identified, talked about, linked with personal experience, grief and joy—nursery rhymes said and sung and jigged to and laughed at, in close physical intimacy—story books read at bedtime to take drowsily and warmly into dreams, still breathing and adult’s body-smell—listening feeling, touching, smelling, talking, reading, all merging together. Reading has never been for them an alien academic subject, a cold technique; by the time they come to school it is part of their personal, cherished identity”.
However, Berg goes on to argue that what was true for her own children was not true for many others: “the child from the bookless home comes stone cold to reading; and what do we give him in the classroom? We give him readers where father mows the lawn (what lawn is part of his life, for heaven’s sake?), and the children gather armfuls of dahlias and chrysanthemums from the garden, and mother (never mum) gives the Siamese cat and all the other pets their various dinners . . . where the whole family sits down to have breakfast at a snowy damask-clothed table, all properly dressed and calm, and full of polite grammatically correct, griefless, angerless, joyless, lifeless conversation. What sort of people are these? Nobody has to clock on, in the readers. The alienation is complete”.
If you were researching Berg outside the archives, you could easily find reference to this article; there’s a website about Berg which includes a reprint of it. But you would not get the picture that you would if you went to the archives. This article, in the Seven Stories Archive, is grouped with a set of letters from teachers and parents praising Berg’s article, and a letter from Berg to her publisher, Michael Wace, at Macmillan, dated December 67 (LB/01/03/17). In it she says she is sending him the article “which I actually wrote some time ago” along with the letters because she thought they “might interest you”. Actually, I said that the letter was to Michael Wace, but the letter is addressed only to Michael. It would not have been clear which Michael that Berg meant (she also corresponded with Michael Duane, who was the headmaster of the progressive school in London she wrote about) except for the final line of the letter: “About the new suggested title for the series—I don’t like it. Have we dropped ‘Latchkey Books?’” This is the series that would become Nippers.
In the Nippers series, Berg combines her passion for books and education with her concern for childhood freedom and sense of identity—all themes which recur throughout her work. She also aimed for that feature she discussed in her article for John O’London’s: accuracy in depicting the childhood world. This brought her in for a lot of criticism, but it was criticism that ultimately she took as a badge of honor: she describes Nippers as being new for having “real conversations, real emotions, real people” (“Look at Kids” 25) but that it was the reality of her books that adults wanted to deny:
Heads wrote in about these books, scandalized and vehement, from both middle-class and slum areas. Such subjects, they said, should not be mentioned. Such subjects did not exist. Children do not play on bomb-sites or dumps. There are no bomb-sites or dumps. They have all been built over long ago (this was the beginning of 1967). All children play in parks or pleasant play areas. All homes have hot and cold water and proper bathrooms, and nobody uses tin baths. Fish and chips must not be mentioned. No children play in old cars. The head of the family must not be held up to criticism.
It was evident that some heads flatly denied their pupils’ identity. (25-26)
The progression of Berg as a radical, who thought the way we teach reading ought to be thoroughly reformed, can best be seen by looking, not just at her published stories for children, but through her letters, articles that she saved, and early articles that she wrote.
