Suffering Citizens: Past Traumas in Jewish and African American Youth Literature

Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

North Doyle Banquet Hall, Campion Student Center [Campus Map]


Cover: As Good as Anybody
Raul Colón, illustrator

Youth literature about and written by Ashkenazi Jews, Christian African Americans, and African American Jews all rely on themes of suffering to graft their subjects into the American body politic. This rhetorical strategy has failures and weaknesses in an age of growing white supremacism. Reading “multi-directionally,” we can see how Jewish and African Americans utilize similar literary strategies but also where their historical experiences differ, and what happens at the intersection of those two identities, as in the case of author Julius Lester and others.

Dr. Jodi Eichler Levine is Director of American Studies, Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization, and Associate Professor of Religion Studies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. The author of Suffer the Little Children: Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children’s Literature (2013, 2015), she analyzes what is at stake in portraying religious history for young people, particularly when their histories are traumatic ones. Her work is located at the intersection of Jewish studies, religion in North America, literature, material culture, and gender studies. Future projects include a book on Jewish women, material culture, politics, and performance, currently titled Crafting Judaism: Creativity, Gender, and Jewish Americans and ongoing research into Jewish children’s literature, popular culture, race, ethnicity, and religion in the USA.

Session 2 of the three-part fall 2019 series:

The Intersection of “Race” and “Religion” in the USA

African Americans, Jewish Americans, and Trauma

In this series, three outstanding speakers discuss the experiences of African Americans and Jewish Americans in the predominantly Protestant Christian ethos of the United States. The social constructs of “race” and “religion” and notions of “whiteness” and “blackness” have all interacted in complex ways in the lives of the two groups, which have both similarities and differences as minorities often either forcibly taken or forced to flee from the lands of their birth. You are invited to any or all of the presentations.