By: Sarah Hicks
Today is the birthday of S.E. Hinton, the celebrated author whose work helped create the YA genre. Born July 22, 1948, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Susan Eloise Hinton had a profound impact early on. Her first book, The Outsiders, was published when Hinton was 19, in 1967 (meaning the book turns 50 this year). Hinton had begun writing the book at the age of 15, and says that one of the reasons she wrote the book was that she was dissatisfied with the way teenagers were portrayed at the time. Her books reflect the teenagers she knew when she was herself a teenager, and that’s very likely why they resonate so strongly with readers, and have continued to do so.
The Outsiders is still her most widely read book, though she has published eight other books since then (her other four YA novels are still considered classics.) Unfortunately, being the most widely read translates to The Outsiders also being the most challenged and banned. While there are a lot of reasons that the book has been challenged (everything from drugs and sex to the fact that the characters come from broken homes), most challenges are due to depictions of gangs and gang violence.
While the YA genre that The Outsiders’ success helped create has turned many teens into readers, the original YA novel’s continued inclusion in many school reading lists ensures that Hinton herself is still directly influencing generations of readers. In an interview earlier this year, Hinton said that she “[loves] it when people write in and say, “I didn’t like to read, and then I read your book, and I realized I can like to read.”
It’s clear that for many people, S.E. Hinton’s books were the first books they truly loved. Despite the challenges they’ve faced, her books have endured, and without her, we may not have the wealth of YA literature we have today.
Sarah Hicks is a current MLIS student at the University of Pittsburgh, and works in a local public library. She has long been passionate about issues regarding intellectual freedom, and believes that these issues are becoming increasingly important worldwide, especially those related to privacy, surveillance, and censorship. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as certain stereotypes about librarians are not wholly untrue, she is both an avid reader (of many genres) and a total cat lady. Sarah can sometimes be found @exactlibrarian.