Beverley Naidoo, like Berg, was personally radicalized before she became a radical writer. Her insular childhood and its acceptance of the status quo ended when she went to university. In Speaking for Ourselves, Naidoo writes:
The early 1960s was a time of political ferment and repression. Apartheid laws had stopped all but a few black students from attending the University of the Witwatersrand. However, along with a small number of politically aware white students, they challenged my inability to see what was all around me. How was it I had been so blind? Struggling to learn to see, I became involved in anti-apartheid activity. In 1964, my detention for eight weeks in solitary confinement, under the ’90 days’ law, was part of my education. After all, for black South Africans, the country itself was a vast jail. (144)
She came to England to study, but when she married a black South African exile, her visit became of necessity permanent. Naidoo, like Berg, became involved in the large and troubled schools of London, and like Berg, she too identified with the students. In “A Personal Essay: Young, Gifted and Black,” Naidoo wrote of the comprehensive school where she worked:
I imagined an immediate identity with the students. I too was an immigrant, albeit white. Most of those in the ‘remedial’ class were black, many having come from the Caribbean as young children, leaving the close-knit warmth of grandparents to join parents (whom they hadn’t seen for a number of years) in cold, grey Britain. After the freedom of a largely outdoor life, most of them now lived in rented accommodation, sharing limited space and facilities with other families. I too had left behind a land which at least physically was very beautiful. I had come out of the social ugliness and repression of South Africa. Although our circumstances were so different, I felt I understood something of the trauma those children had experienced in being uprooted. (74)
Naidoo identifies with children who are immigrants, and mourned the loss of her homeland, but she did not yet turn her experience into writing for children. Instead, she began to work on her doctorate, examining children’s views about racism through the use of nonfiction texts on South Africa. The experience shaped the way she saw books for children. Some criticized her methodology because she felt that nonfiction books about South Africa should expose its racist ideology. At a conference of the National Association of Multicultural Education in 1984, Naidoo answered her critics by saying, “the concept of ‘balance’ –of a book providing a ‘balanced view’—is quite inappropriate when it comes to the question of racism, just as it is with pornography (“Books that Censor Reality” 20).
The lies she felt that non-fiction was telling led her to want to tell a different kind of truth to her children. In a speech to the IBBY/MA Children’s Literature Conference on 11 November 2000, Naidoo explained her thinking: “I began writing in the early 1980s at a time when there were hardly any books in Britain for young people that opened out the world of apartheid and represented the lives of young black South Africans.
Much of the available non-fiction misinformed readers, including widely stocked books that were either openly or covertly racist. . . . . My own children were growing up in exile . . . How could we begin to explain to our children the nature of our birth country? They were growing up in a home where anti-apartheid meetings and demonstrations from Hyde Park to South Africa House were part of the diversity of life—along with judo, swimming, ballet, music lessons, etc.—but how do you reach the heart? I have always believed in the power of fiction and story and I began to realise there was a story I wanted to tell” (“Are All Your Books About Humanity?” 3). This story was Journey to Jo’burg, and it and the books that followed were about her home country of South Africa.
But the book I wanted to know about was The Other Side of Truth. It may initially seem bizarre that Naidoo would decide in the late 1990s to write a book about Nigeria. Nigeria is about three thousand miles (in different directions) from both South Africa and England, and the political situation there is not analogous to that of either country. But the archives give some clues as to what led her to Nigeria, and it certainly was not a sudden whim—though it was precipitated by the military takeover in Nigeria and the execution of the journalist Ken Saro-Wiwa. The connection to Saro-Wiwa is indicated in the book’s forward, but to understand the depth of Naidoo’s interest, it is necessary to dig deeper.
The Library Association Carnegie Medal introduction (13 July 2001), in listing her biographical information, says that after achieving her PGCE teaching qualification in English at York University, she did not plan to stay in England: “At that time her ambition was to teach in Nigeria” (1). She had Nigerian friends in England, the introduction goes on to say. At a talk in Birmingham two months earlier, Naidoo had expanded on this: “When I first came to this country—my body here but my head mostly 6000 miles away in South Africa—one of the people who most closely understood my disconnection was a Nigerian PhD student. . . . Our families became very close and through his family and other Nigerian friends I was learning about another country in Africa” (“Going for Gold Carnegie Talk”).
For Naidoo, then, Nigeria and Britain were tied together. But, having seen the reactions of young people to her South Africa novels, Naidoo worried that “young people in this country who read her novels about South Africa have tended to see these issues as being ‘over there’. Beverley wanted to reveal that the issues of injustice and abuse of human rights are ever present in this country too” (Carnegie Medal introduction 2). The Other Side of Truth tells a Nigerian story and a British story of refugees from a military dictatorship and their struggle to get asylum in the UK.
