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Aronson, Marc 1950– (Marc Henry Aronson)

Aronson, Marc 1950– (Marc Henry Aronson)

Personal

Born 1950; son of Lisa and Boris (both Broadway stage designers) Aronson; married Marina Budhos (an au-

thor), September 14, 1997; children: Alexander, Raphael. Education: New York University, Ph.D.

Addresses

Home—Maplewood, NJ. E-mail—marc@marcaronson.com.

Career

Writer, editor, and historian. Editor of books for children and young adults; Harper & Row, New York, NY, and later, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, New York, NY, became senior editor; Carus Publishing, Chicago, IL, editorial director and vice president of nonfiction development, 2000-04; Zooba.com, managing editor, 2001-02; acquisition editor for Candlewick Press and other publishing houses. Instructor in publishing courses at New York University, Simmons College, Vermont College, and Radcliffe Publishing program; keynote speaker at conferences.

Awards, Honors

Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and New York Times Notable Book citations, both 1998, both for Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-Garde; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for nonfiction, and, Blue Ribbon Award, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, both 2000, and Robert F. Sibert Award for "most distinguished informational book for children," American Library Association, 2001, all for Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado; School Library Journal Best Books designation, 2003, for Witch Hunt; School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews Best Books designations, both 2005, both for The Real Revolution; IMP Award for Excellence in Editing for Young Readers; ALAN prize for service to young-adult literature, 2006.

Writings

NONFICTION

(With Thomas Leonard and Cynthia Crippen) Day by Day: The Seventies, two volumes, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1988.

(With Ellen Meltzer) Day by Day: The Eighties, two volumes, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1995.

Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-Garde, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2000.

Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor, with Michael Cart and Marianne Carus) 911: The Book of Help, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2003.

Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.

John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2004.

The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2005.

(With John W. Glenn) The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World History, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2007.

(With H.P. Newquist) For Boys Only: The Biggest Baddest Book Ever, Feiwel and Friends (New York, NY), 2007.

Robert F. Kennedy: Crusader, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.

Race: A History beyond Black and White, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.

(With Scott Reynolds Nelson) Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2008.

(Editor, with Patty Campbell) War Is—, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2008.

Up Close: Bill Gates, Penguin (New York, NY), 2008.

Unsettled: The Problem of Loving Israel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to The Holocaust in Literature for Youth, edited by Edward T. Sullivan, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 1999. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including New York Times Book Review, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Los Angeles Times Book Review. Author of monthly column "Consider the Source" for School Library Journal.

Sidelights

A respected editor, Marc Aronson has been inspired in his writing career by his love of history and literature. His nonfiction titles for young adults, which include Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-Garde, and The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence, have been praised for their engrossing prose and their author's unique approach to source materials.

In addition to history, Aronson has also written on the subject of educating teens; his essay collections Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading and Beyond the Pale; New Essays for a New Era were praised by School Library Journal contributor Ellen A. Greever as "required reading for anyone who cares about young adults and their literature." In 2006, Aronson was appointed as spokesman for Save Our History, a national history education and preservation initiative sponsored by the History Channel.

Aronson began writing histories for young adults by focusing on the modern era. In Art Attack he explains that, throughout history, avant-garde artists have challenged the world with their personal visions, and that young artists, even adolescents, often take the greatest risks to bring their art to the public. "What an exciting invitation to a brisk but rigorous survey that connects Marcel Duchamp, the Russian avant-garde and Mondrian to Charles Ives and the Sex Pistols!," observed a reviewer in the New York Times Book Review. Indeed, it is through such cross-cultural and cross-generic connections that Art Attack offers fresh insights into the history of twentieth-century art despite its brevity, according to reviewers. Throughout the volume, art movements and the work of individual artists are explored in conjunction with the evolution of twentieth-century music. "In fact, what is unique and appealing in Aronson's cultural history is his placing of experimental and popular music within the art world," remarked Shirley Wilton in School Library Journal. Thus, Aronson juxtaposes the artwork of the Dadaists and rap music, Jean-Michel Basquiat's expressive scribbles and the jazz innovations of Philip Glass. The result is "an exceptional resource," Wilton concluded.

Aronson turned to the more distant past in Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, a work for which he was named the first winner of the Robert F. Sibert Award for the "most distinguished informational book for children published in 2000." Ralegh (as the man himself rendered his name) was an exceptional figure. He was also representative of his age in that his talents, ambition, and willingness to take risks all pointed toward the exploration and conquest of the New World. Ralegh's intelligence and drive took him from rural obscurity to a place as an honored member of Queen Elizabeth I's court to fame and fortune through his journeys to South America, and the particulars of his life make for an exciting tale. "Aronson not only details Ralegh's career as soldier, sailor, explorer, writer, and schemer but consistently discusses causes, effects, and the broader significance of events large and small," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, noted that, at just over 200 pages, there is not space enough in Aronson's biography to discuss every topic presented by Ralegh's multifaceted life, but added that "the book is beautifully researched, and it is written with wit and passion." A reviewer for the Los Angeles Times praised Aronson's portrait of Ralegh as "both provocative and tantalizing, revealing his subject as a person of canny wit and magnetism with all-too-human shortcomings," while Cooper dubbed Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado "sweeping, multilayered nonfiction."

Also focusing on the development of the New World, John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise "charts a parallel history between seventeenth-century Great Britain and colonial New England, as represented by emblematic figures Oliver Cromwell and John Winthrop," according to Horn Book reviewer Peter D. Sieruta. Both Cromwell and Winthrop were influential Puritan leaders: Cromwell deposed King Charles I of England, and Winthrop served as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the work, "Aronson shows how events of the 1630s and '40s have affected political thought ever since," a Kirkus Reviews critic explained. According to Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido, Aronson illuminates "the reality of religious faith and the cataclysmic clash of beliefs that created fertile ground for ideas about democracy and equality." Praising the book's focus as "fair and nonjudgmental," School Library Journal contributor Ginny Gustin added that John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise provides history buffs with a "fascinating and provocative" study that is enriched by Aronson's "extensive research."

The World Made New focuses not only on the Americas, but gives a global view of the world during the Age of Exploration. Aronson, with coauthor John W. Glenn, discuss the consequences of the European movement to the Americas, from both the perspective of the devastation of the indigenous population to the broadening of European thinking to a more modern, global thought. "Add this to Aronson's growing body of fine historical works that are changing how young readers think about history," wrote a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Carolyn Phelan of Booklist found the book to be, "A fine addition to history collections, the book offers a welcome, global perspective on the Age of Exploration."

