NEWS: In Memoriam Vivian Sishu Yenika-Agbaw

Dear members of IRSCL,

On September 30, 2021, our esteemed colleague Vivian Sishu Yenika-Agbaw passed away, way before her time, after a brief but fatal illness.

She was affiliated to Penn State University, USA, as a Professor of literature and literacy in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, where she taught courses in children’s and adolescent literature in Penn State’s residential and World Campus programs. Her research interests were informed by critical theories (critical multiculturalism, postcolonialism) as well as reader response theory and focused on Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Literacies, West African and African Diaspora Youth texts and Power issues in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Her Cameroonian-American background positioned her to notice the upsurge of children’s literature from, and about Africa, her continent of origin, and other regions of the world whose literatures are not being intellectually engaged in a systematic manner as they should. She studied how such literatures are received across the globe by educators, and how it is critically engaged by scholars to enable an on-going dialogue.

She was the author of Representing Africa in Children’s Books: Old and New Ways of Seeing (Routledge, 2008), and co-editor of an impressive number of edited volumes such as Race, Women of Color and the State University System: Critical Reflections (with Amarilis Hidalgo-de Jesús, 2011); Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness: Essays on Adaptations of Familiar Stories (with Ruth McKoy Lowery and Laretta Henderson, 2013); African Youth in Contemporary Literature and Popular Culture: Identity Quest (with Lindah Mhando, 2014); Adolescents Rewrite their Worlds: Using Literature to Illustrate Writing Forms (with Teresa Sychterz, 2015) and Using Nonfiction for Civic Engagement in Classrooms: Critical Approaches (with Ruth McKoy Lowery, 2018).

In addition to teaching and research, Vivian served on various committees, such as committees that award prizes for quality’s children’s literature, such as Children’s Africana Book Award; The Golden Baobab Literary Prize; the Notable Books for a Global Society. She also committed herself to organizations that aim to strengthen internationalism and diversity in the study of children’s literature such as the overseas planning committee for the 6th biennial Pan African Reading-for-All conference (International Reading Association affiliate) that convened in Dar Es Salaam in 2009, and the International and the Diversity Committees of ChLA. Last but not least, she served IRSCL as a member of the executive board and as chair of the first Equity and Diversity Committee.

We deeply regret her premature death, as she played such a key role in promoting diversity and equity in the study of children’s literature. We will remember her as a remarkably reliable and professional colleague with an unrelenting commitment to social equity. Our thoughts are with her husband and children, her friends and her colleagues at Penn State, as well as all those who have collaborated with her.