American Historical Fiction: An Annotated Guide to Novels for Adults and Young Adults

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Wells Society. This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy. It looks like you are located in Australia or New Zealand Close. Visit the Australia site Continue on UK site. While one might argue that fiction aimed at specific groups of teens "targets" them, one can also argue that the proliferation of the multiplicity of adolescent viewpoints serves to promote the individual experiences of members of these groups to the larger adolescent population. While much literature still needs to be created that describes the experiences of these adolescent groups, it need not and should not be "targeted" only to an audience consisting solely of these individuals.

Such an approach defeats the purpose of having multicultural literature available at all, since the purpose of such literature is to broaden the horizons of young minds -- both by building bridges of similarities and by showing the beauty of difference. Professionals ranging from librarians to booksellers to psychologists disagree on the defining ages of the young adult. The original young adult reading audience was perceived in the s to be high school age, but today most young adult librarians place the age range as anywhere between ten years old to eighteen Campbell, Because these definitions have been recently established, a plethora of juvenile fiction exists in libraries that is suitable for young adults, but has not yet been reclassified.

Yet it is important to begin meeting the needs of young adults, which is one of the fastest growing populations in the country Jones, Numbers are currently estimated at 25 million and expected to peak at Clearly, this is a population that needs to be reached out to.

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Before the term "young adult literature" existed the generic and somewhat pejorative "juvenile" literature. Not surprisingly, many young adults tend to shy away from books classified as juvenile. A simple definition of young adult literature is anything that is read by young adults -- from juvenile fiction to comic books to adult biographies. But there is also a specific style unique to young adult literature. Multiculturalism is an important component of young adult literature, particularly African American and gay teenage fiction.

After African Americans began to demand authentic representation of their lives in society, other cultural groups, such as Latinos and Asians, demanded realistic portrayal. What defines multicultural literature? Brenda Michell-Powell, editor of the "Multicultural Review", notes that true multiculturalism stresses "culture and its multifacetedness rather than [the] concept of multiculturalism as a euphemism" Ford, , p. This definition is the most relevant and authentic because it applies the term to as many distinct cultural groups as possible.

Literature need not necessarily represent the experiences of a person of color to be multicultural. This understanding is especially important during the formative young adult years. However, controversy emerges over who is qualified to write multicultural literature. This question of authenticity, of the ability of an "outsider" to write about a group of which one is not a part, applies to both African American and gay and lesbian teenage fiction.

Recently, however, some white authors have attempted to accurately research their novels to portray authentic characters free from bias Smith, This is especially helpful when some authors have written on topics that otherwise might not be published. Yet the ability of white authors to write authentically about multicultural characters is not the sole issue at hand. White authors predominate the publishing world almost exclusively in both the adult and young adult genres, and it is extremely difficult for unestablished authors of color to get into print.

Despite these continuing controversies, the publication of multicultural fiction for teens is especially important. Willett notes that through such literature "children are able to recognize themselves" and relates how one student commented that "finally, there are good books about us and our communities. African American teenagers are teenagers at risk.

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Violent death accounts for more deaths among young black men than any other cause and Yet Collins believes that young adult literature provides an untapped resource that "can provide black young adults with a means of transcending racism and segregation, can lead them to self-discovery, and can help them eliminate whatever sense of isolation or alienation they may have" p. African American leaders and writers have known since the late 19 th century that they must create literature addressing the needs of their own youth, since society at large would either ignore or denigrate African Americans.

Establishing an exact starting point for this tradition and creating complete bibliographies is difficult, though, as few texts have survived. By the s, an emerging educated African American middle class desired culturally authentic literature for their children. Dubois and Augustus G. These publishing efforts marked the beginning of African American young adult literature as they provided a forum for artists of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps. Title II of the Elementary and Secondary School Act passed in made federal funds available for multicultural projects for the first time.

That same year, the Council on Interracial Books for Children CIBC was founded to encourage authors and artists of color to create good books for children, and to sponsor contests for unpublished African American writers and authors.

American Dream, American Nightmare FICTION SINCE 1960

All of these developments paved the way for African American authors to create quality fiction for young adults. By , several African American authors of young adult fiction became increasingly prolific, particularly Walter Dean Myers and Virginia Hamilton.

