A chat with Jeremy Joyell, author of "A Lifetime Ago: Before the Death of Childhood"

eshaw@islandpacket.comMay 3, 2014 

Jeremy Joyell


Name: Jeremy Joyell

Residence: Splits time between Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island and Bristol, Conn.

Book: "A Lifetime Ago: Before the Death of Childhood"

Where to buy: Amazon

Printed by: Create Space (Amazon)

First sentence: "Nature had stretched summer's lie by at least one more day."

Plot summary: "A Lifetime Ago: Before the Death of Childhood" deals with the kind of childhood that used to be, but no longer is. I juxtapose my childhood learnings and adventures in the '40s and '50s with the profound changes which, as a teacher, I have observed in kids over the last two or three decades. My intent is to trigger special memories in older readers, and caution younger people about modern parenting.

Why did you choose to do a memoir?: I thought a memoir would be the most effective way to address the dramatic changes in child rearing. As luck would have it, I have a photographic memory, so my childhood memories are still vivid. I also got tired of and frustrated with those who had all kinds of opinions but seemed oblivious to the changes in values and attitudes exhibited by kids and their parents.

What do you consider to be the "death of childhood"?: If we can consider our first 13 years, roughly, as childhood, I would say that that period should be one of joy and innocence -- free from unnecessary stress. Much of what it once was, and still should be, has fallen victim to a disintegrating family unit, parental hovering, neglect and/or naivete, as well as overwhelming pressures arising from exploitation by elements of the media and certain business interests. All have created problems none of us could have anticipated.

What is the biggest difference between children of the past and children of the present?: It seems today's kids are subject to an overdose of social pressures (e.g., sex and violence) and are allowed to conduct their lives with major misconceptions about self-restraint and entitlement.

Favorite childhood memory: My sixth-grade teacher, Jack Delaney, brought out the best in me. He was at once both encouraging and demanding and, because he was much like a big brother and father, I rose to the challenge. He showed me what I was capable of if I put my mind to it. He did all this with a wonderful sense of humor and a friendly boot in the rear end.

Previous writing experience: I have edited a few doctorate theses and a book, but, aside from that, my only other writing experience involved college course work.

Favorite childhood book: "Amos Fortune, Free Man," by Elizabeth Yates

What is next?: Possibly something about present day problems in education.

Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.


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