‘Little Man, Little Man,’ Baldwin Book Set in Harlem, Reissued

“Little Man, Little Man: a story of Childhood,” written by James Baldwin and illustrated by Yoran Cazac, was published in 1976 and shortly went out of print. On Aug. 24, it was reissued by Duke University Press.

Sameer Rao, writing in Colorlines, says the book’s tale of 4-year-old TJ, a Black child in Harlem experiencing alternating joy (playing and dancing with friends) and pain (police violence, watching neighborhood boys take narcotics), left readers more than four decades ago wondering if it was indeed a children’s book.

Now, a new generation of readers can decide for themselves. Members of the late writer’s family joined forces with scholars to produce a reprint of “Little Man, Little Man.” This edition, which Duke University Press released today (August 24), also features words from the people who resurrected it: a foreword by Baldwin’s nephew Tejan Karefa-Smart (the inspiration for TJ), an afterword by niece Aisha Karefa-Smart and a joint introduction by scholars Jennifer DeVere Brody and Nicholas T. Boggs.

Aisha Karefa-Smart, an author and educator who first read her uncle’s book as a child, affirms that it is still relevant to children, especially now. ”I think we underestimate the ability of children to comprehend and digest multigenerational narratives,” she tells Colorlines.

Boggs talked about the significance of Baldwin’s book.

“Given the history of White misunderstanding, misrepresentation and misappropriation of Black cultural forms, I have tried to be particularly open, attentive, rigorous, and most importantly, collaborative with this project,” Boggs, who is White, says. “The message of the book around the joys and the challenges of Black childhood is so important, especially today, and it’s crucial for me that it’s part of a broader conversation that the collaborative nature of the edition helps makes possible.”

Read in Colorlines how Boggs came across the title and connected with Baldwin’s niece and nephew.

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