FOREWORD I am so grateful for this book celebrating the Children's Defense Fund's thirtieth anniversary. This gift of thirty-four extraordinary American writers sharing their stories of growing up in America paints a complex, richly detailed, and achingly real portrait of American childhood. Every reader will catch glimpses of his or her own childhood and see the childhoods of others with new eyes. Tina McElroy Ansa remembers her nurturing black Georgia family and community as a world "made up of stories," and listening at her mother's side "as she whipped up batter for one of her light-as-air, sweet-as-mother's- love desserts." In a town on Chicago's North Shore, Mary Morris learns early on how girls and women can get into "trouble," while boys and men escape blame - and, since she is a girl, she makes an exit plan, just in case. Michael Patrick MacDonald sees his father's face for the first time at his funeral and leaves the service with a renewed appreciation for the family he does have and the unspoken community of love and loyalty that surrounds him in his poor and desperate "white trash" South Boston neighborhood: "For once in my life I felt I should be proud of where I came from, who I was, and who I might become, and for a moment was ashamed for having ever felt otherwise." Lois-Ann Yamanaka writes about trying not to panic when the autistic son she loves so fiercely sees balloons in the supermarket checkout line, knowing the moment is about to escalate into a .t of frustrated screaming and thrashing that will force her to drag him from the store while other customers stare in disgust: "In JohnJohn's world, I can afford to buy him every balloon on every trip to the market. In JohnJohn's world, he takes all of the shiny balloons home to our yard full of white ginger blossoms and lets all of them go . . . [a] moment of beauty, his silent freedom." Anna Quindlen looks at the overscheduled lives of today's children and mourns what's been lost: "Pickup games. Hanging out. How boring it was. Of course, it was the making of me, as a human being and a writer. Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking at the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky. I don't believe you can write poetry or compose music or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity." Alan Cheuse writes about his especially fortunate circumstances growing up on the water: "I don't know how it would have been, born into a town without a coastline . . . The ebb and flow of waters, the detritus, flotsam, treasures left behind on the sand, the marine life, fresh water and salt mingling in the tides, the sound of buoys on summer nights, bells, horns, the ships anchored within sight of our playlands: the hope this gives you as a child, there is almost no explaining." And in another world, Julia Alvarez dreams of someday being able to turn her life story into a book another little girl might want to read - "a girl like me, no longer frightened by / the whisperings of terrified adults, / the cries of uncles being rounded up, / the sirens of the death squads racing by." As singular as every one of these stories of childhood is, common threads run through them, linking experiences across race, class, and geography. The role of many memorable adults who stand up for children is striking. I hope readers will recognize people like them in their own lives: Alexs Pate'sTaylor, Elizabeth is the author of 'Dream Me Home Safely Writers on Growing Up in America', published 2003 under ISBN 9780618379026 and ISBN 0618379029.