Maurice Sendak On Coming Out, Children’s Literature, And Political Honesty

This is a great, great interview with Maurice Sendak in The Guardian. I hadn’t known he was gay, and it’s sad to hear his parents were not great about his relationship with his long-term partner, but interesting to see how it affected his work:

His relationship with Eugene, who was a psychoanalyst, lasted almost 50 years. His parents never knew – not officially. “Of course, they knew. Especially my father. My mother was so bewildering and strange and lived in another world, I don’t know what she knew. Nothing was said, but if something had been said, I would have been thrown out of the house. And yet they met him and respected him. Strange.”

Is it any wonder, he says, that his work pitches against euphemism and whitewash in favour of the unvarnished truth? It was a cousin who first encouraged Sendak to look beyond his narrow life in Brooklyn. She was a communist and they weren’t supposed to associate with her, but he and his sister would sneak off to see this woman, who recognised his talent for drawing.

Folks who think that literature for young adults and children is necessarily dumbed-down should read this. The delivery mechanisms may be different for kids than they are for adults. But that doesn’t mean the messages themselves have to be.