Suzy Lee: Surrealism for Kids
By merruveen AFCC 2012
As an author for children’s literature, one must be able to successfully navigate the boundaries between adulthood and childhood. One author that manages to understand that concept and apply it to her work successfully is Suzy Lee. Her insight adds weight to the nature of how children literature, contrary to common belief, is actually set apart from conventional literature entirely, abiding by it’s own different sets of rules and conventions. Suzy Lee insists that to be able to write a successful story for a child, one must be able to straddle and portray a liminal representation of adulthood and childhood – that is, to adopt a tone and subjectivity that is accessed through childlike lens, whilst at the same time maintaining a flow of didactic knowledge that is derived from the experience of adults.
Her subsequent presentations on her works display this duality in full force. One book worth a special mention is Mirror. Mirror is a representation of both possibilities of reality and illusion as one may view it through a mirror, and according to her, is left ambiguous and open to “interpretation”. It is interesting how adults and children both are able to come up with different, yet equally interesting perspectives on the meaning of the book. For example, adults felt that it was a reflection of an internal self one sees in a mirror, whilst for some children it was more simple, that the child was simply “lonely” because she only saw herself. In a sense, her works are “conduits” for creative expression, and therefore succeeds in its attempt to create a form of interactivity with its readers.
The thematic nature of its content, too, belied the philosophy she adopts in writing good children’s literature, and that was a self reflexive need to navigate the boundaries between what was real and what was fantasy, in order to come up with an honest work of art. Another book, Shadow, also reflects this sentiment.
In Shadow, Suzy Lee once again attempts to represent a liminality between adult and childish subjectivity. It is easily interpretated; the top half represented a realist, “adult-like” perception of every-day scenes, whilst the bottom half represented the increasingly fantastical subjectivity and imaginative agency of a child. Here is an example:
She makes an interesting observation at this point, and that is that while an adult defines his reality by empirical observation, a child on the contrary “plays pretend seriously… [and] what may appear as fantasy to adults can readily be the most pressing reality to a child”. Her intention of making this contrast obvious shows her attempt to navigate inherent differences between adult and child, and to show that both views can be equally valid. In this way, this is food for thought not only to children, but to adults as well.