The following article was written for the Fall 2021 edition of the Journal of Children’s Literature and is printed here with permission from the NCTE Children’s Literature Assembly.
“People on the margins all feel pain, but it doesn’t mean we are victims. There are many different ways of fighting for social justice; my tools are my research and my writing for the next generation.”
It is with great sorrow and solemnity that we share the passing of Dr. Vivian Yenika-Agbaw on September 30, 2021. Our hearts and thoughts are with her family, her friends, her current and former students, and her global network of colleagues and admirers.
As a JCL coeditor, Vivian was instrumental to our work with this journal. She served as lead coeditor of our special double issue on critical multicultural analysis and its accompanying podcast. As a professor of literacies and children’s literature, Vivian focused on critical multiculturalism, postcolonialism, Africana studies, and reader response; her work is foundational to our field. She published extensively in premier peer-reviewed journals, authored or edited several academic books, and was a leader in many national and international children’s literature organizations.
As a team, we remember Vivian’s spirited passion for children’s literature and her tireless commitment to mentoring both new and seasoned colleagues, helping them find a path to make their own mark on the world. We remember her hearty laughter when she found something particularly humorous. We remember her integrity, unwavering compassion, and empathy. We remember her commitment to justice and her belief in the global reach and power of children’s books to bring about change for all.
Our field will continue to benefit from Vivian’s work; we are less without her. As her coeditors, we are also at a loss as we try to consider how we might continue this work, keeping in mind her vision and upholding her legacy. We will treasure that we had the opportunity to cross her professional path. As coeditors, we were not only collaborators but became close friends. Vivian cared about our personal and professional lives, and she encouraged us in meaningful ways. We appreciated the humanity, kindness, and generosity Vivian brought to our work and the ways she elevated the work of the journal and pushed our own thinking. Our editorial meetings were rich with conversations about moving the field forward. Vivian’s careful thinking about texts, culture, social responsibility, and humanity fueled our intellectual curiosity. Collectively and individually, we were challenged to see and imagine the global possibilities and influence that literature holds for instilling compassion and social change.
Our children’s literature community has lost a beautiful soul, a courageous scholar, a tireless advocate, a tenacious contributor, and an admired editor.
You will be dearly missed, Vivian.
Thomas Crisp, Mary Napoli, and Angie Zapata
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