Little Man, Little Man
A Story of Childhood
Duke University Press 2018
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network December 20, 2018 Annette Joseph-Gabriel
This 2018 reprint of Little Man, Little Man exemplifies communal and collaborative textual production. The story was written by James Baldwin and illustrated by French artist Yoran Cazac. It was published in 1976 and then went out of print. In this new edition, scholars Nicholas Boggs and Jennifer DeVere Brody write the introduction, while Baldwin’s nephew and niece, Tejan Karefa-Smart and Aisha Karefa-Smart write the foreword and afterword respectively. In Little Man, Little Man, which Baldwin alternately described as a children’s book for adults and an adults’ book for children, we see a slice of a Harlem neighborhood through the eyes of young TJ. The story presents a complex and multifaceted vision of black childhood in America and nudges the contemporary reader to think critically about what it means to see through the eyes of a child and to be seen by those in one’s world.
Nicholas Boggs was an undergraduate at Yale when he discovered James Baldwin’s out-of-print “children’s book for adults,” Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood (1976) at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The senior thesis he wrote about it was published in the anthology James Baldwin Now (NYU Press, 1999). A subsequent essay on Little Man Little Man that draws on his interviews in Paris with the book’s illustrator, French artist Yoran Cazac, appears in The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (2015). This research led him to co-edit and write the introduction to a new edition of Little Man, Little Man (Duke UP, 2018), which the New York Times wrote “couldn’t be more timely” and Entertainment Weekly hailed as “brilliant, essential.” He was interviewed by the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly for their feature articles on Little Man, Little Man and he appeared on Madeleine Brand’s Press Play on KCRW , on Black America TV , and on a panel at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture moderated by Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. The recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Camargo Foundation, he is currently at work on a literary biography of Baldwin, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Annette Joseph-Gabriel is an Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her forthcoming book, Reimagined Belongings: Black Women’s Decolonial Citizenship in the French Empire examines Caribbean and African women’s literary and political contributions to anti-colonial movements.