Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Norma Klein - one of my all-time favorite authors

I am sad that most of Norma Klein's books have gone out of print. When I was a teenager, she was my absolute favorite author. I felt that she understood me better than anyone. Historical books I often loved, but still didn't completely identify with. Sci/fi Fantasty were fun but not relatable. Her teens were whip-smart, going to excellent schools and eventually off to excellent colleges, they often came from non-nuclear families, and they had boyfriends and they had sex. And it didn't mean that they were bad kids or that they were the drinking partiers or sluts, or anything like that. It was so reassuring to me to see teenagers having real relationships, including sexual relationships, and it in no way ruined their lives. This was so much more realistic than all the after-school specials and other messages that were being drilled into us at this age.

The environment was slightly exotic, since I'd only been to New York City once in my life when I was 10, and I found the notion of apartments and subways to be quite fascinating, growing up in the Southern suburbs. In fact, as an adult when I did decide to move to New York, I felt that these books were a bit of a primer for me. I don't know if I would have made that move without all the prep work by Ms. Klein (and to an extent, Judy Blume).

In various reviews she was compared to Philip Roth and Woody Allen. She wrote at least 39 books. I am baffled that she has fallen out of popularity. She understood teenagers on a very basic level. She didn't ignore unpleasantries -- she mentions AIDS in several of her books, the kids use condoms, most of them have divorced parents. She made smart kids who didn't grow up in a nuclear family living a sit-com life, feel like we were normal too, even if it didn't seem "normal" compared to our friends' more conventional lives. I always felt she was my friend.

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