Today, these authors remain dominant in their field, along with newcomers such as Jacqueline Woodson. Yet by the s, the upswing in African American young adult fiction reversed. As Rudine Sims notes, "during the eighties, however, a vastly different cultural climate has emerged…. The national government is busy trying to turn back the clock on civil rights" p. Indeed "retrenchment" seemed to be the watchword for African American young adult books during this time period. Publishers saw the market declining for these kinds of books, and tended to select manuscripts more conservatively than ever.

Alternative presses that were successful in the s folded. Fortunately, the s are bringing about a welcome revival. In , HarperCollins and Scott Foresman announced a mentoring program and annual awards in conjunction with the Center for Multicultural Literature in order to once again encourage new talent among African American writers Smith, Publishing statistics, however, are still bleak. Also, if the publisher believes that the targeted audience cannot sustain the product, they will not attempt to achieve parity with other better selling books. Historical and contemporary realistic fiction are the two types of novels published about African American youth.

Historical fiction is particularly important for all young adults to have access to because they "provide a glimpse of history in a palatable form for both black and white young adults" Corson, Both historical and contemporary novels emphasize a strong sense of community and continuity from generation to generation, as well as the will and strength to cope and survive both physically and psychologically Sims, African American realistic fiction was not always so well balanced, however. They are characterized by having a paternalistic or patronizing attitude toward the black characters, and being overly sympathetic or sentimental Sims, These books tend to suggest that all Americans share middle-class values and life experiences, tend to contain no racial conflict, and focus on integration Sims, While these books in and of themselves make positive contributions to understanding between races, they tend to ignore important aspects of African American life experiences.

These are the books largely published today, and encompass the majority of works written by African American authors themselves and are characterized by "black characters [who] are looking into themselves , rediscovering their mythology, redefining their history, celebrating their language, their music, their art, their ethos" Dybek, , p.

Historical fiction about African American young adults continues to play an important role in helping both African American and white teens understand the context of racism in this country.

An Annotated Guide to Novels for Adults and Young Adults

Some historical fiction is not limited to one time period, but covers a span of decades or even centuries, ending contemporarily. The Glory Field by Myers is one such example. Every other chapter traces the fate of some members of the Lewis family, which manages to be connected through the ownership of the field in which they initially worked as slaves.

The final chapter is actually more contemporary realism than historical -- as Malcolm Lewis has to convince his present-day crack addict cousin Shep to go to a family reunion. Lane notes the importance of initiation in African rituals and as an essential exercise in the identity development of African people.

Other examples of historical fiction can depict more recent examples of racism. This Newbery Award-winning novel also employs gripping Southern dialect and expressions, which are another hallmark of young adult African American novels. Contemporary fiction is no less significant. However, it is important for the sake of representing accurate multicultural settings that a reasonable balance be struck between realism and negative imagery.

Kutenplon and Olmstead note that "until recently, images of family were another major shortcoming of this literature: too many absent fathers; too many sick, dysfunctionally neurotic or addicted mothers, too many children parenting themselves" p. Robin F. Most gay or lesbian teenagers have realized that something was "different" about them since childhood. Savin-Williams reviewed several studies from the s which reported that gays and lesbians often noted this difference between the ages of 11 and 16 Fischer, Adolescence for gay and lesbian teens is fraught with danger.

Likely to face harassment, violence and suicide, these teens are the most alienated, rejected and isolated youth in American schools Gibson Alarming at risk behaviors range from decreased school performance, truancy, and substance abuse, to juvenile prostitution, unsafe sex, and suicide Gibson About one third of all teenagers who commit suicide are gay or lesbian Torres, Often these teens are terrified of sharing their newly-discovered sexual orientation with others and feel as though there is nowhere to turn.

Supportive information, whether in the form of accurate information about homosexuality, or quality fiction supporting the transition in their lives is imperative. Sears notes that many gay or lesbian teens surveyed felt that "reading material supportive of homosexuality" is essential for their self-acceptance Caywood, Quality young adult fiction for these teens is even more scarce than for African American teens, however, and stereotypes and negative portrayals of gay and lesbian life continue to be prevalent.

The earliest mention of gays and lesbians in young adult novels is usually limited to anti-gay epithets and the occasional character included to represent the "wrong path" Jenkins, Although a few books, such as the The Diary Of a Young Girl by Anne Frank include homosexual references, the first novel to truly address homosexuality as a theme was published in -- the same year that the Stonewall rebellion in New York City sparked the gay and lesbian liberation movement.

Taken as a group, these young adult novels emphasize that being gay or lesbian has no lasting significance for any of the characters, and can be thought of as a "phase". While most books do not outright condemn the protagonists as sick or immoral, the plots generally portray a strongly discouraging picture of homosexual life.

