Christopher Collier Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Christopher Collier 1930– James L(incoln) Collier 1928–

American novelists and nonfiction writers.

The Collier brothers have collaborated on several historical novels for young adults. Christopher, an American history scholar, provides the historical framework, while James, an established fiction writer, creates characters who represent various responses to historical events. The Colliers attempt to show that history can be interpreted in many ways, unlike the often static recounting of incidents presented in many textbooks. The Colliers often set their stories in colonial America and depict common people who undertake heroic struggles. They examine such topics as racism, sexism, freedom, and war in a historical context, suggesting that the past can provide a useful guide for modern social behavior.

The Colliers have been praised for presenting contrasting perspectives of historical events. In My Brother Sam Is Dead (1974), for instance, they depict the Revolutionary War as an internal war fought between those Americans who were loyal and those hostile to British rule. They show that many people opposed rebellion and they present the effects of war on both individuals and families. This novel won wide acclaim for its portrayal of a family divided because of the war. Many of the Colliers' protagonists struggle for social justice. In War Comes to Willy Freeman (1983), a young black female attempts to overcome racial and sexual prejudice in pre-Revolutionary America.

The Colliers' work has been generally well received by critics. Many find their blend of historical facts and fictional characters both entertaining and informative.

(See also Children's Literature Review, Vol. 3; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 4; and Something about the Author, Vols. 8, 16.)