As in his earlier titles, in The Real Revolution Aronson couches his discussion of North American history within the history of the world community. Utilizing what Aronson calls a "transnational" approach, The Real Revolution explores a Western world in tumult and shows that America's Boston Tea Party, the development of Britain's Indian colony, and the corruption exposed within the British Parliamentary system are all intertwined. Combining American history and world history, he also reveals the kernel at the core of any study of history: that the past can predict the present, and the interrelationships of nations and their people that sparked the "Age of Revolution" of the late 1700s have their parallel in today's world. Describing the epoch as characterized by a "complex social, political, and economic dance" of competing interests, John Peters added in Booklist that in The Real Revolution Aronson frames the American Revolution as part of a world war "which, paradoxically, George Washington ‘inadvertently helped to start.’" Gustin exclaimed, "This outstanding work is highly compelling reading," in her School Library Journal review, while in Kirkus Reviews a writer noted that The Real Revolution provides young historians with "a new way to look at the subject, supplying the global context often neglected in textbooks and demonstrating how the lessons of the Revolution are relevant today."

In Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials, Aronson examines the events surrounding the infamous series of trials held in Massachusetts in 1692. Dispelling the wealth of misinformation that has overshadowed the historical record surrounding the trials, he examines the contentious social, economic, and religious issues facing the small Salem community. According to Andrew Medlar in School Library Journal, the author "actively encourages the rethinking of past notions of the events leading up to the accusations and hearings." A Publishers Weekly contributor stated that Aronson "uses primary source documents and trial records to help tease out the facts of the highly charged court atmosphere," and Booklist critic Stephanie Zvirin remarked that the author produces "a dense, wide-angle view of the tragedy that evaluates causative theories ranging from deceit and outright fraud to spoiled food that caused hallucinations." Aronson also draws parallels to the "counterculture of the 1960s, modern terrorism, and current tensions between western countries and Islamic fundamentalists," a Kirkus Reviews critic noted.

Aronson has used his ability to place historical events in context in his biographies as well. His two titles in the "Up Close" series, Robert F. Kennedy: Crusader and Bill Gates feature Aronson's "exemplary history writing," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, noting of the first title that Aronson's references range "from Aeschylus to Philip Pullman." Todd Morning, writing in Booklist, commented that Aronson approaches Kennedy's life by theme rather than chronologically, making the book "more effective as a character study than as an introduction to its subject's life and times." Kristen Oravec, in School Library Journal, praised Aronson's honestly "in examining his subject as a complete human being, warts and all."

With Scott Reynolds Nelson, Aronson produced a different kind of biography in Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry. Distilling the truth about the legendary strong man from among the many stories that have accumulated about him was a challenge for the authors, and the book is almost as much their story as it is a biography of Henry. "This is an excellent example of how much detective work is needed for original research," described Blair Christolon in her School Library Journal review. Carolyn Phelan, in Booklist, called Ain't Nothing but a Man "a lively, insightful introduction to the active pursuit of history."

The concept of "race" is given historical treatment and context in Race: A History beyond Black and White. Explaining that the idea of "race" as it is now understood is relatively recent, Aronson shows that prejudice has a much longer history. He shows how differences in ideals may form the seeds of prejudice; while prejudice and racism are distinctly different, the former set the stage for the latter. "The value of this book is in the connections he draws: between Jews and Ethiopians in the mind of medieval Catholics, between the persecution of Catholics in Ireland and of Africans in America," explained Simon Rodberg in the New York Times Book Review. Race "is an impressive, informative study that demands attention," concluded Ian Chipman in Booklist. Eric Norton, writing for School Library Journal, considered the work "an essential resource for anyone studying the idea of race," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that the author's "fascinating, completely absorbing history takes young adults seriously."

911: The Book of Help is a "highly personal, often affecting roundup of essays, short stories, and poems inspired by the events of September 11th," according to a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. The contributors to this volume, edited by Aronson, include award-winning children's and young adult authors such as Katherine Paterson, Walter Dean Myers, Sharon Creech, Naomi Shihab Nye, Margaret Mahy, Russell Freedman, and Marion Dane Bauer. "Some of the best essays put the [terrorist] attacks in historical or autobiographical perspective," Roger Sutton noted in Horn Book. Claire Rosser, reviewing the work in Kliatt, felt that 911 "would be an excellent resource for teachers of writing, helping students realize the power of words to educate, inspire, to express deepest feelings."

Aronson's experience as a publisher, editor, and critic comes to the fore in Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teens and Reading, a collection of his speeches and articles that touches on the development of young-adult literature as well as the genre's major controversies. In a review for Booklist, Hazel Rochman found the author's style "clear, chatty, and tough," while pointing out that Aronson "shows that teenagers today are often more open to challenge and diversity in narrative and format than their adult guardians are." School Library Journal contributor Vicki Reutter called Exploding the Myths a "thought-provoking collection [that] should be not missed." A related work, Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era, "reveals the wider context of Aronson's particular concerns as a publisher, writer, and reader of young adult literature," wrote Cathryn M. Mercier in Horn Book. Beyond the Pale contains fourteen essays covering such topics as multicultural book prizes and the challenges of reaching teenage male readers.

As a writer, Aronson's focus is on advancing the quality of young-adult literature by presenting engaging works of nonfiction that both entertain and challenge readers. As an historian, he draws on his years of study in American history as well as the information he uncovers with each new book he writes. History, for Aronson, is a process of discovery, as he explained in an essay for School Library Journal in which he discussed the writing of The Real Revolution. "I had read enough to be pretty sure I understood how America came to be," he explained of his decision to write a book about the events leading up to the American colonies' battle to be free of British rule. "But, just as John Keats found new worlds when he read Chapman's Homer, I had the exceptional experience of seeing a new ocean of understanding open before me.

"Keats's sensation of looking out from a peak and glimpsing a vast and previously unknown expanse is exactly what I felt as I researched [the book]…. What made it even more delicious is that as I pieced together my new sense of why the American Revolution took place, I was describing a world of global contacts very much like the one we live in today." Reflecting on his time studying history as a college student in the 1960s, Aronson recalled "a similar sense of discovery as [historians] … sought to add the experiences of women and minorities into the narrative of America's past. Now, I came to realize, it is time to knit American history into world history, where it has always belonged."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-Garde; August, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 2130; March 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading, p. 1406; November 1, 2003, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials, p. 488; June 1, 2004, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, p. 1751; September 15, 2005, John Peters, review of The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence, p. 52; January 1, 2007, "Congratulations," p. 115; March 1, 2007, Todd Morning, review of Robert F. Kennedy: Crusader, p. 72; September 15, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of The World Made New, p. 65; October 15, 2007, Ian Chipman, review of Race: A History beyond Black and White, p. 41; February 1, 2008, Stephanie Zvirin, review of For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever, p. 43, Carolyn Phelan, review of Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry, p. 49.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2005, Elizabeth Bush, review of The Real Revolution, p. 129.

