The year was 1996. It was the year of the Atlanta Olympics: the year that I discovered the awesomeness that is Women's Gymnastics. Every four years since then (like many of my fellow Americans), I rediscover it and am full-on obsessed for about a month. It's like the Brigadoon of sports. Anyway...
Headbands and overalls? #GottaBeThe90s
Following my introduction to "RESEARCH" the previous year, I still wasn't back on the fiction writing track. I was getting big into being in plays and musicals, though, which kept my interest in storytelling alive and kicking. Occasionally high-kicking.
Here's what I was reading in 1996!
As you might be able to tell from these covers, I was kind of going through a phase. A lone-kid-versus-wilderness-and-the-big-bad-world phase. It was kind of the forerunner to about seven years later, when I went through a phase of teenage angst -- which, mind you, consisted of listening to Good Charlotte and wearing heavy eye makeup and lasted about twenty minutes.
I don't know if 1996 was when I hit the point of existential crisis that every tween must face or if I just picked off the Newbery award winners list that year, but this point in my reading life was marked by stories about young people who had to face danger, hunger, loneliness, grief, and even death. The writing of each of these stories made them real to me, and I was drawn into the struggles of these characters. Even now, years and years later, tidbits stick with me:
-Brian from Hatchet throwing up and feeling like he was going to die alone after eating the wrong kind of berries, and trying to find supplies in the wrecked plane without looking at the dead pilot.
-Philip from The Cay burying Timothy, his guide and only friend on the island, after a hurricane.
-Sal from Walk Two Moons trying to finish her journey to find her mother by driving her grandparents' car alone (at age 13) along the treacherous mountain highways of the western United States.
-Karana stepping up as a hunter after her brother's death leaves her alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins.
-Mafatu sharpening his spear point to face the shark he fears, and to no longer be considered the coward of his village in Call it Courage.
-Rifka's anger at the rough treatment of her family by border officials as they attempt to immigrate to the United States, and her realization that she must fend for herself after she is left behind, in Letters from Rifka.
Each of these children (for they were children by age, if not by life experience) confronted so much more in the span of a few chapters than I could imagine facing in my life. Parents and siblings were killed, disease and natural disasters struck, authorities were corrupt, and the basic needs of life were almost impossible to find. But the characters, each in his or her own way, found ways to survive and bring themselves to the last page of the books -- leaving as stronger, wiser, braver, and more capable children than when they began. Their endings were not neat and tidy happily-ever-afters... but you closed the covers of these books knowing that the characters you had come to care for would be all right. If you ask me, that's good writing.
Now tell me, what were YOU reading in 1996? And did you have a survivalist phase in your literary choices (at least, prior to The Hunger Games)?