The Distant Mirror: Reflections on Young Adult Historical Fiction

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Scarecrow Press, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 210 pages
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Young adult historical fiction brings the past alive through stories of adventure, suspense, and mystery. The genre is both complex and controversial, encompassing novels that range from romance and fantasy to stark historical realism. The book examines the various approaches to young adult historical fiction and explores the issues that it has engendered. Part One focuses on the broader issues spawned by the genre itself, including its various subgenres - the line between fiction and fact; to what degree must an author adhere to historical accuracy?; time boundaries; the diary format; the protagonist as the outsider; who is entitled to write what?; and literary concerns such as the relationship between accuracy and readability. Part Two explores issues of contemporary interest, such as race, class, gender, the immigrant experience, religion, war, and nationalism. Thought-provoking discussions of how these elements are treated in historical novels, with emphasis on how current cultural values have shaped the fiction, are presented. Finally, the question of whether novels in this genre are bound by anything other than their respective period setting is posed, and it is contended that there are features common to YA historical novels that not only set the genre apart from other YA fiction, but also contribute something unique to the larger genre. The genesis for much classroom debate, suggestions for class discussions and writing assignments as well as sample written responses of these debates from the authors' classes are included. Teachers, librarians, instructors of young adult literature courses, and teen readers will find this an insightful analysis of YA historical fiction.

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About the author (2006)

Joanne Brown is retired from her position as a professor of English at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she taught courses in writing fiction, American drama, and adolescent literature.

Nancy St. Clair is an associate professor of English at Simpson College in Indianoloa, Iowa, where she has just completed a long term as chair of the English Department and served as the Director of the Cornerstone and Senior colloquium programs.

Joanne Brown and Nancy St. Clair are also authors of Declarations of Independence: Empowered Girls in Young Adult Literature, 1990-2001 (Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2002).

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