Literary and Historical Uses of Life Writing for Young Adult Readers: “She’s only a gypsy, after all”

  • Marlene Kadar University of Winnipeg


In lieu of an abstract, here is an excerpt from this article: Versions of the memoir, or any form of auto/biographical writing, are part and parcel of the frames of mind of contemporary readers, both young and old. Theorists of autobiography remind us of the popularity of life writing and its usefulness, especially in the classroom, as an instrument of good teaching. Over the past three decades, scholars of autobiography have also made their contribution to the upsurge in popular forms of life writing; they have analyzed and theorized memoirs, letters, diaries, and auto/biographical narratives as captivating literature. Although we assume that the life writing genres are “true to life,” innovative authors use both fictionalized versions and non-fictional versions to tell their stories. Clearly, life writing holds the attention in either version but, as Schmidt’s words in the epigraph suggest, certain other questions about appropriateness and suffering come into play when the reader is a child or a young adult. A lack of attention paid by theorists of autobiography to autobiographical fiction for young adults is clearly an oversight, but it may be an oversight from which we can learn much—a generation later—about adult anxiety concerning the Holocaust and its representation. It may represent a lingering prejudice we harbour about the things we write for young adults. It may also be a sign of something more pervasive, what Boel Westin suggests is a “fear of fiction” in works written for children and young adults on the subject of war and pain, and the Holocaust in particular (qtd. in Kokkola 2).