The archives also reveal how Naidoo began to think about telling her story. When Rosemary Stones asked Naidoo to write a piece for her updated edition of the Books for Keeps Multicultural Guide, Naidoo was already beginning to write her new story. Her piece for Rosemary Stones, which she tentatively titled “Hostage to Multiculturalism,” descried the way that the multicultural movement separated “British” literature from “other cultures” literature: “Fiction can be a starting point for exploring questions about one’s own identity as well as that of others, for exploring commonalities as well as conflict and clashing perspectives. The great strength of fiction is that it offers a realm removed from immediate reality and yet it can provide a prism through which we can see ourselves and others.” (3). Naidoo wanted child asylum seekers to have a book with which they could identify, just as Berg wanted books for working-class children. But she also wanted books to stretch the imagination of those who had been brought up “blinkered,” as she had.
Indeed, Naidoo began to see herself differently when telling this story. Whereas in 1987, Naidoo described herself as an “immigrant” to England, when she began writing Other Side of Truth, she started describing herself in lectures as a “refugee”. In an interview for Schoolsnet in June of 2000, she says, “I thought that being a refugee would be a really interesting theme to explore, partly because, in a way, I had been a refugee many years earlier so it was not an alien concept” (“Beverley Naidoo interview 29.06.00”). Naidoo put this more succinctly in her Puffin Author Internet ID Card, a draft of which is in the archives: “The apartheid government,” she wrote, “forced us to become refugees” (“Puffin author” 1). She continued to make connections between her own past and the refugee situation, comparing the “snail-paced queue” at the Asylum Screening Unit to “the infamous Pass Office in Johannesburg where waiting on the pavement was all part of the process of humiliation” (‘Are All your books about humanity?’ 7) and writing in an email to Patrick Burnett that “Thirty years ago in Britain, ‘immigrant’ was a dirty word. Now it is ‘refugee’” (unpublished email to Patrick Burnett 7 August 2001; 2).
But Naidoo’s writing of the book was not just a way to equate her past with a present-day situation. The archives show the ways that she did careful research both in Britain and in Nigeria—not to mention other countries as well, including Sierra Leone. Her archives include newspaper articles she cut out or copied, and these detailed the history of African countries affected by British colonialism, war, and famine. They also include photographs of a trip she took to Nigeria. As she wrote in an Authorzone Biography, “I love doing research. It’s like being a detective on a trail, especially for novels like No Turning Back and The Other Side of Truth. I discover the reality, then transform it into fiction” (1). Like Berg, Naidoo finds a kind of truth in fiction that is different from, but connected to, reality.
Finally, Naidoo also wants to share that imaginative prism with child readers as well. In a speech to the Youth Libraries Group Annual Conference at Loughborough University on 22 September 2001, Naidoo indicates how poems she read thirty years ago by a twelve-year-old Hackney (London) boy connected to her own novel. She includes two lines from one of the poems: “Life is playing me up/ Spite is having an affair with me” and then writes, “Re-reading those poems after many years, I realise how much of this reminds me of my own Femi in The Other Side of Truth. Here is the deep sense of alienation of the young black male child in a society largely dominated by white men that remains with us today, thirty years later” (“One Fragile World” 3). She offers her book to children in similar situations; after an article about detention centres appeared in The Times in 2002, Naidoo wrote to the article’s author, saying, “I would very much like to send Elis a copy of my novel The Other Side of Truth that won the Carnegie medal last year. I think she might feel a strong connection to my character 12 year old Sade who also finds herself an asylum seeker in Britain because of her father’s political stance and moral values” (unpublished letter to Ann Treneman at The Times dated 7 November 2002).
But in addition to making connections between children who might have had similar experiences, she also tries to connect children to her work that might not have any understanding of a refugee experience. The archives includes a response that Naidoo made to a 13-year-old reader who wrote to The Times complaining that the Carnegie Medal had “become biased toward more adult books” (“Letters” May 15; Chiara Catterwell), citing The Other Side of Truth as an example. Naidoo wrote, “There is no clear boundary between the world of children and that of adults . . . Asylum-seekers include children, arriving unaccompanied or part of families. If children are undergoing traumatic experiences, why is it inappropriate for other young people to know about them?” (Unpublished email from Naidoo to Adele Minchin dated 17 May 2002; subject “Children’s book award”). “Children need to experience a rich and diverse range of literature. They need to see themselves reflected in the stuff of books as well as to be taken beyond themselves and their own immediate lives . . . For those of us brought up monoculturally, literature can indeed be a lifeline” (“Living Literature” 2). To return to the definition of radical that I gave you earlier, Naidoo wanted to change the way people thought about political situations; to see themselves in children affected by political situations, and to see themselves as individuals with the right (and duty) to take political action. This is a lesson that, given the current refugee crisis in Europe, we might do well to re-examine.