Horn Book, September-October, 2000, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 593; September-October, 2002, Roger Sutton, review of 911: The Book of Help, pp. 593-594; November-December, 2002, Marc Aronson, "Starting with the Answers," p. 783; January-February, 2004, Cathryn M. Mercier, review of Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era, pp. 107-108; July-August, 2004, Peter D. Sieruta, review of John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, p. 465; January-February, 2006, Kathleen Isaacs, review of The Real Revolution, p. 97; March-April, 2007, review of Robert F. Kennedy, p. 211; November-December, 2007, Barbara Bader, review of Race, p. 692; January-February, 2008, Betsy Hearne, review of Ain't Nothing but a Man, p. 117.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2000, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 710; July 1, 2002, review of 911, p. 950; October 15, 2003, review of Witch-Hunt, p. 1268; May 1, 2004, review of John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, p. 437; August 15, 2006, review of The Real Revolution, p. 908; March 1, 2007, review of Robert F. Kennedy, p. 216; July 1, 2007, review of The World Made New; October 15, 2007, review of Race.

Kliatt, November, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of 911, p. 29.

Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2000, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 6.

New York Times, February 14, 1999, review of Art Attack, p. 26; November 11, 2007, Simon Rodberg, "From the Greeks to Eminem," p. 38.

New York Times Book Review, February 14, 1999, review of Art Attack, p. 26; November 11, 2007, Simon Rodberg, "From the Greeks to Eminem," p. 38.

Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2001, Jason Britton, "Marcato/Cricket Books," p. 23; July 29, 2002, review of 911, p. 74; December 1, 2003, review of Witch-Hunt, p. 58; May 24, 2004, "Understanding History," p. 64; September 12, 2005, review of The Real Revolution, p. 70; March 19, 2007, review of Robert F. Kennedy, p. 66; December 17, 2007, review of Race, p. 53; December 24, 2007, review of Ain't Nothing but a Man, p. 58; January 7, 2008, "Boys Meet World," p. 57.

Reading Teacher, March, 2003, review of 911, p. 589.

School Library Journal, June, 1995, Linda Diane Townsend, review of Day by Day: The Eighties, pp. 144-145; July, 1998, Shirley Wilton, review of Art Attack, p. 102; December, 2000, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 52; May, 2001, Vicki Reutter, review of Exploding the Myths, p. 179; September, 2002, Wendy Lukehart, "One Year Later," pp. 44-46, and Joanne K. Cecere, review of 911, pp. 241-242; November, 2003, Ellen A. Greever, review of Beyond the Pale, p. 175; December, 2003, Andrew Medlar, review of Witch-Hunt, pp. 163; April, 2004, Wendy Lukehart, review of Art Attack, p. 64; September, 2004, Ginny Gustin, review of John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, p. 221; June, 2005, Marc Aronson, "Roots of Revolution Revisited," p. 34; October, 2005, Ginny Gustin, review of The Real Revolution, p. 180; May, 2007, Kristen Oravec, review of Robert F. Kennedy, p. 146; August, 2007, Ann Welton, review of The World Made New, p. 129; December, 2007, Eric Norton, review of Race, p. 148, Blair Christolon, review of Ain't Nothing but a Man, p. 156; March, 2008, Walter Minkel, review of For Boys Only, p. 216.

Skipping Stones, September-October, 2007, review of The World Made New, p. 34.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2006, Beth E. Anderson, review of The Real Revolution, p. 69.

ONLINE

Houghton Mifflin Web site,http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/ (April 29, 2008), profile of Aronson.

Marc Aronson Home Page,http://www.marcaronson.com (April 29, 2008).

Nonfiction Matters Web site,http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/ (April 28, 2008), School Library Journal hosted blog of Aronson's thoughts on nonfiction.

Teen Reads Web site,http://www.teenreads.com/ (April 29, 2008), profile of Aronson.

Autobiography Feature

Marc Aronson

Marc Aronson contributed the following autobiographical essay to SATA:

I never expected myself to become an author. In first grade, I hated sitting there with Dick and Jane, stumbling over the words I didn't know. And I'd gotten good at faking it. I remember walking across Broadway and 86th Street in Manhattan carrying the secret that I could not read signs as if I were a spy hiding his identity. I didn't know what those blurs of letters said and was terrified of making a mistake, being found out, but I could figure out enough to pretend. Word by word, reading was hell, a fight; every single second I wanted to give up. My parents were worried, until a teacher suggested I skim, speed read, get the gist of it—that is what I was doing on the streets, anyway. That was a first step. Then came the summer.

We were on vacation on Fire Island—a long, thin sandbar of an island that is off the coast of Long Island. The day it happened, we were in Ocean Beach, the center of Fire Island. We were walking along on wooden planks that covered the sand and served as sidewalks and, as I recall, had just gotten an ice cream cone—could it possibly have been Häagen Daz Boysenberry or Rum Raisin? It must have been pretty late, because I remember the lights being on in the stores—and my head was buried in a book. I could not stop reading, even as we walked down the street and ate our ice cream cones. The book was The First Book of George Washington, a biography with black-and-white drawings.

Biography made reading worthwhile, and from that moment on I knew what I liked reading. Reading to read—forget it. Reading to know—you can't stop me. I still haven't stopped. My guilty pleasures are the nonfiction books I don't have to read, but just want to. And, to my surprise, my great fortune is that I write nonfiction books for a living, so I am constantly getting to read, learn, and know more.

Playing Catch Up

I loved nonfiction because it gave me a chance to catch up, to be filled in, to be in the know.

I am an only child, and my parents were immigrants who worked in the Broadway theater as scenic designers. My father spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian, and heavily-accented English. My mother speaks German, some French, and English that is clearly European but sounds more like most Americans. My father's father had been the chief rabbi of Kiev, then in Russia, and later moved with six of his ten children to Tel-Aviv—when Israel did not yet exist as a country. My mother's father had been a musician, a conductor who trained in Vienna, Austria, when that was the world center of musical experimentation.

I felt that adults knew everything—all of the great artists, directors, playwrights, authors; all of the composers, symphonies, operas; the history of the Jews—and I needed to catch up. Reading nonfiction allowed me to know something so I could talk with adults, but also so

I had a world of my own knowledge about America, about sports, about things my parents did not know. Nonfiction was both entry into the adult world and a claim of my own territory—a passport in, and a map out.

