Alt KidLit: What Children’s Literature Has Been, Never Was, and Might Yet Be

deadline for submissions: 
June 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Kenneth B. Kidd & Derritt Mason


Alt KidLit: What Children’s Literature Has Been, Never Was, and Might Yet Be

eds. Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason (editors of Queer as Camp: Essays on Summer, Style, and Sexuality, Fordham UP, 2019)

Children’s and young adult literature (CYA) is an Anglo-European formation that has been exported to and adapted by nations and cultures around the globe. Sometimes it has cooperated or merged with native, Indigenous, or local traditions of child-associated narrative, but more typically it has circulated like other products of Western settler-imperial culture. Its emergence is linked with Western notions of childhood and Western print culture. CYA is now firmly established as a body of work, a field of discourse, and a cultural good. We sometimes question its definition or borders but tend to accept and even naturalize it as a phenomenon. Alt KidLit troubles that acceptance by building on existing scholarship and sketching an alternative history of what children’s literature has been, never was, and might be now and/or in the future. Fortunately, CYA has become more diverse in representation, scope, and form, as many scholars have noted. In some sense, CYA is already “alternative” or has alternative tendencies, and there is no “outside” of CYA so to speak. And yet CYA is still overwhelmingly white and otherwise normative in its structures and materials. How might CYA be diversified further, as a body of work, a cultural idea, a field of study? What are the alternative texts, contexts, and possibilities of CYA past, present, and future?

On the one hand, CYA is already populated with texts and genres that weren’t originally meant for children but have been associated with them and thus recruited into the big tent. Histories of Anglophone children’s literature, for instance, often point to the retroactive claims on Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels, upon which are based many established classics. And, of course, there are fairy tales and various oral traditions which have found their way into the category. In our own time some imagetexts or multimodal narratives are being claimed as CYA or CYA-adjacent. There are also many texts or traditions (historical and more contemporary both) that might be considered CYA but are not. In some cases, these texts exist outside the normative mechanisms of print or edubrow culture; sometimes these texts are ostensibly too ephemeral or lowbrow or adult-associated. Moreover, many narrative traditions subject to the hegemony of Anglo-European culture (especially Indigenous ones) aren’t well known or haven’t been included. 

We invite contributors to examine alternative approaches to and/or materials of CYA past, present, and future. Reflections on the profession of CYA studies (in its various disciplinary and institutional contexts) are also welcome. In keeping with the meaning of “alt-history” as a speculative fiction, we welcome speculation and conjecture grounded in interpretation of text and context.

Some possible topics:

●      Alternative/non-normative/speculative histories of CYA

●      Alternative understandings of childhood textualities

●      Non-Western, Indigenous, or non-Anglo-European texts, genres, histories of circulation

●      Adult books and/or genres read or appropriated by kids

●      Adult-pitched books that mock children’s genres, such as mock picturebooks

●      Texts with a strange publication path or educational history

●      Texts on topics that fall outside the usual range of children’s literature (e.g. books on witchcraft, or paganism)

●      Controversial, banned, and/or censored CYA

●      Texts produced by adults and children in collaboration

●      Folklore or storytelling traditions

●      Esoterica for children

●      Fanfiction by and/or for kids

●      Texts that are self-published and/or crowd-sourced

●      Texts published by niche presses

●      Histories of niche or small presses

●      Children’s diaries, journals, letters, comics, art

●      Multimodal CYA

●      Intersections of CYA and video games/other digital texts

●      Digital apps for children

●      Children’s performance or theatre

Submissions should be interrogative but format is flexible. We welcome proposals for scholarship, critical memoir, nonfiction, and hybrid creative-critical work. 350-500 word chapter proposals (or the equivalent) are due to both editors by June 30, 2020. Proposals should be for original works not previously published (including in conference proceedings) and not currently under consideration for another published volume.

If the essay is accepted for the collection, a full draft (5000-7000 words) will be required by January 1, 2021. Editors are happy to discuss ideas prior to the deadline.

Please submit proposals to:

Kenneth Kidd: kbkidd[at]


Derritt Mason: derritt.mason[at]