Both Leila Berg and Beverley Naidoo had unremarkable, certainly unradical, childhoods, but both grew up to write from their own peculiar political viewpoint. What I have been talking about today is one story—my story—of going through the archives at Seven Stories. When you look at the books of a particular author, you will have your own questions—which will lead to your own story. You might be interested in a book’s title or early drafts, or—on the other end—you might want to know about book covers or foreign editions. You might want to look at adaptations of a work for other media. But whatever you are interested in discovering about an author, archival resources can expand, extend, and enlighten your understanding beyond the book.
Berg, Leila. Fish and Chips for Supper. London: Macmillan, 1968.
—. Flickerbook. London: Granta, 1988.
—. Lesley’s Story. London: Macmillan, 1968.
—. “Look at Kids: Excerpts.” Children’s Rights 4 (April-May 1972): 12-33.
—. Robert’s Story. London: Macmillan, 1970.
Photograph of Berg taken by her husband Harry Berg in approximately 1957. LB/08/02/22
Carpenter, Humphrey and Mari Prichard. The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature.
Oxford: OUP, 1984.
Catterwell, Chiara. “Children’s book award.” Times (London) 16 May 2002. Seven Stories Archives Beverley Naidoo collection green ring binder.
Library Association. “Carnegie Medal Introduction: Background on Beverley Naidoo and The
Other Side of Truth.” Unpublished ms. Dated 13 July 2001. Seven Stories Archive
Beverley Naidoo collection, green ring binder. 1-3.
Naidoo, Beverley. ‘Are All your Books about Humanity?’: IBBY/MA Children’s Literature
Conference Speech.” Unpublished. Dated 11 November 2000. Seven Stories Archives
Green ring binder. 1-9.
—. “Author in search of a title . . .” Unpublished ms. Labeled Carnegie shortlist,
www.peters-books.co.uk. May 2001. Seven Stories Archives green ring binder.
—. “Authorzone Biog.” Unpublished ms. Seven Stories Archives green ring binder. N.D. 1-2.
—. “Beverley Naidoo interview.” Ms. Edition of interview for Schoolsnet dated 29.06.00.
Seven Stories Archives green ring binder. 1-4.
—. “Books that Censor Reality: A Case Study.” Conference Report “Racism in Educational
Media.” January 1984. National Association for Multiracial Education, SW Herts/St.
Albans branch. 8-20.
—. “Children’s book award.” Unpublished email to Adele Minchin dated 17 May 2002. Seven Stories Archives green ring binder.
—. “Going for Gold Carnegie Talk.” Unpublished notes for talk on 23 May 2001 in
Birmingham. Seven Stories Archives green ring binder.
—. “Living Literature: A Handbook for Children’s Literature in the K-8 Classroom.” Ms.
Draft. N.d. 1-2. Seven Stories Archives green ring binder.
—. “One Fragile World.” Youth Libraries Group Annual Conference speech, 22 September
- Loughborough University. Unpublished. Seven Stories Archives green ring binder. 1-6.
—. “A Personal Essay: Young, Gifted and Black.” Free as I Know. Ed. Beverley Naidoo.
London: Unwin Hyman, 1987. 73-78.
—. “Puffin Author Internet I.D. Card.” Unpublished, no date. Seven Stories Archives green
—. “Questions from Patrick.” Unpublished email to Patrick Burnett dated 08 August 2001.
Seven Stories archives green ring binder. 1-3.
—. The Other Side of Truth. London: Puffin, 2000.
—. Unpublished letter to Ann Treneman of The Times dated 7 November 2002. Seven Stories Archives Green ring binder.