In this presentation, Darren Chetty will argue that careful examination of the enduring popularity of France Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden can help us understand many aspects, positive and negative, of British children's literature. Childhood is presented as both a time of cultivation and proximity to nature and as something classed, raced and gendered so that entry into the garden of wonder remains conditional. How might this architecture of The Secret Garden shape contemporary children's literature?
Darren Chetty is a writer, teacher and lecturer at University College London. Since 2018, he has written a column for Books for Keeps with Professor Karen Sands-O'Connor, entitled 'Beyond the Secret Garden'. The column explores representations of Black and other racially minoritised people in (mostly) British children's literature, combining historical overviews with close readings of texts. In 2016, Darren's essay 'You Can't Say That! Stories Have to be About White People' was featured in the best-selling book, The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla. In 2014, Darren's essay 'The Elephant in the Room; Picturebooks, Philosophy for Children, and Racism won the Award for Excellence in Interpreting Philosophy for/with Children from the International Council for Philosophical Inquiry with Children (ICPIC).