One reason why I began editing, and then writing, nonfiction for younger readers was because when I was their age I needed a bridge. I needed someone from the adult world to say, it's okay that you don't know that yet, how could you, let me give you a hand, let me put all this cool stuff in terms that will be interesting to you, useful to you, so you can join in the conversation.

When I was a child, adults were probably more confident that their world mattered, and that children ought to know what happened in 1215, or who painted the Sistine Chapel, or why Mozart is considered a genius. Today, while families flock to museums and watch plenty of culture-filled documentaries, we also think of youth culture as really important. Parents depend on their children to keep them in touch with modern culture instead of feeling that they have an important world of culture that their children need to get to know. In part that is because the adult cultural worlds have shattered—we value many different traditions, but are not clear on what is the common history and culture that everyone should know. One father teaches his daughter about jazz, another passes on his love for the Beatles, a third sings Scottish ballads to his children. That is fine, though it would be nice if we all also agreed to know something about each other's traditions.

In a sense this shattering of one dominant tradition and the takeover of culture by the young was the subject of my first book for younger readers, Art Attack. The book was a combination of what I learned as my father took me around to see modern art in the galleries and museums of New York, and what I only learned later and wished I had known. I wrote it to be the book I wish I had had.

Most kids, I suspect, if they are told anything, hear criticism about modern art from their parents or teachers. When I was young some version of the cartoon in which a baby, a gorilla, or an elephant accidentally swipes a canvas with a brush, and silly critics hail it as genius, appeared over and over again. There is even a version of that kind of joke in the recent Curious George movie. Today maybe it is rap parents don't get, or graphic novels, or some odd clip on YouTube. It was different for me: my parents did like and did understand abstract artists such as Picasso. In my book I wanted to pass on their generosity and knowledge—but also my own twist, putting the whole idea of an avant-garde in a larger context. Art Attack is about the art of rebellion, especially teenage rebellion. And yet the odd thing is that for me, writing about the art of rebellion was a tribute to my parents, not a break from them. And maybe that, too, is a truth of adolescence: even as you are breaking free you are also carrying on a version of both the accomplishments and conflicts of your own family.

The Complete Book of Marvels

The two books I read growing up that gave me a vision of what I wanted to do were Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels and a book that I picked up at a school book fair, The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain. Both were so good I could not wait to read them every night. But just because of that, I was going through them quickly, and I hated the thought of finishing either of them, of having read every word they held. Maybe those experiences warped me, gave me the sense that a longer book was better than a short one.

I know many readers prefer shorter books—and in both Halliburton and Twain the chapters were not long. But I like short satisfying parts in a large whole. To this day I try to keep my chapters down to ten pages with plenty of illustrations, but the books themselves run long. I sometimes wish readers who are daunted by the size of my books had a way of just getting a chapter or two—a reader, or maybe I, should put them up on my Web site.

The two tricks of writing, I suspect, are to hook the reader so he can't wait to find out what happens—is in a big rush to get to the end—and to make the journey so satisfying he hates nearing that last page.

Halliburton is not well known anymore, but he was once a childhood favorite, probably in the '30s and '40s more than when I was growing up twenty years later. Even to me his books were slightly dated—the black-and-white photos blurred and grainy. Much as I loved TV because it was modern, mine, my generation, I think I liked Halliburton for being old—another way I was being let in on a secret, by getting to read a favorite book from the childhoods of the adults around me. I felt the same way about the very old issues of National Geographic I found one summer in camp—I was getting to see artifacts of the past, which gave me a window into its secrets.

On the pages of the book, Halliburton took a fictional group of boys and girls to fascinating places all around the world. It was a kind of ancestor of Magic School Bus, Time Warp Trio, MTV's The Real World, and a National Geographic special all rolled into one. The kids were invented, the places real. So via Halliburton, I got to visit and learn about Mt. Athos in Greece, where no women were allowed, and Machu Picchu in the Andes, the lost city of the Incas; also, what it is like to sail on a Chinese junk. I traveled the world and saw its wonders. That was the every night thrill: a new place to visit, a new discovery, one more adult place in the world that had been hidden even from them, but which I now knew. I was clued in; I had seen the whole wide world on the pages of his satisfyingly long book. I felt exactly the same way about C.W. Ceram's Gods, Graves, and Scholars—now I knew about Schliemann and Troy, Evans and Crete. At a minimum I was less behind, at best I might even have known more than some adults.

Years later I came to edit a series of books on the countries and peoples of the world: The "Land and People" books, the "Portraits of the Nations" series. The rule of rules was never to aim at a false and forced "you are there" tone: "You are standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, watching the golden rays of the sun paint the walls copper." We forbad it because, by then, it did sound patronizing—trying so hard to win over your reader, you lose him. But that was exactly the tone of the Halliburton books, and even as I carefully lectured authors, I felt a pang of regret. Why not bring readers along? I thought.

Halliburton brought me not just facts of the world, but the wonder of experiencing it. That became one of my own missions in writing nonfiction.

Every so often, I write a passage in a book in the present tense—trying, for example, to capture the heat and tension of a battle, as I did in John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell and the Land of Promise, and also in The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence.

I use present tense to begin some books, to catch readers up in the drama, as I did in Witch-Hunt. I opened the book using a scene taken directly from the transcripts of the pre-trial hearing (which is what almost all of the evidence from Salem is), and then wrote another later courtroom scene in the present tense again, paraphrasing from the transcripts.

In my biography of Robert F. Kennedy, I use present tense to give readers who no longer know about Robert Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa the crackling emotion of their confrontations on national television. And I have used present tense to capture a turning point in history, when the people of Boston had to decide what to do about the tea sitting on ships in their harbor:

It is nearly six in the evening, Thursday, December 16, 1773, and a cold rain is falling in Boston. Five thousand people from throughout Massachusetts have spent much of the day squeezed into the hard wooden benches and galleries of the Old South Church. They know that each minute that passes brings them closer to the most important decision they have ever faced. [The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence, Clarion Books, 2004, p. 150]

More and more, I am also including myself in my books—my own feelings, reactions, and experiences:

On a broiling hot day in June, I was standing on line with one of my sons at the community pool, waiting to buy an ice cream and a drink….

Crowded around the order-window was a knot of young black males, all about eleven to thirteen years old…. Suddenly the order-taker accused one of the kids of taking a bill out of the tip jar.

