Monday, January 31, 2011

Cutting Edge Teen Literature

They were. Well, back in the early 1970s they were cutting edge. In honor of my weeding efforts on Friday, here are two books that were getting old even when I was in middle school, yet somehow still reside on my library shelves.

Zindel, Paul. My Darling, My Hamburger. (1969)
This is still in print; in fact, you can buy study packets so this can be taught in the classroom! Seniors Liz and Sean have a physical relationship that ends with Liz becoming pregnant. At first, Sean promises to marry her, but after talking to his judgmental father, decides not to. Maggie, Liz's friend, takes her to have an abortion. Nothing is explained in detail, but this would have been groundbreaking stuff. Maggie is interested in a rather depressed boy named Dennis. Also unusual is the inclusion of handwritten notes and language arts papers, although that reminded me a bit of Up the Down Staircase. None of the characters are very likable, and almost more jarring than Liz being pregnant is her smoking! I may pull this one for lack of interest.

Klein, Norma. Mom, The Wolf Man and Me. (1972)
Brett's mother has never been married, has a career as a photographer, wears jeans a lot, has a boyfriend who brings movies over for Brett to watch, gets another boyfriend who occasionally spends the night, and fixes steak tartar for dinner. With raw egg on top.

So many scandalous things, and thirty years later all we can think is "The mother let the girl eat RAW HAMBURGER???" It seems somewhat odd to me that in the 1970s, when relatively fewer parents were divorced and dating, that there were so many books about children dealing with those issues. Now, when it is more common, there are not as many. I really should pull this one, but the description of Brett and her mother at a peace march in Washington wearing dresses "so people don't think only hippies protest", puts this so squarely in the realm of historical fiction that I may keep it. I didn't realize that Norma Klein died back in 1989, at the age of 51. Most of her books included controversial topics, and she also wrote Sunshine, about a young mother dying of cancer. That was my speech for Prose and Poetry my sophomore year. This should go, but I'll probably keep it.

Another series that really needs to go is Constance Greene's A Girl Called Al. (1969) I loved this one, but no one has read it, or the several sequels, in the entire time I have been at Blendon. So why am I sad that I never got to read Al's Blind Date?


  1. Do you have a copy of Up the Down Staircase in your library? I'll have to check and see if we do. I haven't thought of that book in many years. Not even sure I read it. Our high school did it as a play in 1972, the year after I graduuated. (some friends were in it)

  2. Norma Klein is classic -- she's the racier Judy Blume. I remember passing her books around as a kid. And I remember when Zindel was edgy.

    My middle school library declared that my name on a check-out card didn't count in terms of circulation, because I had read literally 90% of the collection, which made weeding hard. That's still the proudest achievement of my life.

  3. When I got to my current library I could tell a massive weeding needed to take place. Now that I'm neck deep in the project I'm regularly surprised by some of the things I find still on the shelf!