According to Kathryn Bond Stockton, professor of English and director of Gender Studies at the University of Utah, there's a child that Push and Beloved dramatize (the latter quite surprisingly): the HIV child: a sexualized child in a racialized world. Indeed, Stockton proffers two more surprises in this talk.
First, she shows how the HIV child becomes the face of the threatening more than the threatened child, messing with the narrative of childhood innocence that the U.S. general public has long favored but is increasingly starting to question. Second, she demonstrates how, in an almost opposite dynamic, world documentaries of the-child-in-peril-in-the-third-world (a genre enjoying conspicuous success on the art-film circuit) are working to restore the "Western"-style innocent child through, of all things, the sexualized, racialized, HIV child.
What can explain these dueling dynamics? How are African-American fictions an antidote to these world documentaries? How does the answer rest in part with children's passion for signification, children's libidinal relationship to signifiers? These are questions Stockton answers as she pits this passion against what she theorizes (in her words) as Kid Orientalism, showing that documentaries capture less of children than do fictions of fictionalized children.