Did he? I felt certain that he had. Teenage boys in a pack do steal. I did. But my conviction that he was guilty did not come because he was about the same age as I was when I grabbed a drink from a grocery store and strolled out. I felt angry at him right away. Hard as it is to admit, I believed he was guilty because he was black.

Prejudice. I am prejudiced. As in a nightmare, a boy I have never met suddenly looms as a monster. We all know that it is wrong to be ruled by that kind of feeling. But that is useless in that flash of an instant when we see another person and form an attitude about him or her. It happens to all of us, all of the time.

I wrote this book to help understand why I, why we, Americans of all colors, experience race as such a powerful force, even as we dutifully state that it is just a difference of skin color, and has no significance. [Race: A History Beyond Black and White, Simon & Schuster, 2007, p. 1]

Using present tense, beginning in the action, describing my own experiences are all efforts to launch readers into the past in the same way as Halliburton took me on journeys around the world.

The Holocaust

The first really long book I ever read, one in which each chapter did not stand alone, came when I must have been about twelve, in summer camp. Perhaps there is something about camp far from home—and I was really far, 3,000 miles from New York, in Marin County, near San Francisco—that makes you want to have a companion, a book that is yours alone and which you keep opening up and turning back to. I can't say I really read all or understood much of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich that summer, but I now suspect there was another reason I was reading it—aside from trying to show myself what a smart, independent, New York kid I was.

I came to that camp because it was near the home of my mother's sister, our only relative in America at that time. Trude had lived through the war in Amsterdam, in a strange kind of open hiding. Unusually dark skinned, she "passed" as Indonesian for awhile—a Dutch family agreed to pretend she was their nanny—and the Nazis were fooled, for the moment. But then her gentile husband, a Resistance leader, was betrayed, caught, and executed. In danger, she had to run and hide for the rest of the war.

I bet I was reading the book to be able to feel that I could talk with her, that I understood. Trude never spoke about the war, and drove a Volkswagen—a German car, which had originally been designed by the Nazis to be a people's car, a volks wagon. She certainly was not asking me to bone up on the history of the war. But her head had a slight shake all the time—something had happened to her, there was a tremor in her. Trying to understand that quiver was a different form of catch-up—not acquiring knowledge so I could speak with and understand adults, but so I could comprehend the terrible experience that had so shaken my distant, beautiful, beguiling aunt.

I was born in 1950, and that always seemed a sunlit year to me—half the century, a nice clean zero at the end, a year for new beginnings. Growing up in the era of the Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone shows on TV, of the Mickey Mouse Club, the Yankees dominating baseball, and then the rise of the Mets, the space program, the Kennedys, I thought of myself as formed entirely by hope and energy—looking up, looking out, looking ahead.

I loved the Disney book Our Friend the Atom, in which atomic power was portrayed as the genie let out of the lamp who would bring clean, inexpensive energy to the world, a kind of miracle power the way penicillin was a miracle drug. Our Atomic Age was in the shadow of the bombs used against Japan, but that was a blip from the dark past. Atomic power would heal the sick, heat our homes, take us out into space. It was the triumph of science over nature. Only later did we see nuclear reactors malfunction at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and Chernobyl in the Ukraine, which taught us to distrust the safety of atomic power. Only later did we learn how many people had been exposed to harmful radiation even when scientists knew the risks. Only later did we realize that no technological breakthrough could change human nature. Our darkening view of science actually matched a more disturbing knowledge that had always been there, but which I—like most of my generation—tried to ignore.

I have come to realize that we all felt the shadow of the Holocaust, which ended just five years before I was born. I've noticed that it comes up often in books I write and edit. I did not realize until much later to what extent the nearby darkness made the people of the '50s so hungry for light. We were not merely striding forward, we were propelled, running away as much as running towards.

Maybe that is like all the yuppies who took up running in the '80s; yes, it was for health, to keep slim, to go after personal bests of all sorts. But it was also to create as much distance as possible from the '70s—the ragged aftermath of the '60s, collapsing communes, fading revolutionaries, disenchanted religious converts, wasted drug users. For them, every early morning in Nikes with headphones was another day further away from waking up late, lost, and confused. For us, every moment we spent looking ahead was further distance from the Holocaust—proof that it was really over, behind us, sealed away in history, never to happen again.

But it had happened, and so close to our lives it nipped at our very heels. I have never written a book about the Holocaust, but it is there in all my books. I once wrote an essay about the experience of editing Holocaust books, and Edward Sullivan used it as the introduction to his The Holocaust in Literature for Youth. That essay was my most direct engagement with the Holocaust. But the Holocaust cast two shadows over my generation: the need to do right—to improve the world, to stand for civil rights—and an awareness of darkness and evil. Those two themes come up often for me. In the fall of 2007, my book Race: A History beyond Black and White came out. Readers can see how closely I think the civil rights struggle and the Holocaust were intertwined. The best example is the opening of the second to last section, which talks about the night when the network television broadcast of Judgment at Nuremburg was interrupted by film showing policemen beating marchers in Selma, Alabama.

In fall of 2008, Israel will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary, and I've written a book to come out then. The two themes of the Holocaust—civil rights and an awareness of evil—keep coming up as I think and write about Israel. I love the country, where most of my relatives live, and yet I could not live there. I deeply admire what Israeli Jews have created, yet feel they are just beginning a version of the civil rights struggle (in their case, for Arab citizens of Israel) that American experienced in the 1960s.

Fiddler

My first experiences in judging words came from my parents, not my teachers. Every so often my father would ask me to read a script he was considering and tell him what I thought. I was not sure of what to say—how to judge, what standards to use. I felt more overwhelmed than flattered, though I knew he was turning to me, including me in his work life.

I believe it was the summer when I was thirteen and again at camp when my father sent me a script to read called Tevye and His Five Daughters. It was based on short stories by Sholem Aleichem, who knew my grandfather and whose work I liked. His stories are something like Twain's: they capture a time and place, but have a witty distance. He shows you Jewish life back in the old country, but he is not sentimental; he sees the foolishness and foibles of the world he describes. Like Twain, there is a twinkle in his eye as he describes his neighbors.

I knew that the Tevye stories were very similar to our own family history: my grandfather the rabbi who left Russia for Israel, who did in fact have five daughters (and five sons), none of whom were religious, and whose eldest son married a gentile. And yet I did not like the script at all—I couldn't see why modern American audiences would care about these characters from old Russia. A year or two later, my father gave me another script, which I loved. I don't remember the title, but it was a revolutionary drama in which all the modern radical movements played a part, on the way to the end of time.

