It often happens, at the end of a book which is important to us, to ask ourselves how the idea of that story was born, how and by whom the protagonist that struck us was conceived. Sometimes, when digging up, we can be left disappointed. At other times, a new world ready to be explored opens in front of us with the awareness that the novel does not actually end with the last page, but it continues in the life of its author.
This is the case of John Williams (1922-1994), American writer who remained on the fringes of great literature until after his death and was praised for the rediscovery of Stoner, a novel which had to wait over forty years to turn from a hidden gem into a bestseller. In the folds of the veil seeming to cover the existence of this brilliant, learned and tortured professor at the University of Denver, there appears to glimpse at a reflection of William Stoner, the main character of his most famous book. A reflection that actually, after all, catches just one facet, however pure and sparkling, of the life of John Williams. For decades a cult object and a silent source of inspiration among students, professors, journalists and writers, Stoner is just one of the literary "clues" left by the writer.
The life of the American author could easily inspire a novel of its own: dolorous and dynamic, full of disappointments, but also full of accomplishment built over time and with great difficulty, ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Through an itinerary also punctuated by unreleased images, this report portrays the author after having followed his tracks in Colorado, in Arkansas and in Missouri, discovering his personal documents, places he knew and the people who knew him.
The book is a reflection on childhood, dealing especially with children’s wellbeing and the implementation of their rights. Starting from the recognition – first expressed in the 1924 Declaration of the Rights of the Child and reaffirmed in the 2000 Treaty of Nice as well as in more recent initiatives of the European Union – that children must be granted the right to be considered as persons and afforded the best possible living conditions, the book’s aim is to create a dialog among scholars with different backgrounds. For this reason, it draws on a range of different vocabularies, conceptual apparatuses and methodologies, as we are convinced that it is reductive to confine research and theory within specific disciplinary bounds. This is particularly true of a topic as complex as that of childhood today, especially in the light of the changes within the family that have taken place or are still in the making. Accordingly, the key terms in the text are agency and autonomy, participation and well-being. But what does each of them actually mean? How do they can be analysed and measured? What initiatives can be taken? The ontological overturning of the status of childhood that has emerged in recent years, whereby children are now considered as social actors and subjects in their own right, urges us to keep the focus on the contexts in the light of the unexpected consequences of applying the fundamental principles of the new sociology of childhood. The book is addressed not only to a small audience of specialists, but also to students, practitioners and those who are curious about the topic, providing them with fresh insights and information.
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