One or more pictures stand out as the book’s primal raison d’etre; that is, there is at least one picture which activates a “flashbulb memory” from the creator’s childhood and which the story explains in an ambiguous way. The manifest storybook explanation for this primal scene is benign and reassuring while the latent and historical interpretation is traumatic and unbearable.
This issue is dominated by a symposium of some thirty writers from different fields responding to a question about the most memorable secret space of their own childhoods. Their mini-essays are not only descriptive but analytical, as they reflect on the state of childhood itself, in personal experiences, in texts, in modern culture. Ranging from a long paragraph to several pages, these commentaries provide an iconography of the state of childhood that will interest scholars of the field as well as general readers.
In this special issue, authors from a variety of fields explore the imaginative world of childhood, how children seek refuge from adult society in realms that paradoxically ease their way into adulthood, carrying with them the felt memories of transcendent and transgressive experience, sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible.