Program Recap: Wild Outside in the Night

June 10, 2024
by Rebeca Miller

This program took place in person at AJHS on June 4th, 2024 at 6:30pm Eastern.

Golan Moskowitz joined us for a presentation Wild Outside in the Night: Queer Jewishness and Childhood Liminality in the Picture-Books of Maurice Sendak a talk based off his book Wild Visionary: Maurice Sendak in Queer Jewish Context (Stanford University Press, 2020). In his talk, Golan spoke about the ways in which Maurice Sendak’s work connects to queer identity, Jewish American history, holocaust memory, and the history of modern childhood. Golan spoke about Sendak’s family life and upbringing as the queer child of Yiddish speaking immigrants, impacted by the holocaust and economic depression. Not just in the Sendak household but also for other Yiddish speaking and minority families, childhood bedtime stories reflected harsh realities of the world and taught children how to recognize dangerous situations. For Sendak, the truth of the stories was a way to build trust and connection with his parents and grandparents. Sendak’s extraordinary children’s books often featured characters who used fantasy as a way to combat isolation and claim a sense of self outside of conventional expectations. Sendak’s characters stand directly in opposition to a mid-century generic child ideal of vulnerable innocence, this generic child image was used to socio-politically define what was “normal” and “American.” Sendak’s children experienced a kind of wildness and danger, and were not always innocent or protected.

Topics covered in this program: Yiddish, queer, holocaust, fantasy, humor, picture-books, imagination, childhood, storytelling, Jewish tradition in the post-war era, lost relatives, children’s literature, mid-century family and the middle class.