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About Robert Coles
Robert Coles is professor emeritus at Harvard University and the author of numerous books, including his series Children of Crisis, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. He has also won a MacArthur Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a National Humanities Medal. He lives in Massachusetts.
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Titles By Robert Coles
A New York Times Notable Book
What do children think about when they consider God, Heaven and Hell, the value of life in the here and now, and the inevitability of death? Child psychiatrist, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and Harvard professor Robert Coles spent thirty years interviewing hundreds of children—from South America and Europe to Africa and the Middle East—who are developing concepts of faith even as they struggle to understand its contradictions.
Be they Catholic or Protestant, Jewish children from Boston, Pakistani children in London, agnostics, Native Americans, or young Christians in the American South, they offer honest, enlightening and sometimes startling ideas of a spiritual existence. A Hopi girl who knows for a fact that we are resurrected as birds; an African American child who believes God exists as a hurricane to “blow away” drug dealers; a young Christian who needs his faith to cope with the death of his sister, lest she be just “a big heartache to us till the day we die”; and a Tennessee child who rationalizes his belief by admitting that “if there's no God, that's all there is, ashes.”
The Spiritual Life of Children is “a remarkable book. The generosity of vision that characterizes Dr. Coles's enterprise enables him to create a climate where words of great beauty and truthfulness can be spoken.” —The New York Times
As a professor emeritus at Harvard University, a renowned child psychiatrist, and the author of more than forty books, including The Moral Intelligence of Children, Robert Coles knows better than anyone the transformative power of learning and literature on young minds. In this “persuasive” book (The New York Times Book Review), Coles convenes a virtual symposium of college, law, and medical school students to explore the phenomenon of storytelling as a source of values and character.
Here are transcriptions of classroom conversations in which Coles and his students discuss the impact of particular works of literature on their moral development. Here also are Coles’s intimate personal reflections on his experiences in the civil rights movement, his child psychiatry practice, and his interactions with his own literary mentors including William Carlos Williams and L.E. Sissman. The life lessons learned from these stories are of special resonance to doctors and teachers looking to apply them in classroom and clinical environments.
The rare public intellectual to be honored with a MacArthur Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a National Humanities Medal, Robert Coles is a true national treasure, and The Call of Stories is, in the words of National Book Award winner Walker Percy, “Coles at his wisest and best.”
In this searching, vivid inquiry, Robert Coles shows how children struggle with questions of moral choice. Bringing to life the voices of children from a rich diversity of backgrounds, including regions plagued by poverty or social unrest, he explores their reactions to movies and stories, their moral conduct, their conversations and relationships with friends and family, and their anxieties about themselves and the fate of the world. Whether they are from the poorest classes of Rio de Janeiro or middle-class America, these children lead lives of intense moral awareness.
“What meaning do terms like ‘conscience’ or ‘moral purpose’ hold for malnourished, sick, poorly clothed children in Brazilian slums or South African hovels, children whose main goal is to survive another day? In attempting to answer this question, child psychiatrist Coles shows how children in the most trying circumstances manage to maintain their moral dignity.”—Publishers Weekly
A brilliant portrait of a beloved and controversial
figure in twentieth-century spirituality.
Simone Weil (1906-1943) was a writer and philosopher who devoted her life to a search for God—while avoiding membership in organized religion. She wrote with the clarity of a brilliant mind educated in the best French schools, the social conscience of a grass-roots labor organizer, and the certainty and humility of a mystic—and she persistently carried out her search in the company of the poor and oppressed.
Robert Coles's study of this strange and compelling figure includes the details of her short, eventful life: her academic career, her teaching, her political and social activism, and her mystical experiences. Coles also analyzes the major themes her life encompassed: her politics, her Jewish identity, her moral concerns, her intellect, and her experience of grace. This is the best, most accessible introduction to the woman who was a spiritual influence on the life and work of so many, among them T. S. Eliot, Flannery O'Connor, Adrienne Rich, and Albert Camus.
Robert Coles, M.D., was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his five-volume Children of Crisis series. He is Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities at Harvard Medical School and the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University, and is the author of many books, including The Spiritual Life of Children, The Moral Life of Children, and Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion.
Here, heard often in their own voices, are America's "children of crisis": African American children caught in the throes of the South's racial integration; The children of impoverished migrant workers in Appalachia; Children whose families were transformed by the migration from South to North, from rural to urban communities; Latino, Native American, and Eskimo children in the poorest communities of the American West; The children of America's wealthiest families confronting the burden of their own privilege.
This volume restores to print a masterwork of psychological and sociological inquiry -- a book that, in its focus on how children learn and develop in the face of rapid change and social upheaval, speaks directly and pointedly to our own times.
Coles tells how to be a moral leader and shows how the intervention of one person can change the course of history, as well as influence the day-to-day quality of life in our homes, schools, communities, and nation. We need to "hand one another along" in life, says Coles, quoting his friend Walker Percy, and in Lives of Moral Leadership he explores how each of us can be engaged in a continual and mutual life-giving process of personal and national leadership development. Coles discusses how the actions of the American president affect the way people feel about themselves and the country, and-citing the influence of Shakespeare's Henry V on Robert Kennedy, and of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina on his own mother--explains how reading literature can motivate action and growth. The way in which moral leaders emerge today, and for all time, comes vividly to light in this brilliant book by one of America's finest teachers and writers.
Dr. Coles shows how the work of writers, artists, and thinkers of the past two centuries can inspire our own reflections on the daily lives we lead. He offers a compelling call to venture outside of our own selves and lives and to listen, attentively and with growing humanity, to the way others get through life. Coles encourages us to examine our own character, kindness, and complexity by looking carefully at our perceptions of others, and by studying the wisdom of authors from Charles Dickens to Flannery O’Connor, from James Agee to George Orwell, and many others. In this influential conversation about empathy and engagement, Coles inspires us to seek out deeper meaning in our lives, and guides us toward achieving greater clarity, strength, and richness of understanding, amid the moral, psychological, and social complexities of the modern world.
Most parents teach their children the lessons and skills they need to function in the world while trying to shield them from the harsher realities of life. But long before children are considered ready to face the complications of the real world, they are learning truths and perspectives most adults imagine are beyond them.
Child psychiatrist and author of The Spiritual Life of Children, Robert Coles traveled the globe for more than a decade, from Northern Ireland to Nicaragua, South Africa to Southeast Asia, across the United States and beyond, conducting in-depth interviews with children about their cultures, ideologies, national pride, and political knowledge. He learned that the greater challenges, traumas, conflicts, and issues of the world around them find their way into children’s impressionable minds and play a crucial role in their development.
Robert Coles’ unique and groundbreaking research sheds much-needed light on the psychology of childhood, revolutionizing both professional and personal understanding of humans’ formative years.
“Robert Coles is to the stories that children have to tell what Homer was to the tale of the Trojan War.” —The New York Times Book Review