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Getting Books from Life: Lois Lenski, Documentary Writer for Children

"Getting Books from Life: Lois Lenski, Documentary Writer for Children,"
 Presented by Dr. Joy Kasson,
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 4 p.m.
 Martha Blakeney Hodges Reading Room
 Jackson Library 2nd floor.

A Midwestern girl who journeyed to New York to study art in 1915, Lois Lenski became a writer and illustrator of children’s books in a career that lasted for four decades.  Curious, generous, and empathetic, she hoped her work would awaken and develop children’s ability to identify with others across divisions of region and social class.  In 1946 she was awarded the Newbery Medal for Children’s Literature for Strawberry Girl, a story about children and their families in the backwoods of Florida.  Subsequently she would write about migrant worker children, cotton-picking children, families in Iowa, South Dakota, Michigan, Texas, and Oklahoma, in Chinatown, San Francisco, on Indian reservations, and in high-rise urban ghettos.  Her experience at the Art Students’ League in New York at the time when the so-called “Ash Can School” was flourishing, her use of photography and field notes to research her subjects, and her extensive correspondence with teachers, librarians, and schoolchildren in areas across the country, gave her a unique perspective as she attempted to take children on an “adventure in understanding.” 

On Wednesday, October 8 at 4 pm, Dr. Joy Kasson of UNC Chapel Hill will talk about Lenski and her career as a documentary writer for children, drawing upon the resources of the Lois Lenski Papers, housed in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections in the University Libraries at UNCG. Dr. Kasson is Professor of American Studies and English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she has been on the faculty since 1971. Her teaching includes courses on visual culture and American Studies, American cultural history, and American literature, and she has won several teaching awards.  She was Chair of the American Studies Department from 2001 to 2011, and currently serves as Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Scholar for Carolina Performing Arts, helping to integrate UNC’s performing arts series with the academic core across disciplines.  The author of two books on nineteenth-century American art and culture, she has most recently turned to the subject of popular culture in American history in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West: Celebrity, Memory, and Popular History.  She is presently at work on a book on children’s author and illustrator Lois Lenski.

For more information, contact Scott Hinshaw in the University Libraries.