GRACE ABBOTT PRIZE WINNER FOR BOOKS PUBLISHED IN 2020
The committee has selected Janet Borland’s Earthquake Children: Building Resilience from the Ruins of Tokyo (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2020) as the winner of the 2020 Grace Abbott Book Prize. The book examines the Great Kantō Earthquake, which struck Japan in 1923, with a particular focus on children’s experiences of the disaster and the roles they played in the changes it unleashed. By mining a remarkable archive of materials generated before and after the earthquake, Borland demonstrates that children played a critical role in the development of Japan’s distinctive approach to disaster-preparedness. The committee was particularly impressed with the author’s expansive and creative archive, and her nuanced analysis of the diverse material children generated about the disaster, including narratives, images, and poems. It provides a model for how historians might analyze and incorporate sources produced by children into their scholarship. The book also demonstrates how attending to children in a particular historical context can yield new insights into broader questions (in this case, how Japan developed an infrastructure of resilience). The book's graceful narrative rendered in clear and accessible prose, along with its helpful methodological discussions, will make it valuable to scholars and students in many fields.
Honorable Mention: Ishita Pande’s Sex, Law, and the Politics of Age: Child Marriage in India, 1891–1937 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020). The committee found this book to be a methodologically innovative work of intellectual history that develops a searching investigation of age as a historically constructed category. Through a critical historical investigation of India’s Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 Pande illustrates how age emerged as a powerful juridical and political category. The book raises thought-provoking questions that will stimulate productive conversations in the field.