Do you still harbor the romantic view of children’s literature as a reflection of a blissful and innocent state of childhood?
Here is the remedy for that sentiment, found in the stacks of the International Youth Library under the shelf mark PH/USA S741.5951 AKIb-2018/10501:
“But now look, we are a junior guerrilla band! […] What we want to achieve is at least one or two enemies exterminated with each grenade!”
This quote from a not-so-innocent child stems from Alexander Akin’s book “Bravely slay the enemy: Tributes to the Khmer Rouge insurgency in Chinese illustrated children’s literature” (Tortilladora Press, Berkeley 2015). Akin holds a PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and is a junior partner at the San Francisco-based bookstore Bolerium Books. Thanks to him, a free copy of this small booklet found its way into our collection. It originally was intended for submission to an academic journal. However, as permissions for its many illustrations were impossible to obtain, he decided to issue it privately.
The booklet offers notes on the historical context and summaries of some of these stories that celebrate Khmer Rouge guerrillas as heroes, and a full translation of the comic “The women guerrillas”, which was published during the time of the Cultural Revolution. In addition, the book includes a list of all known comics on this subject, palm-sized booklets called “lian huan hua”, which account for the most widely consumed form of literature in 20th century China. Since China was the main ally of the Khmer Rouge guerrilla forces and the Pol Pot regime (1974-1978), it is not surprising that among the propaganda comics published during the 1970s, there were also quite a few that addressed women and children.
Alexander Akin’s survey is a very precious piece of scholarship on a forgotten subject of children’s literature, and we are proud to have this rare book in our library now as his personal gift.
„Bravely slay the enemy“
Tributes to the Khmer Rouge insurgency in Chinese illustrated children’s literature
Berkeley, Tortilladora Press, 2015
Signatur: PH/USA S741.5951 AKIb-2018/10501
This contribution was made by Lucia Obi, language specialist for Asian languages and reference librarian – thank you!