For a writer who has sold millions of copies of her novels, S. E. (Susan Eloise) Hinton carries a very brief and unassuming biography. She was born and has spent most of her life in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is also the setting for her fiction. In her junior year of high school, her father died of cancer; that same year, at the age of seventeen, she completed the manuscript for The Outsiders (1967). She enrolled in the University of Tulsa in 1966, and the novel was published in her freshman year. She graduated in 1970 with a degree in education. She and her husband, David Inhofe, live in Tulsa, where their son, Nicholas David, was born in 1983.
While Hinton has given several interviews, she remains a private and rather shadowy figure. The myths that have grown up about her—that she was herself a gang member like the young “greasers” she depicts so graphically in The Outsiders, for example—are probably more a tribute to her novels: Her young fans get so involved in her work that they imagine more about her than can be true. Her private life has remained just that, and she has gained the most publicity by involving herself in two of the film productions of her novels: She was present on the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders in 1983 (she plays a minor part as a nurse in the film), and she wrote the screenplay for Coppola’s film version of Rumble Fish (the novel was published in 1975) later that year.
By the time Hinton was thirty-one, she had four major young adult works under her belt and was considered by many critics and teachers to be one of the most important figures in the development of the young adult novel. In July of 1988, she was awarded the first YASD/SLJ Author Achievement Award, given by the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association and School Library Journal, for novels that provide young adults “a window through which they can view their world and which [can] help them to grow and to understand themselves and their role in society.”