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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

However varied in setting and topic, these books share a concern with social issues that Skurnick finds less prominent in fiction today. “When I was growing up, there was this wonderful flourishing of books about being black and being Jewish,” she said. “There was such an interest in these ‘issue novels.’ Like ‘Goodbye, Columbus’ really was considered a book about Judaism, and it was, and it was fascinating.

“It was a time of ‘The personal is political.’ There was always this mix of memoir and history. We’ve re-entered that time in some respects, but now it’s taking place on Twitter and blogs.”

Skurnick believes that today’s readers have much to learn from revisiting these books published in a “less careful” time. “It wasn’t only a progression from small-mindedness to larger-mindedness,” she said. “Most of the books from that era are much more detailed about racism and say more about the lives of Jews. I’m not sure we’re getting quite that level of rigor now. That was the era of the public intellectual and the big novel.”

Of her list, she said: “Every single one of these books is about significant things that happened in America. I sometimes think if an alien came down and wanted to know what America was like, I’d say, ‘Come look at my library.’”

This is just one reason that Skurnick so passionately believes that these books should remain in print in perpetuity. “I don’t want these books to go out of print ever again my lifetime,” she said. “If it’s within my control, I’m not going to let it happen. It’s a shande [shame] these books ever went out of print in the first place. I used to feel rage when I found certain books were out of print. It would be like taking M&Ms or, you know, croissants off the market!”

She plans to release the entire backlist of favorite out-of-print authors so that readers themselves can determine which of their long-lost Y.A. classics they want to read and collect: “I want to let readers make their own selection — to resurrect their own childhood bookshelf without necessarily resurrecting the childhood bookshelf of the entire universe.”

Skurnick predicts that her main audience will be adults who loved the books as teens — though, she adds, “I don’t believe in gearing books toward a certain market. We all found these books even though they weren’t marketed to us at all. We all knew we were supposed to buy “Flowers in the Attic” and “My Sweet Audrina,” but there wasn’t a Twitter campaign telling us to.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can never predict who your readers will be. Who knows, maybe 58-year-old dads will get a thing for M.E. Kerr. I’m thrilled whoever it is. I want children to read these books, and adults to read them, and generations of people to read and enjoy them.”

Laura Moser is the co-author of four young adult novels, the most recent of which, “My Darklyng,” ran as a serial on Slate.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.