“If you didn’t know whether to risk doing something, what’s the worst that could happen? ‘So they call you pisher!’ ”
In this memoir, Michael Rosen recalls the first twenty-three years of his life. Born in the north London suburbs, his parents, Harold and Connie, both teachers, first met as teenage communists in the 1930s Jewish East End. The family home was filled with stories of relatives in London, the United States and France and of those who had disappeared in Europe.
Unlike the children around them, Michael Rosen and his brother Brian grew up dreaming of a socialist revolution; party meetings were held in the front room, and summers were for communist camping holidays. It all changed after a trip to East Germany in 1957, when his parents decided to leave ‘the party’. Michael followed his own journey of radical self-discovery: running away to the Aldermaston march to ban the bomb, writing and performing in experimental political theatre, getting arrested during the 1968 movements.
“About a year before I was born, my brother died; he was not yet two. I don’t know the exact dates of his birth or the death. They were never marked or mentioned in our house or anywhere else. There was no memorial for him. There were no framed photos of him in our house. He was invisible. My arrival into the world must have been a mixture of delight and dread. Delight that I had come along to fill up the gap left by the one before. Dread that I could go too… I must have been the replacement child. Perhaps I was also a cough waiting to happen. Every snuffle, every slight rasp of a breath must have given them reason to worry.” – Michael Rosen
Michael Rosen is the author of over 140 books of poetry, stories and politics. He was the Children’s Laureate between 2007 and 2009 and is currently the Professor of Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has won numerous international awards for his work in literature. He presents Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4.
“The lovely thing about Rosen’s writing is that it is rooted in the reality of his own post-war childhood – you can smell the matzo bray his father makes as a treat when his mother is out, hear the wheels squeak on his go-kart, sense the thrill of him and his ten-year-old friend Mart on holiday climbing the Sugar Loaf mountain and crossing from Wales into England with their trousers down.” – Guardian
“Throughout his career, Rosen has inspired children and adults to fall in love with reading.” – Independent
“In his writing, he puts on no airs; his literary background (English degree from Wadham, Oxford) has not held him up – or back. Sometimes his writing is so simple, you wonder at it: how did he resist the temptation to dress it up? He knows – in his work at least – when to stop.” – Kate Kellaway, Observer
Natasha Devon’s event is available to watch on YouTube or on @PanMacmillan Instagram TV channel until 24 June and she will be doing a live Q & A on Monday 1 June at 6 pm on Pan Macmillan’s Instagram channel. You can order Natasha’s book by email to email@example.com or call 020 8552 9993.
Are you locked down with children in years 5 or 6? We have four lessons for classroom or family use developed from On the Record’s oral history project centered around Newham Bookshop, Writing and Reading Newham. Click here for full details.
Michael Rosen’s poem, These Are The Hands, features in a book of poems from the heart of the NHS, which has just been published.