AbeBooks top 20 tales of shattered childhood (Now go call your mother!)

Just in time for Father's Day! If you need to be reminded that your childhood wasn't actually all that bad, AbeBooks offers the most depressing summer reading list ever:
"In many ways, our childhood defines the rest of our life. Books about childhoods shattered by pain and suffering – both fiction and non–fiction – are commonplace today but they have a long history dating back to the English tale of the Babes in the Wood in the 16th century. Some like Oliver Twist and Anne Frank's Diary illustrate a period of history, while others, such as Lord of the Flies and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, have become deeply symbolic."

The list includes everything from classic genre fiction like Flowers in the Attic to big bucks contemporary memoirs like A Long Way Gone and Running With Scissors, my personal favorite being Ham on Rye, Charles Bukowski's strangely wonderful roman a clef of ass-kickings and acne. Great book. Check it out.


jennymilch said…
ooh, what a great assortment! i suppose it says something about me, but i love books where childhood plays a role in the ultimate plot resolution...
Joni Rodgers said…
I do too! One of my worst habits as a writer, in fact, is that the need to create a huge childhood backstory for everybody and their dog. 99% ends up on the cutting room floor, of course, but I don't know how to know a character without knowing the character as a child.
I'm reminded of the famous Flannery O'Connor quote: "Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days."

Btw, read the most heart-wrenching novel about a teenage girl's life last night. A YA book, actually, SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. Amazing, amazing book. Read it in one sitting. It's enough to give anyone flashbacks about high school and the effort to fit it.

You have to read this book.

And I don't think giving your characters' backstory's a bad habit, Joni. It might not show on the page, but it shows in the richness of the personality. I tend to do the same, trying to figure out what would make this character be the way he/she is.
jennymilch said…
That's a good one, Colleen. And if you know when to cut, Joni, I imagine that must only lend depth and breadth to what remains.

But I've had a couple of experiences where editors passed on a novel because they felt that the childhood underpinnings made things too obvious. And I always struggled with that--had I laid it out too overtly because I was sort of informing myself as I went along? Or is there this kind of post-psychotherapy age backlash where even offering an explanation for behavior seems pat?
Joni Rodgers said…
I read SPEAK a few years ago when Jerusha read it in a high school English class. (She did an amazing art project on it. Sadly, the teacher loved it so much she asked to keep it, so it got wrassled out of my grasp.) It is a beautiful book.

Jenny, I won't even pretend I know when to cut. That's why God created critique partners.
I'd forgotten you told me you'd read it, Joni. TJ loved it, too. Will have to get it to Bobbi.

And amen on needing critique partners to help us with perspective!

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