How Lizzie Skurnick Went From Young Adult Authority to Publisher

Jezebel Columist Will Launch Line of Coming-of-Age Classics

Maven of Y.A. Lit: Lizzie Skurnick blogged about books for Jezebel.
Courtesy of lizzie SKurnick
Maven of Y.A. Lit: Lizzie Skurnick blogged about books for Jezebel.

By Laura Moser

Published August 28, 2013, issue of August 30, 2013.
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Writer and book critic Lizzie Skurnick has spent years poring over the young adult classics of her youth. She’s scoured eBay for them, studied them like a talmudic scholar, praised them in (hilarious) writing. And now, at long last, she’s putting the books back out in the world for the rest of us to enjoy. Starting in September, Lizzie Skurnick Books, an imprint of Ig Publishing, will begin rereleasing the classic Y.A. literature that Skurnick has already made a career of celebrating.

Skurnick emerged as the go-to authority on gone-but-not-forgotten Y.A. books six years ago, when she started writing the wildly popular Fine Lines column for the feminist website Jezebel. Each week, she wrote about a beloved novel from her youth. A book deal followed, and in 2009 Skurnick published an expanded compendium of the columns in “Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading.”

The new imprint seemed a logical extension of the work Skurnick had already been doing to revive her favorite books and authors. “Because I’ve been writing about these books for over five years,” Skurnick said in a telephone interview from her home in Jersey City, N.J., “I’m already in touch with the readership and already the person people look to.”

And readers have been writing her, too. “People still contact me about which out-of-print books they’d like to see again,” Skurnick said, “so in a way I’ve already crowd-sourced the selection. Librarians are very excited about the series, readers are very excited — that’s why I’m so thrilled to be doing it, because I’m in contact with the people who want these books.”

Most of the books she’ll be rereleasing originally came out in the 1970s and early ’80s, when Skurnick, who was born in 1973, was coming of age as a reader — which happens to correspond with one of the richest periods in American Y.A. literature.

Skurnick, the daughter of black and Jewish parents, grew up surrounded by books reflecting both sides of her heritage, from “Black Like Me” to “Our Crowd.” “I read all those books very early,” she said. “There was always a mix. While I was reading all these Y.A. books, I was also reading the adult books that my parents were reading, or that they were buying, so I’d read M.E. Kerr’s ‘Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!’ alongside James Baldwin’s ‘The Fire Next Time.’ And if, as a child, you’re reading Judith Kerr’s ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ and a history book about German Jews in 19th-century New York at the same time, those things merged for you.”

Lizzie Skurnick Books will reflect its curator’s wide-ranging tastes. Skurnick plans to release about 12 books a year, or roughly one a month, starting in September with Lois Duncan’s “Debutante Hill.” Other early releases include “A Long Day in November,” Ernest J. Gaines’s novel set on a sugarcane plantation; Ellen Conford’s “To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie,” an “On the Road” for the teen runaway set, and Lila Perl’s “Me and Fat Glenda,” about an unforgettable friendship between two very different girls. Skurnick will also be publishing the second, third, forth and fifth volumes of Sydney Taylor’s “All-of-a-Kind Family,” which she cites as the most dramatic example of a beloved Jewish classic that has unaccountably gone out of print, and a new trilogy by Perl about a young lady after World War II whose husband survives the concentration camps and comes to New York.


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