Can Memoir Be Written As YA Fiction

old book cover
old book cover of Catcher In The Rye, photo by j/k lolz

Just last month Alan Rinzler, in his excellent blog called “The Book Deal”, wrote a short piece about Young Adult fiction. A lot of good information is available here, including tips from 3 top agents, a discussion of what defines YA, a look at the trends and a cheery assessment of the future. Also, included is a brief eulogy for J.D. Salinger, a very apropos  topic for a post on Youth Adult. Mr. Rinzler has many good observations such as the use of first person, taboos, the boom, the use of illustrations and the subject of advances. All of this makes for a good read, especially since YA is red hot right now.

Which leads up to a YA book that kind of transcends the Youth Adult label much like The Catcher in the Rye did, when it was first released. The book in question is called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian and it is written by Sherman Alexie. Alexie is a well-known writer from the Northwest, who writes a lot about Indian (as in Native American) and White relationships. This book is his first attempt at YA, but since the novel received the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, it has received more national attention than Alexie’s other writing.

What I find so fascinating is the autobiographical style of the writing. In this case using the first person is a great way to enhance the storytelling. It also leaves the reader wondering how much of the novel parallels Alexie’s experience growing up on a reservation in the same part of the country. No matter how old you are this book makes for a very engaging read and it can be particularly savored by anyone interested in the craft of YA, autobiography or a combination of the two.

Another interesting fact is that the story is illustrated by Ellen Forney – and I’m not just talking about an occassional drawing here and there, but rather a whole running visual narrative that complements the writing very nicely, but by no means tries to push the book into the realm of a Graphic Novel. The book is worth a quick look, just to see how the drawing works in relation to the writing.

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