For this week’s Tablet magazine column, I loved chatting with Dr. June Cummins and reading her smart academic work on All-of-a-Kind family. Cummins is AOKF author Sydney Taylor’s official biographer. She has fascinating insights into how Taylor’s socialism and progressive politics inform the books, and into how the progression of the All-of-a-Kind books (written from the 1930s to the 1970s) depicts changing attitudes toward both parenting and Jewish identity.
So I had a hard time constraining myself to a non-insane word count in this week’s column. Um, I had a lot of ideas.
After I filed, my editor called. This approximates our conversation:
Editor: This is the most inside-baseball thing I have ever read.
Me: To YOU. Because you didn’t grow up in America and you have a penis.
Editor: I’m sorry, you sound like a ranting crazy person in this piece. You’re assuming way too much knowledge on the part of the reader. You have to explain what this book is and why it is important.
Me: I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU ARE SAYING THIS.
Editor: I asked someone else here we agree it’s totally obscure.
Me: BECAUSE HE ALSO HAS A PENIS! DID YOU ASK A WOMAN? YOU DIDN’T ASK A WOMAN!
Editor: Don’t you want EVERYONE who reads this piece it to get it? Not all our readers are women.
Me: NOW YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A WOMAN! LET MEN BE THE OUTSIDER FOR THIS ONE PIECE! LET THE DEFAULT BE FEMALE FOR ONE FREAKIN’ STORY!
Editor: Even if every woman knows these books as well as you do, which I doubt, I cannot let you write a story that is incoherent to 50% of our readers.
Me: But even the GOYIM love this book! This is the most important Jewish children’s book EVER WRITTEN!
Editor: If I were writing about Star Wars I would still explain Star Wars to people who don’t know Star Wars, and this book is nowhere near as important as Star Wars.
Far be it from me to sound all Auslanderish about the editing process. But now that I’m out the other side, I must admit that maybe my love of the books clouded my writerly judgment a weensy bit. I perhaps had too many ideas and too much um exuberance going on in my first draft. Still, I’m bummed that so much fascinating material didn’t fit into the second draft. (So do a Google search for June Cummins, and noodge her to finish her book.) In any case, I cannot overstate how happy you will be if you pick up AOKF and share it with your kids. As I’ve said before, a huge and unexpected joy of parenting has been reading bedtime books to my now-big girls — 9 and 6. Discovering great new books, introducing the books I loved to the girls and finding that they love them too….bliss.