Isabelle Holland - Essay

Isabelle Holland

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

My books have always dealt with the relationship between the child or adolescent and the adult or adults who live in and dominate the young person's portrait of self. In later years that child, become an adult, may be able to see that the first portrait was as much created by the prejudices, fears, anxieties and desires within the adult as within the child. But at the time the portrait was being painted—"You're lazy, you're stupid, you're untidy, you start well but you never finish, you're too …" (you can add anything to that)—they became the strong first strokes that created a self-image that the child will never wholly lose. He may use it intelligently, he may battle against it, he may suffer from self hatred, he may accept it and withdraw, he may reject it and fight the world—but it's there, like the monster over his shoulder, the shadow that follows him. And it is that struggle between the child and the adult in the creating of that self-portrait, that often preoccupies my writing. The lucky children are the ones who are taught to believe, as they go through life, that, whatever their faults may be, they themselves are lovable and estimable human beings. Most parents to not mean to convey a different message, but they often do. And if my books are about the wounds given in that message, they are also about the healing that can take place, given the right adult at the right time. And I suppose I will continue to write on this theme.

Isabelle Holland, "The People behind the Books: Isabelle Holland," in Literature for Today's Young Adults by Kenneth L. Donelson and Alleen Pace Nilsen (copyright © 1980 Scott, Foresman and Company; reprinted by permission), Scott, Foresman, 1980, p. 434.