Reviews & Praise


 Winner, Outstanding Book Award, Association for Theatre in Higher Education

Winner, Grace Abbott Best Book Award, Society for the History of Childhood and Youth

Winner, Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize, New England American Studies Association

Winner, Book Award, Children’s Literature Association

Winner, IRSCL Award, International Research Society for Children's Literature

Runner-Up, 2012 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize, American Studies Association

Honorable Mention, 2012 Book Award, Society for the Study of American Women Writers

“A historiographic tour de force . . .  Her rich archive and nuanced analysis will make this a classic book for theater historians and performance theorists.” The Outstanding Book Award prize committee, Association for Theatre in Higher Education

“It is original, theoretically challenging, and adds fundamentally new insights to the history of childhood.” Prize Committee, Grace Abbott Best Book Award, Society for the History of Childhood and Youth

”Racial Innocence is a brilliant, well-written, exciting and moving account of how slavery and racial discrimination have impacted children and childhood media in the USA for a long and decisive period.  The text deals with how seemingly ”innocent” areas such as play raise racial issues in performative ways. The book offers an up to date theoretical framing and is thoughtprovoking on many levels. It has potential to influence research in children’s literature for a long time to come.”  IRSCL Award Committee, International Research Society for Children's Literature

“Nineteenth and early twentieth-century material culture comes alive in Robin Bernstein’s brilliant study of the racialized and gendered ideologies that shape, inform and continue to haunt notions of American childhood into the present day. Through imaginative and masterfully innovative archival research, Bernstein shows how representations of childhood and child’s play are integral to the making of whiteness and blackness and citizenship in this country. Racial Innocence is a groundbreaking book that for the first time illuminates the powerful and critical connections between constructions of girlhood, racial formations and American popular culture.” Daphne Brooks, Yale University

“One of those rare books that shifts the paradigm--a book that, in years to come, will be recognized as a landmark in children’s literature and childhood studies . . . .  [F]ew scholars can write a sentence like Bernstein can: packed with insight, theoretically sophisticated, and yet lucid--even, at times, lyrical.” Philip Nel, Children’s Literature

"Groundbreaking... radical." Lisa Merrill, Theatre Annual

A “powerhouse of a book. . . [an] intervention of the highest order.” Douglas A. Jones, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

“Dazzling… incredibly moving.” Sarah E. Chinn, American Quarterly

“Impressively researched, cogently written, and deeply theorized. . . . [Bernstein shows how] harmless, innocent fun (as evidenced in an astonishing chapter on the minstrel roots of Raggedy Ann and Andy) became a disavowed site for the reproduction of white supremacy. . . .  [M]akes an understated but highly persuasive case for the contribution of a historically-oriented performance studies to the interdisciplinary conversations surrounding the politics of the everyday.” Tavia Nyong'o, Theatre History Studies

“Arresting. . . shows how the hegemonic project of white supremacy takes constant reinforcement in popular forms to naturalize racist practices on the ground.” Jayna Brown, Callaloo

“Offers the most influential formulation to date for understanding how children contribute to ideas about childhood and indeed to other social categories such as race.” Corinne T. Field, Modern Intellectual History

“Magnificent and stylish… truly groundbreaking.” Richard Flynn, The Lion and the Unicorn

“[T]antalizing… [W]ith ethical finesse and theoretical dexterity, Bernstein’s book explores. . . the extent to which our national reality has been a topsy-turvy one from the start.” Leo Cabranes-Grant, Theatre Survey

“Riveting.” Michelle H. Martin, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly

“Intellectually exhilarating.”  Martha Saxton, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

“Vibrant. . . [An] exemplary model of interdisciplinary scholarship.” Kristen B.  Proehl, African American Review

“Fresh and astonishing.” Christian DuComb, Theatre Journal

"Revelatory." Anna Mae Duane, MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the US

"You will never look at a Raggedy Ann doll the same way again." Rebecca Onion, Backlist

“Daringly imaginative.”  Perry Nodelman, International Research in Children’s Literature

“Remarkably impressive. . . . Bernstein surprises us with the fractures we know.” Kathryn Bond Stockton, Modern Drama

“A paradigm-shifting study of major significance.” Judie Newman, The Journal of American Studies

“Provocative, insightful, and bold.” Jenny Wills, Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures

“Far-reaching... important.” Matthew Davis, Genre

"Bernstein masterfully balances important theoretical and methodological interventions alongside insightful analysis of everyday material." Jasmine Nichole Cobb, Callaloo

“Intellectual espresso.” Michelle McCrary, Is That Your Child?

"Chilling proof that the post-racial utopia is yet to be realized in American society." Kam Williams, syndicated columnist

“Richly researched, inspiring in its analysis of archival material, and impressive in its deft ability to traverse disciplinary borders, including childhood studies, performance studies, literary studies, and American history. . . . Poignant. . . Bernstein’s superb text hauntingly prompts the reader to consider where invocations of childhood are being used in contemporary US racial formation. At a time when black childhood performances have been front and center in American media discourse—for example, the circulating images of Trayvon Martin that were used to simultaneously evidence both the teenage innocent and the future-adult-thug—Racial Innocence requires the contemporary reader to resist feigning “holy obliviousness” (8) to the ways in which racial arguments can be cloaked in children and their toys” Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, TDR: The Drama Review


“Bernstein’s powerful account of how the sentimental ideology of childhood innocence, and particularly its highly gendered manifestations, function to articulate racial hierarchies gives strong and detailed evidence for how paying attention to childhood serves to refocus many all too familiar, and troublesome, facets of American culture. I know of virtually no one of her generation who writes with this kind of verve, authority and pleasure. Racial Innocence will prove an important and widely read book--in part simply because it will be so much fun to read.” Karen Sánchez-Eppler, Amherst College