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AFS Review: Notes

Jeanne Pitre Soileau Awarded 2018 Chicago Folklore Prize

Tuesday, November 13, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rosalind V. Rini Larson

The 2018 Chicago Folklore Prize was awarded to Jeanne Pitre Soileau for her book Yo' Mama, Mary Mack, and Boudreaux and Thibodeaux: Louisiana Children's Folklore and Play (University Press of Mississippi, 2016) at this year’s AFS Annual Meeting in Buffalo, NY. This impressive volume grows out of forty-four years of fieldwork with children’s folklore in Louisiana. The committee found the study to be fresh and inventive. The work pays careful attention to African American children’s culture and digital folklore. Soileau documents how race, inadequate material conditions, and social struggles are marked in children’s play on the playground and online. Starting with collected material from Louisiana’s integration of schools in the 1970s to the early 2000s, the book illustrates the power of folklore in children’s expressive lives in a myriad of historical conditions. What is wonderful about the text is how the many genres of expression covered—chants, jokes, jump-rope rhymes, for example—reveal children’s propensity for adaptation and cultural commentary. Soileau, a native of New Orleans, also really understands her subject as a former school teacher of over forty-seven years. Ultimately, the committee found Yo' Mama, Mary Mack, and Boudreaux and Thibodeaux: Louisiana Children's Folklore and Play to be a compelling example of folklore scholarship.


Since 1904, the American Folklore Society (AFS) and the University of Chicago have awarded the Chicago Folklore Prize yearly to the author of the best book-length monograph in the field of folklore. The Chicago Folklore Prize committee broadly interprets the study of “folklore” to include works that also engage with the fields of cultural studies, music, the arts, literature, sociology, and anthropology, among others. 

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