Today’s GLBT History Month Icon: Author Maurice Sendak
Today’s GLBT History Month icon is Maurice Sendak. Born June 10, 1928, Sendak is a renowned author and children’s book illustrator perhaps most famous for “Where the Wild Things Are” which was adapted for the big screen in 2009.
From Equality Forum:
Hailed the Picasso of children’s literature, Maurice Sendak has inspired the imagination of readers young and old for more than 40 years. A prolific author and illustrator of children’s books, he has published over 100 works of fiction. Sendak has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Caldecott Medal, the National Book Award and the National Medal of Arts.
Born in Brooklyn, New York to Jewish immigrants, Sendak’s early childhood was plagued with illness. He spent most of his time indoors where he satisfied his imagination with books. Having discovered his creative voice at a young age, Sendak found a perfect outlet in drawing and illustration. At the age of 12, after seeing Disney’s “Fantasia,” an awestruck Sendak decided to become an illustrator.
PBS calls Sendak “one of the most consistently inventive and challenging voices in children’s literature. His books and productions are among the best-loved imaginative works of their time.” Sendak is best known for his book, “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963) which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. In 2009, it was adapted into a critically acclaimed film directed by Spike Jonze.
Despite a celebrated career as an illustrator, Sendak’s work has often generated controversy. Over the years, his children’s book, “In the Night Kitchen,” (1970) has been censored in several states due to illustrations deemed inappropriate. “Where the Wild Things Are” has been condemned by conservatives who claim the book involves witchcraft and supernatural elements. “I thought my career was over,” recalls Sendak. “The kids saved me. They loved the books because they are not afraid of life.”
In addition to writing and illustrating, Sendak has created award-winning set designs for dance, opera and theater, including Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Prokofiev’s “Love for Three Oranges” and Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker.” In the 1970’s he donated nearly 10,000 works of art, photographs, manuscripts and books to the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.
For decades, Sendak hid his sexuality from the public fearing it would ruin his career. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.” In a 2008 interview with the New York Times, Sendak opened up about his private life and revealed his 50-year relationship with [psychoanalyst] Eugene Glynn, who passed away in 2007.
In 2009, filmmakers Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze teamed up to produce “Tell Them What You Want,” a documentary about the life of Maurice Sendak.
Below is a short interview with Sendak in which he talks about the film adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are”:
- “American Masters: About Maurice Sendak.” PBS.org. 24 Aug. 2007.
- “A Conversation with Maurice Sendak.” National Public Radio 19 May 2010.
- “Interview: Maurice Sendak.” PBS.org. 19 May 2010.
Articles about Maurice Sendak: