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From Sarah to Sydney: The Story Behind Sydney Taylor’s Biography
July 8, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
When Professor June Cummins taught a course at San Diego State on Jewish children’s literature in the late 1990s, she was surprised to find so little information about Sydney Taylor, author of the beloved All-of-a-Kind series. The more she discovered about Taylor’s family, childhood on the Lower East Side, artistic endeavors with Lee Strasberg and Martha Graham, decades of work at Cejwin Camps, and success as an author, the more she felt Taylor’s story needed to be told. Her research took her from university archives to the home of Taylor’s daughter, who generously made a treasure trove of material available to her. When Cummins was diagnosed with ALS, her friend Dr. Alexandra Dunietz began to help with the project, and the two of them completed the book together. Dr. Dunietz will speak about their collaboration and the recently published book it led to: From Sarah to Sydney: The Woman Behind All-of-a-Kind Family.
This conversation will take place over Zoom.
About the authors:
Born in New York City, June Cummins grew up in San Diego, before pursuing her academic interests at Berkeley and Columbia University. She completed her doctorate while living in the Chicago area. After being hired as a professor at San Diego State University, where she made important contributions to its National Center for Children’s Literature, she spent the next two decades commuting between Chicago and San Diego, carrying a full teaching and advising load, pursuing her research and participating in conferences, often in a leadership role, and raising a family. Cummins’ interest in the commercialization of children’s literature led her to write thought-provoking articles on subjects ranging from Harry Potter to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. She was also the lecturer and assistant for the Bologna Book Fair Exhibition of International Award-Winning Children’s Book Illustrations at Northwestern University. After her diagnosis of ALS, she devoted her remaining years to finishing the biography of Sydney Taylor and enjoying her beloved family.
Also raised in San Diego and living in the Chicago area, Alexandra Dunietz is a historian of the medieval Middle East. She earned degrees from Princeton University and the University of Chicago. She has studied in France, Tunisia, and Turkey, and in 2015 Brill published her monograph on a 15th-century judge in Iran. She is currently a researcher at the University of Chicago working on a project on race and religion.
Alix and June met in 1992 and have been friends ever since. When June could no longer commute to her teaching job in San Diego because of her illness, Alix began visiting her daily to take dictation on the biography of Sydney Taylor, a project that had long occupied June and that both were determined to complete. What began as dictation turned into a real collaboration, and the publication by Yale University Press of From Sarah to Sydney: The Woman Behind All-of-a-Kind Family is the fruit of that partnership.