ChLA 2022 Annual Conference: June 2 - 4, 2022

Theme: City in a Forest

Hyatt Regency Atlanta
265 Peachtree Street, NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
For details regarding Hotel Reservations and Rates, visit this linkConference Registration will open in the new year. Stay tuned!


Thank you for your interest in ChLA 2022: City in a Forest, our annual conference to be held in Atlanta, GA June 2-4, 2022. We are excited about the conference and our return to meeting in person after a two-year hiatus from face-to-face events.

We realize that many found the virtual conference last year to be accessible in ways that we had not fully anticipated. We are grateful that the conference was so successful. And although offering some of the in-person conference sessions virtually would be of interest to some, it is simply cost-prohibitive to create a hybrid offering at this time. Creating a hybrid is equivalent to managing two conference events. Because we book conference hotels so far in advance, we are locked into a contract for on-ground conferences for 2022 and 2023. However, we're excited to think about the virtual possibilities for 2024 and beyond.

We are exploring the possibility of recording and posting to the ChLA website some of the more highly attended sessions for additional member engagement. We will continue to communicate those options via the website and through member communications. So please stay tuned!



“We pass under the shade of the magnolias and red oaks that sprout everywhere in Atlanta. Trees easily outnumber residents.” The Downstairs Girl (2019) by Stacey Lee 

Image of Atlanta the City in the Forest.

Atlanta holds any number of monikers—Hollywood of the South or the Cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, for example. Indeed, local residents also refer to Georgia’s state capital as the “City in the Forest.” And so, for ChLA 2022: Atlanta, the first in-person meeting of the Children’s Literature Association since 2019, we’d like to grapple with the questions, contradictions, and possibilities that arise in considering the concept of a “City in a Forest” within the context of young people’s literature and media.  

Children’s literature scholars have long grappled with the ways in which young people have been associated with the natural world, whether that be to nostalgize an idyllic, pastoral past or to emphasize youth’s wild, untamed behavior. But children are also used in culture as markers of the future, which is often conflated with progress, industry, and metropolitan spaces. As Rebekah Sheldon notes, “The child became legible not only as a record of the past but as the recipient of a specific biological inheritance freighted with consequences for the future.” The figure of the child, in other words, becomes a site of promise, possibility, and protection.  

Critics have explored the implications of an ideological nexus between city and nature on many fronts, from perspectives of environmentalism to that of hybridity. As we ponder relationships between the city and the forest within and beyond children’s literature, we can also look to and learn much from Afrofuturism, Indigneous futurisms, and other frameworks that explore the ecosystems of individual and social identity. 

We see this in Melissa Jenkins’s study of the flying motif in Black picture books. Jenkins identifies how characters make sense of the divides between country and city, past and future in the ways that they “map, mark, and delineate as part of pointed socioeconomic critiques, responding to the difficulties of urban life by expanding the accepted geographies of black experience and politicizing projects of urban ‘uplift.’”

Patrizia Zanella similarly draws attention to flight in The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (Georgian Bay Métis Community, Métis Nation of Ontario). Zanella reads the efforts of the young Indigenous protagonists of Dimaline’s novel’s “to relearn their language while being on the run” as an example of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg)’s assertion that “Indigenous fugitivity is always flight inwards” and “away from settler colonialism.” As Dimaline’s characters travel through trees and surrounding dystopian urban spaces, they create and renew kinship relationships, including, climatically, in a type of Indigenous city in the forest where they join up with like-minded resisters.

Such narratives exist within and around Atlanta, a city marked by contradiction, trauma, and prosperity. It wrestles with how to negotiate its past with its present, and continues to experiment with future paths that will both support a diverse metropolitan area and embrace its natural environs. For instance, Clarkston, a suburb of Atlanta, has the highest number of refugees per capita in the United States, and many local refugee organizations focus their efforts on creating community spaces that take advantage of Atlanta’s “forest”—community gardens, co-ops, and summer camps for children. But stories of the refugee experience also take into account the hardships of landscape, such as Linda Sue Park’s Long Walk to Water or Fabio Geda’s In the Sea there are Crocodiles. Nature can be a source of terror and solace in stories of refugees, and we encourage papers that explore this unique Atlanta population. 

We invite proposals that examine, from any number of angles or interpretative lenses, this concept of a “City in a Forest” within children’s and young adult literature, media, and culture. Papers might address: 

  • utopian and dystopian spaces  

  • trees as characters or central story locations 

  • nature and nostalgia 

  • literature or media about or set in Atlanta 

  • Atlanta as liminal space 

  • international and farmer markets within cities 

  • Afrofuturism 

  • migrant experiences in urban and rural settings 

  • steampunk 

  • food justice and accessibility  

  • reproductive futurity  

  • queer ecology 

  • Ideas of hybridity  

  • nature as an idyllic past or future 

  • fantasy as a space that explores/complicates nature  

  • garden and greenery landscapes in the city 

  • post-apocalyptic landscapes and cityscapes 

  • stories of the displaced or refugee populations 

  • posthumanism and ecopoetics 

  • relationship between urban and rural in Civil Rights Movement  

Additionally, given the welcome response to the introduction of pedagogy posters at ChLA 2021, we invite proposals for these for ChLA 2022 as well. Pedagogy poster proposals may be submitted in addition to or instead of paper proposals. They should focus on specific approaches to teaching children’s/YA literature or media and provide take-away ideas for adoption/adaptation into the classroom.  

