Volume 23, Number 1
Fall 1995


Writers frequently talk of writing out of their own experience or writing about what they know best, their own lives. Though drawn on real life, fiction, of course, is meant only as a representation of reality. Even so, fiction can provide a valuable lens for viewing ourselves and our world. In this issue writers and teachers look at young adult literature that focuses primarily on adolescent female characters and their concerns and needs.

In the lead article Sue Ellen Bridgers discusses her novels in relation to her life. She writes of childhood and adult memories, of images and smells and sounds, that have found their way into her writing. Writing out of her experience means writing as a woman, to understand her connections to the women in her life and to explore through fiction the human condition.

Other articles in this issue explore particular problems of adolescent females. John Simmons encourages us not to put aside The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter as we move to use other novels in our classrooms, for Mick Kelly's coming-of-age story is filled with memorable characters and themes that touch a range of human issues. Linda Irwin-Devitis and Beth Benjamin offer an analysis of Anne Frank based on Carol Gilligan's theories of girls' development that posits the silencing of female voices through encouraging "good girl" behavior of compliance and acceptance as opposed to being outspoken. This lens gives a different perspective through which to teach The Diary of Anne Frank .

For teachers looking for books that address other issues of being female, other articles provide a good overview of what is available in both fiction and nonfiction dealing with abortion, discuss several books that show adolescent females solving problems and assuming responsibility for themselves and others, and trace differing portrayals of lesbians in young adult literature. Books in which strong female characters make decisions, speak their minds, and take control of their destinies may help girls see alternatives to the pressures and conflicting roles in which they find themselves.