The script I did not like was produced as Fiddler on the Roof—the most successful play my father ever worked on, and the Broadway record-holder until Cats surpassed it. The apocalypse play was, as far as I can tell, never produced. My judgment was one hundred percent wrong. Yet, in a strange way, I think both scripts have continued to influence me to this day.

Fiddler is about a Jewish milkman in Russia who has five daughters he needs to marry. As each one pairs up, Tevye's world cracks apart—the traditions that have held his community together are being challenged by modern ideas of love, politics, of assimilation, until, in the end, the community is no more. The family is leaving for America for some new kind of life. In a way that story was the same as the revolutionary play that I loved and my father, wisely, rejected. It is about the end of one life and the start of another, about what we have to give up in times of great change, and what we can bring with us. In one way, or another those are the themes of all of my books. I mentioned those very themes earlier in talking about adolescence with Art Attack. And whether I write about Sir Walter Ralegh, or John Winthrop, or Robert Kennedy, whether I explore my thoughts on race and prejudice or Israel, I keep being drawn to moments of great change. I feel drawn to the stories of traditional communities cracking apart—letting go, moving on, finding new strength.

At thirteen, I thought Tevye was a story only for grandparents. I did not realize how his conflicts spoke for so many people perched between old and new, then and now, tradition and change.

Teachers

I had one great teacher in high school, and two in college, and they shaped my thinking about history, books, writing. In the school I went to from first grade on, English classes and social studies classes were combined. So whatever history you read about as fact, you also explored in fiction.

The best class in the school was given by Mr. Beiser, our eleventh-grade teacher. His full name was William Jennings Beiser—like William Jennings Bryan. History buffs will recall two things about Bryan, who ran for president three times: he was a great speechmaker, defending the rights of "common people," and he argued against evolution in the Scopes trial that is portrayed in Inherit the Wind. Mr. Beiser's parents were surely thinking of Bryan the populist when they named their son—who came from somewhere in the Midwest, was fair and honest in a wonderful all-American way, and who favored "the people" against big business. When he was my teacher he had just served on the jury in an attention-getting trial in New York where several black young men were accused of a crime, and the jury did not trust the evidence against them.

Mr. Beiser serving on the jury fit perfectly with the school where he was my teacher. New Lincoln was located in Harlem, on 110th Street, facing Central Park. It, and its sister school, Walden, were the center of the New York liberal commitment to civil rights, and especially black/Jewish cooperation. Andrew Goodman, one of the three civil rights workers killed in 1964 in Mississippi, went to Walden. When one of the black students who integrated Little Rock in 1957 left her school, she came to New Lincoln.

We knew from the first day that the whole junior year was being aimed towards Mr. Beiser's famous Moby Dick test. We read our way through nineteenth-century American history while also reading short stories by Melville and Hawthorne. I was cocky; I loved American history and was sure I could ace any test. The first quiz was about the economy of the colonial era, and, calling on my reading, I went colony by colony, region by region, and listed what each produced. I was so proud of knowing the differences between the products of tidewater and backwoods Virginia.

Mr. Beiser said what I wrote was fine for tenth graders, but was so bad as an eleventh-grade essay that I needed a tutor. He was the first teacher to offer me the lesson that is the heart of all good nonfiction: nonfiction is factual, but it is not facts. It is a journey in which the author guides and persuades you—not by showing off details, but by shaping an argument. He was not impressed by my recall, he insisted that I use what I knew to craft an essay. That is the most important lesson for a nonfiction writer.

The following year I found a book that I loved as much as I had that first biography of George Washington: Norman Cantor's Medieval History: The Life and Death of a Civilization. It was clear that Cantor knew everything about that long ago time, including what all other scholars had written about it. But he wrote in the most confident and personal way, as if he were speaking to you as an equal about the foibles of other historians and the interesting things he had discovered. If Mr. Beiser got me to realize that a historian needs to make a case, using facts to support a thesis, not in place of one, Dr. Cantor showed me that that argument could be lively and personal—it did not need to be heavy and dull. I went on to study with Dr. Cantor in both undergraduate and graduate school, and to help him in the research for a book. He provided a model for writing that was both informed and popular—and not afraid to be opinionated.

I have written two books of essays, Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading and Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era, and now have a regular monthly column—"Consider the Source"—in School Library Journal. My essays generally begin with a recent experience and lead up to an opinion. Dr. Cantor became more and more cantankerous as he grew older. He was, you might say, a neocon—a Jewish intellectual who dislikes leftists—in colleges which were from liberal to radical. He expressed his out-of-sorts-ness with endless letters to editors, taking issue with the academic climate. Towards the very end of his life he made the good choice to shift his energy from debating with his colleagues to writing popular books on subjects such as the history of the Jews and the Black Plague. But for a time he was trapped in mutual disdain with his academic peers. I never want to be that, but his endless stream of articles, essays, letters, and books gave me confidence that I could express my opinion—and it could matter.

The most controversial essay I have ever written was "Slippery Slopes and Proliferating Prizes," which was published in the May-June, 2001 issue of the Horn Book (I reprinted it, along with Andrea Pinckney's essay written to counter my argument, in Beyond the Pale.) I began writing it out of distress and concern that the Pure Belpré Award limited winners to Latinos/Hispanics. But in writing about that, I had to consider the Coretta Scott King Award. Given New Lincoln's civil rights background, it might seem odd that I wrote against the idea of ethnically based awards. I know that many supporters of the CSK award felt betrayed—given the books I edited, one of which was a CSK honor title, they assumed I was "on their side." But the very fact that issues of race are familiar to me, that I've been involved in them one way or another all of my life, made me unhappy with what I saw as an unthinking desire to solve inequalities by giving out separate prizes to every victimized group. To me that did more to marginalize those groups and that literature than to sustain it.

For me, personally, the rise of black power in 1967—the breaking up of the black/Jewish civil rights alliance—was difficult. The black nationalism I heard from other students scared me and shut me out. That very year, Israel took East Jerusalem and the territories of the West Bank. I went to Israel the following year and loved being able to walk through all of the Old City, and to be able to visit the Wailing Wall. But, as I write in my book on Israel, while Jewish nationalism made Israel possible, I believe Israel was poisoned by taking and holding those territories and faces the crucial internal challenge of integrating the eighteen percent of the Israeli population who are Arabs. In other words, I find an exclusionary Jewish nationalism disturbing just as I did an exclusionary black nationalism.

