A World Unsuspected (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
In his introduction, the editor of A World Unsuspected: Portraits of Southern Childhood explains the genesis of the book. Having edited works varying from collections of South African photographs to collections of chalk drawings made by children in Spanish Harlem, Alex Harris has always emphasized the visual rather than the textual. This collection, in which the written word is primary, is the result of a happy conjunction in Harris’ interests, the fact that he found himself fascinated with the casual amateur snapshots from his own childhood and at the same time was developing a new enthusiasm for reading fiction.
Looking through the snapshots, Harris noticed how they recalled memories which he had lost, stimulated him to fictionalize, and demanded new assessments of his life. After he had read the fiction, he saw the possibility of a new link between photography, memory, and expressive words. In a way, he thought, this could be a new combination of oral history and documentary photography, particularly interesting because while the photographs on which the essays were based would be naïve, generally amateur efforts from the past, the reflections of the essayists would be those of adult professional writers, viewing their own childhoods from a distance. In order to provide a common frame, Harris chose eleven writers who were growing up in the same period and in the South or, in the case of Ellease Southerland, in a Northeastern community which...
(The entire section is 1672 words.)
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