In these titles, the representation of homosexuality became increasingly complex St.

Clair, In these titles, sexual identity is seen as something to be positively explored and dealt with, although not all books in this category end "happily". While the plot does include many negative episodes, such as the firing of two lesbian teachers, these events serve to provide a realistic portrayal of the difficulties one often faces by coming out. The book is also important because it was published in hardback and by a major press despite the fact that it essentially celebrates a lesbian romance St.

Wonder by R. Palacio: August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. The Search for Wondla series by Tony DiTerlizzi first book in series: The Search for Wondla : When a marauder destroys the underground sanctuary that Eva Nine was raised in by the robot Muthr, the twelve-year-year-old girl is forced to flee aboveground.

In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the s and s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

The Ultimate Guide to Books for Reluctant Readers Ages 12 to 13

Sometimes Joey makes bad choices. Joey ends up bouncing around a lot — and eventually he bounces himself all the way downtown, into the district special-ed program, which could be the end of the line. As Joey knows, if he keeps making bad choices, he could just fall between the cracks for good. But he is determined not to let that happen.

Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can.

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You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. I came here because my mother said I had to. Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo first book in series: Midnight for Charlie Bone : A mysterious case, the search for a missing girl, and a legacy of magic. Once there, he realizes that some of his classmates have equally mysterious powers, and Charlie becomes absorbed in uncovering their dangerous secrets.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair—it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive. And, oddly enough, for just as long, her mother has seemed anxious to keep Emily away from the water. With a sure sense of suspense and richly imaginative details, first-time author Liz Kessler lures us into a glorious undersea world where mermaids study shipwrecks at school and Neptune rules with an iron trident — an enchanting fantasy about family secrets, loyal friendship, and the convention-defying power of love.

Everyone from Napoleon to Houdini is related to the Cahills, yet the source of the family power is lost. Who says a pen has to be called a pen?

Why not call it a frindle? Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word. Then other people in town start saying frindle. Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero. As Liberty moves into the White House, she vows to make herself indispensable to her country—but can she get past her run-ins with the Chief of Staff? Or about how a mysterious box of vials, the Symphony of Smells, sends them on the trail of a magician who has vanished under strange and stinky circumstances.

You see, not only is the name of this book secret, the story inside is, too. For it concerns a secret. A Big Secret. A game of basketball with the boys-especially her friend Jake-was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then suddenly the world seemed to turn upside down, and everything changed at once.

Apocalyptic Fiction

Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from. What lengths will Joy go to-and whom will she become-to attract his attention? There are great biographies that make famous people really come alive to kids. Go to the biography section at the local library and grab whatever might look interesting, or try these two series and see what you think.

Childhood of Young Americans Series.

Who Was? El Deafo by Cece Bell: Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is.

Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi first book in series: The Stonekeeper : After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals. Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo: It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You! What neither can predict is that Ulysses the squirrel has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.

Whatever comes up — cranky toddlers, huge dogs, scary neighbors, prank calls — you can count on them to save the day. But no matter what, the BSC have what they need most: friendship. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines.

Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They are sisters, after all. Try also Smile and Drama by the same author. Friendship to the max! Big Nate: Mr. Dealing with School Picture Day, playing on the basketball team, and coping with crushes are just some of the hijinks Nate gets into in this comics collection.

Mouse Guard series by David Petersen first book in series: Mouse Guard: Fall : In the world of Mouse Guard, mice struggle to live safely and prosper amongst harsh conditions and a host of predators. Thus the Mouse Guard was formed: more than just soldiers that fight off intruders, they are guides for common mice looking to journey without confrontation from one hidden village to another.

The Guard patrol borders, find safeways and paths through dangerous territories and treacherous terrain, watch weather patterns, and keep the mouse territories free of predatory infestation. They do so with fearless dedication so that they might not just exist, but truly live.

Read classics that you might have loved out loud with your kid. Ann M. Websites have FAQs, extra resources, and announcements for book readings or when their next book is coming out. NPR has an excellent podcast series called Backseat Book Club where they interview authors and review books. There are great recommendations on there, and hearing the authors talk about their inspiration and why they wrote their stories might inspire kids to pick up the books.

Read Books that Inspired Movies and Television Shows: Watch the movie then read the book or vice versa, then talk about what you might have liked from each. There might be productions and local theater companies performing shows based on books as well, so keep an eye out for those! Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh movie.