Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 280
Nat(han Irving) Hentoff 1925–
American novelist, critic, journalist, and editor.
Hentoff's nonfiction and young adult fiction reflect his passions for jazz, literature, and civil rights. Hentoff is a critic and historian of jazz and often uses jazz-related backgrounds and characters in his fiction. Topical social themes also appear in Hentoff's fiction, noted for representations of teenagers who are more socially and politically aware than traditionally portrayed.
Hentoff's studies of civil rights, both as historical analysis in The First Freedom: The Tumultuous History of Free Speech in America and as discussion of developments since the civil rights movements of the 1960s in The New Equality, have been praised for their treatment of conflicting viewpoints. They are strongly recommended for young adult readers. Social issues also challenge the young protagonists in Hentoff's fiction. I'm Really Dragged but Nothing Gets Me Down relates the story of seventeen-year-old Jeremy Wolf, who is willing to serve his country but refuses to register for the draft; In the Country of Ourselves analyzes relations between people of different races; and The Day They Came to Arrest the Book explores freedom of expression and the issue of censorship. In addition to the social problems that challenge his young protagonists, Hentoff also examines more personal concerns, such as the relationships between young people and their peers, parents, and authority figures.
Hentoff has been cited for his ability to "get inside" the life and thoughts of modern teenagers. The ardent concern and sympathy with which he writes has earned him respect from readers of all ages.
(See also Children's Literature Review, Vol. 1; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5; and Something about the Author, Vol. 27.)