I am at bottom an integrationist: I want us all involved with each other's cultures; I want mixture. Maybe that goes back to being the only child of immigrant parents: I wanted to be part of a larger culture that included us, that accepted us; I didn't want to stand apart. In 1924, America largely shut its doors to immigrants if they were not Northern European. That law did not change until 1965. My father arrived before the anti-immigration law, and my mother had a special exemption to escape Hitler in 1939 because her father was brought here by a patron of the experimental music he conducted. The face of America changed after 1965, when Asians and Hispanics were welcomed.

As an editor, I've worked with authors to capture that change, whether in Pearl Gaskins's What Are You—interviews with mixed-race young people—or Marina Budhos's Remix—conversations with immigrant teenagers. Marina is also my wife, and we often talk about the experience of being both inside and outside American culture.

I had one other teacher who was as severe a critic of my work as Mr. Beiser had been—that was Dr. Bender, who became my dissertation advisor at NYU. He thought the first essay I wrote for him was airy, not substantial, and at times simply wrong. I got a horrible B-. As in eleventh grade, I was overconfident. I assumed that because I thought it, it mattered, it was right. Today when I work on a book I try to find early readers for the manuscript—teenagers, academics, librarians. I wish I had more of them—I've often wished I could work on a book while being "embedded" in a high school, bringing young people into my process of creation and getting feedback and comments from them. That would be the best way for me to learn about when I am in touch with my readers, and where I am speaking only to myself.

Dr. Bender became a leader in the shift to seeing American history as part of world history—and I enthusiastically followed him in that interest. In fact I've often seen my trilogy—Sir Walter Ralegh, John Winthrop, and Real Revolution—as an effort to bring the new sensibility I learned from Dr. Bender to younger readers. Seeing American history as an international history is another form of my taste for mixture—I am thrilled to learn how entangled and intertwined our lives have been. I think that is one of the best civics lessons history can teach.

Editors

If Art Attack was a form of homage and autobiography, Sir Walter Ralegh was my first effort to get at this whole matter of mixture. I had been working as an editor at HarperCollins in the late '80s and in 1990. Everyone could see that 1992—the five-hundredth anniversary of Columbus—was coming. But no one seemed to know what to do. Was Columbus a hero or a genocidal destroyer? Here was as perfect an anniversary date as a publisher could want, and no author or editor seemed to have any good idea of what to do—other than to publish books from the point of view of his cabin boy or dog, so that his character, motivations, even actions hardly came into play.

I had heard Dorothy Briley, the publisher of Clarion Books, give a talk on nonfiction. She was expressing regret that children's publishers had too eagerly published books like Our Friend the Atom, and that they had not been more questioning of the ideas passed on by friends of atomic energy. I didn't agree, since that had been one of my favorite books. But I thought she might be a good editor for me. I proposed the idea of Art Attack to her, and she said yes right away. She thought readers ought to know what all the shouting was about, why could art upset people so much?

I took one course in law school as a graduate student—the history of English law, taught by Dr. Cantor. He suggested I research Sir Walter Ralegh's treason trial, and I did. When I was a child, CBS had a show called You Are There. The announcer was Walter Cronkite—a newscaster who had a distinctive voice that always made a moment seem important. The show would begin with him saying, "It was a day like all days, filled with the events that alter and illuminate our times." I recall one episode was about Ralegh, which began with him fighting in Ireland and went on to England—he seemed like a dark, fascinating character.

So I suggested to Dorothy that I write about him. But in a way I was still thinking about the Columbus problem. The book begins with another of those present tense paragraphs:

It is June of 1595, and Sir Walter Ralegh is trapped on the northern coast of South America. Behind him surges the mighty Orinoco River, gateway to paradise. Ahead of him looms the dark sea. He is in "a most desperate state." Almost one hundred years before, in the very same place, Christopher Columbus had been terrified by "an awful roaring," the sound of the immense river emptying into the sea. [Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, Clarion Books, p. 1]

Because Ralegh was a poet and author, he allowed me to explore what the experience of coming to a New World was like for Europeans. He allowed me to show that at times they were greedy, cold-hearted killers. But they also had a sense of awe and wonder at what they were seeing, and the haunting sense that they would only destroy the beautiful virginal land. To me that seemed human and realistic—the New World held the promise of every kind of richness and fortune, but also seemed to be a kind of perfect Eden best left untouched. Using Ralegh's life and his words, I tried to capture both sides of his character, and both sides of what America meant to the first Europeans to arrive here.

I had a chance to revisit this same period in a book for middle-grade readers when I collaborated with John W. Glenn on The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World. Aimed at younger readers, the book is shorter and filled with color illustrations. It was a treat for me to have color, and both the challenge and opportunity of working in sixty-four pages. In the book we argue that after 1492 it was the whole world that was made anew, not just a New World added to the old.

In a way the problem I have with Columbus as hero versus Columbus as genocidal destroyer relates to Dr. Bender's view of history and my taste for mixture. I am interested in understanding the motivations and actions of both the Europeans and the Americans (and Africans), and then tracing out how their worlds intermingled. Maybe "intermingled" sounds too sweet, when approximately nine out of every ten natives died, and some eleven to twelve million Africans were enslaved. But my interest is in tracing out how the whole world was transformed by the Age of Exploration. One of the illustrations I enjoy most in the book shows a 1792 silver coin from Mexico with the profile of Spain's Carlos IV on it. As we explain, the Spanish sent so many of these "Buddha Head" coins to Asia to buy goods that they become legal currency in China.

I was very pleased that Ralegh won both the first Robert F. Sibert International Book Award and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for nonfiction. The call from the Sibert committee came with an especially wonderful second message: a book I had edited won an honor. That was Judd Winick's Pedro and Me—which was also one of the first nonfiction graphic novels published for teenagers. I have been fortunate that as an editor I have been able to explore areas in which I would not know how to write—such as graphic novels and poetry. The editing side of my career allows me the vicarious pleasure of participating in a creation that I could not make on my own. The writing side allows me to speak directly to readers.

The history of slavery comes up often in my books—it is there in all three of the books on colonial America, especially in The Real Revolution. That was my first effort to talk about Thomas Jefferson, whom I think it is too easy to call a hypocrite. I have been very influenced by scholars like the historian Edmund Morgan, in his American Slavery, American Freedom, and the sociologist Orlando Patterson, in his book Freedom. Morgan agued that the colonial Virginian's passion for liberty and freedom which did so much to create this country was a direct result of their having slaves all around them. And Patterson, looking back as far as the ancient Greeks, thinks the presence of slaves has sharpened other's sense of what it is to be free.

