Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Isaac Asimov is known as one of the most significant writers of American science fiction of that genre’s golden age. The first volume of his autobiography, In Memory Yet Green, is perhaps most important because it documents his participation in that golden age as well as that of L. Sprague de Camp, Robert A. Heinlein, Frederik Pohl, Cyril M. Kornbluth, L. Ron Hubbard, and John W. Campbell and such science-fiction magazines as Astounding Stories (later Astounding Science Fiction), Amazing Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories.

Asimov was born of Jewish parents in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, before the formation of the Soviet Union. The first five chapters of the book deal with the Asimov family in the time of the Russian Empire and Revolution and with their emigration to the United States in 1922. This part of the autobiography contains material showing life in the Jewish shtetlach during the Russian Empire and how that life changed after the Revolution.

In 1922, the Asimov family settled in Brooklyn. Although they were not observant Jews, they lived in a part of Brooklyn largely inhabited by other Jews. Chapters 6 through 21 deal with Asimov’s youth, the family’s attempts to make a living, Asimov’s education in the public school system and as an undergraduate at Columbia University, and with Asimov’s attempts to break into the world of science-fiction writing.

Academically, Asimov was a talented child, and these chapters detail all the joys and disappointments such a child would experience. For Asimov there were more joys than disappointments. His parents valued learning and expected him to be the smartest in his class, and until his enrollment at Boys High School he often was. Asimov entered Columbia University before his sixteenth birthday, but he was placed in Seth Low Junior College rather than in the more prestigious Columbia College. He believes that Columbia’s admissions officers considered him too Jewish to be Columbia material. Even...

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(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Erlanger, Ellen. Isaac Asimov: Scientist and Storyteller, 1986.

Fiedler, Jean, and Jim Mele. Isaac Asimov, 1982.

Gunn, James. Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction, 1982.

Hassler, Donald M. Isaac Asimov, 1987.

Slusser, George F. Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of His Science, 1987.