Growing Up Critical Context (Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction) - Essay

Russell Baker

Critical Context (Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

At the beginning of Growing Up, Baker writes of his chagrin at “having become one of those ancient bores whose highly selective memories of the past become transparently dishonest even to small children.” His regret at having dismissed his own past so casually and his belief that all young people need to know and understand the past from which their lives came signal his motivation for writing this book. His attempt to place his own life in the context of his time succeeds so well that Growing Up deserves a prominent place among young adult biographies.

Indeed, there are several reasons to consider including this book among those biographies recommended for young adult readers. First, the literary quality of this book is high; it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in biography for 1983. Baker’s evocative prose is disarmingly simple, unexpectedly rich. Second, as a recollection of the life of a young person during the Great Depression and World War II, this book offers a personal account of that time. While history texts give political facts, books such as Growing Up offer examples of the realities of the lives of people during the period under study. Finally, this is a book that points out how often young people share common emotional experiences, regardless of the differences in the times and places in which they live. The tendencies of generations to believe themselves unique may be lessened with the knowledge that many children find growing up to be painful and bewildering.