PLEASE NOTE: Papers previously accepted for Seattle 2020 may be presented in Atlanta 2022. If a member chooses to use a previously accepted 2020 proposal, simply submit with a note indicating so. Members may likewise choose to hold those previously accepted 2020 proposals until Seattle 2023, which retains the same 2020 CFP 


“Beloved Community” in Children’s and YA Literature

The King Center, housed in Atlanta, GA, focuses its work, in part, on the concept of the “beloved community,” a term that has come to be associated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his mission as a Black Civil Rights leader. The King Center defines “beloved community” as “a global vision” for imagining and bringing about a world where “racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood… [and] international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power.” Further information on the concept of beloved community can be found on the King Center’s website.

With respect to Atlanta’s history as a center of Black political activism, the Diversity Committee seeks paper proposals that respond directly or indirectly to the topic of “beloved community.” How have children’s and YA literature been a means of working toward a world without racism and violence? In The Dark Fantastic, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas writes that “resolving the crisis of race in our storied imagination has the potential to make our world anew.” How have Black authors, illustrators, readers, and communities — along with Indigenous people and other people of color — turned to children’s and YA literature to liberate our imaginations and bring about more just communities and societies?

As bell hooks notes, the beloved community is not postracial: “Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” How might children’s and YA literature participate in or work in opposition to this project, and how can children’s literature studies as a field work toward better supporting such a vision?

Papers might examine:

  • Children’s and YA literature as a means to work toward or achieve beloved community
  • Where we see beloved community represented in children’s and YA texts: For example, do we find it in fantasy and speculative fiction, which imagine communities that do not yet exist in reality? Do we also find it in realist fiction, poetry, or other forms and genres?
  • How children’s and YA literature represent Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement
  • How, in alignment with King’s vision, children’s and YA literature imagine antiracism, nonviolence, and social change on a global scale
  • Children’s and YA literature and resistance against U.S. militarism and empire
  • The role of children and youth in the creation of beloved community: as symbols, as agents, as leaders, etc.
  • Rudine Sims Bishop’s concept of “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” in relation to beloved community
  • The past and current failures of children’s literature studies as a field to foster beloved community — as well as challenges going forward and aspirations for a more inclusive and just field in the future
  • How King’s visionary approach speaks to other approaches to resisting and healing from racial oppression and violence, as found in children’s and YA literature: the Black Panthers, abolition and transformative justice, memory work in Indigenous communities, the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa, etc.
  • How children’s and YA literature reflect the importance of intersectionality (Kimberlé Crenshaw) and interracial solidarity among Black Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Latinx Americans, and Native Americans in the formation of beloved community: For example, what might children’s literature studies learn from Sami Schalk’s work on disability, race, and gender in Black women’s speculative fiction?
  • How children’s and YA literature capture the relationship between beloved community and recent political movements around issues such as policing, immigration, refugee resettlement, and environmental justice

Send 250-500-word abstracts by October 15, 2021 to:
Celeste Trimble ([email protected]) and Michelle Pagni Stewart ([email protected]).
Black, Indigenous, and other scholars of color, including graduate students and independent scholars, are especially encouraged to apply.


"Dreams" in Children’s and YA Literature

In past years, the International Committee of the Children’s Literature Association has organized a special panel focusing on children’s and young adult literature from a specific country at the conference. This year, we are hosting a themed panel at the ChLA annual conference to be held in Atlanta, Georgia from June 2-4. To that end, we seek paper proposals on the topic of “Dreams” that approach this theme from an international, non Euro-American perspective. Preference will be given to papers that examine texts originally written in languages other than English and/or created by authors and illustrators from communities beyond Anglo-American children’s and YA publishing traditions, including global indigenous communities. Topics could include but are not limited to the following:

  • dreams as the vision of what is possible, including political/social change
  • children’s dreams, aspirations or nightmares (literal and figurative)
  • adults’ dreams or visions about childhood
  • dreams as expressions of cultural desires, aspirations or fears
  • dreams as a narrative device (“it was all just a dream”)
  • dreams and storytelling as imaginative work
  • Freudian understandings of dreams as “wish fulfillment” as well as other interpretive paradigms that come from non-western traditions
  • symbolism and meanings of dreams in various cultures (e.g. Dreamtime)
  • dreams of other places, spaces, and opportunities
  • dreams as a way of memorializing/recovering the past
  • dreams as a way to make sense of or to re-imagine selfhood
  • dream worlds vs lived realities
  • inter-generational dreams/visions
  • dreamers and visionaries

Since there might be an option to present at the conference virtually, we encourage scholars and students who are based outside of North America to submit proposals.

Please submit a 350-word abstract and a 200-word biographical statement with the subject line, “ChLA 2022 Themed Panel Submission” to [email protected] by 11:59 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time) September 30, 2021.

Two abstracts will be selected, and the authors will receive “The ChLA International Honor Award,” which includes a grant of $500 each to cover expenses related to the conference (such as the membership and registration fees). Those papers selected for the International Focus panel will accompany a presentation by the Distinguished Scholar who will be invited by the committee to present at the conference.

Authors of proposals selected for the panel will be notified by October 10, 2021.  The International Committee encourages those scholars who are not selected for the Themed Panel to submit an abstract through the general Call for Proposals so that international children’s literature will become part of other panels at the conference. The deadline for general submission to the ChLA 2022 Annual Conference is October 15, 2021.