I know these are very abstract and academic concepts. And yet to me they are central to what I want to do in books for teenagers. I want to say that you don't have to accept a dumbed-down explanation of the past, you don't have to settle for a good Columbus or a bad one, a heroic freedom-loving Washington or Jefferson or an evil slave-holding one. Adolescence is that ledge, that perch between childhood and adulthood, a time where you are looking back and ahead; you are both fitting in and testing how to stand apart; you are absorbing the values of your school, your peers, your society, and formulating your own. M.T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing aims in fiction for the kind of complexity I hope to achieve in nonfiction.

That thought brings me back to slavery. Outside of my trilogy, it also comes up in my book on race, and again in a book I am writing with my wife on the history of sugar. I feel we misrepresent slavery to young people in two ways. On the one hand, in talking about the days of the slave trade, we simplify. We make it a crime imposed by white European and American slave traders on Africans. We ignore the central role Africans played in selling other Africans. On the other, because we talk about slavery as a story of villains and victims, we don't pay enough attention to why race is still with us as a problem today.

Like many Jewish kids of my generation, I was drawn to black culture. Recently I worked with Nikki Giovanni on her On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History through the Spirituals. One of the treats of editing the book was getting to listen to the songs, over and over again. And that is my point about mixture: the spirituals are black, Christian songs. But they are not only that. They are the voice of a people struggling to, as Nikki explains, find a way to go on, to have hope, to build something good for the future. We all need to hear that voice, we all need that sustenance, we all need that consolation.

In all my books I am saying to readers: the whole world and all of history is yours to swim in, to explore, to investigate, to question, to experiment with, to discover. It does not belong to adults. It need not be confined to dusty shelves or listed on search engines. You have the right to find your place in this rich past that formed you, and in this vast world which surrounds you. Yes, you are your family, your school, your friends, your ethnicity, your religion. But that is not all you are. That is your toehold, your starting point, from there you can go anywhere.

When I have done something right, I have been like Richard Halliburton, allowing young people to come along, to explore the past with me. I am constantly thinking about how to make that invitation more appealing. I am convinced that the creative use of illustrations, Web sites, eventually digital games is crucial to the future of nonfiction. I don't mean the book is dead; not at all. But rather that books will be one element of a total package. Back to Mr. Beiser: books will tell a story or make an argument. Then images, games, and Web sites will give you a chance to go beyond what the author tells you to do more exploration in other ways.

I did not expect to become a writer, but I have had the privilege and good fortune of being one. Now, and for the rest of my life, my challenge is to figure out how to be a better writer, and to share more with my readers.

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Aronson, Marc 1950-

Aronson, Marc 1950-


Personal


Born 1950; married Marina Budhos (an author); children: two sons. Education: New York University, Ph.D. (American history).

Addresses


Home—NJ. E-mail—marc@marcaronson.com.

Career


Writer, editor, and historian. Editor of books for children and young adults; Harper & Row, New York, NY, and later, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, New York, NY, became senior editor; Carus Publishing, Chicago, IL, editorial director and vice president of nonfiction development, 2000-04; Zooba.com, managing editor, 2001-02; acquisition editor for Candlewick Press and other publishing houses; writer. Instructor in publishing courses at New York University, Simmons College, Vermont College, and Radcliffe Publishing program; keynote speaker at conferences.

Awards, Honors


Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and New York Times Notable Book citations, both 1998, both for Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-Garde; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for nonfiction and Blue Ribbon Award, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, both 2000, and Robert F. Sibert Award for "most distinguished informational book for children," American Library Association, 2001, all for Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado; School Library Journal Best Books designation, 2003, for Witch Hunt; School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews Best Books designations, both 2005, both for The Real Revolution; IMP Award for Excellence in Editing for Young Readers; ALAN prize for service to young-adult literature.

Writings


NONFICTION

(With Thomas Leonard and Cynthia Crippen) Day by Day: The Seventies, two volumes, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1988.

(With Ellen Meltzer) Day by Day: The Eighties, two volumes, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1995.

Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-Garde, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2000.

Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor, with Michael Cart and Marianne Carus) 911: The Book of Help, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2003.

Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.

John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2004.

The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2005.

(With John W. Glenn) A World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2007.

Robert F. Kennedy, Crusader, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.

Race, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to The Holocaust in Literature for Youth, edited by Edward T. Sullivan, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 1999. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including New York Times Book Review, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Los Angeles Times Book Review. Author of monthly column "Consider the Source" for School Library Journal.

Sidelights


A respected editor, Marc Aronson has been inspired in his writing career by his love of history and literature. His nonfiction titles for young adults, which include Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-Garde, and The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence, have been praised for their engrossing prose and their author's unique approach to source materials. In addition to history, Aronson has also written on the subject of educating teens; his essay collections Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading and Beyond the Pale; New Essays for a New Era were praised by School Library Journal contributor Ellen A. Greever as "required reading for anyone who cares about young adults and their literature." In 2006, Aronson was appointed as spokesman for Save Our History, a national history education and preservation initiative sponsored by television's History Channel.

Aronson began his Y.A.-oriented histories by focusing on the modern era. In Art Attack he explains that, throughout history, avant-garde artists have challenged the world with their personal visions, and that young artists, even adolescents, often take the greatest risks to bring their art to the public. "What an exciting invitation to a brisk but rigorous survey that connects Marcel

Duchamp, the Russian avant-garde and Mondrian to Charles Ives and the Sex Pistols!," observed a reviewer in the New York Times Book Review. Indeed, it is through such cross-cultural and cross-generic connections that Art Attack offers fresh insights into the history of twentieth-century art despite its brevity, according to reviewers. Throughout the volume, art movements and the work of individual artists are explored in conjunction with the evolution of twentieth-century music. "In fact, what is unique and appealing in Aronson's cultural history is his placing of experimental and popular music within the art world," remarked Shirley Wilton in School Library Journal. Thus, Aronson juxtaposes the artwork of the Dadaists and rap music, Jean-Michel Basquiat's expressive scribbles and the jazz innovations of Philip Glass. The result is "an exceptional resource," Wilton concluded.

Aronson turns to the more distant past in Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, a work for which he was named the first winner of the Robert F. Sibert Award for the "most distinguished informational book for children published in 2000." Ralegh (as the man himself rendered his name) was an exceptional figure. He was also representative of his age in that his talents, ambition, and willingness to take risks all pointed toward the exploration and conquest of the New World. Ralegh's intelligence and drive took him from rural obscurity to a place as an honored member of Queen Elizabeth I's court and thence to fame and fortune through his journeys to South America. Thus, the details of his life make for an exciting tale. "Aronson not only details Ralegh's career as soldier, sailor, explorer, writer, and schemer but consistently discusses causes, effects, and the broader significance of events large and small," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, noted that, at just over 200 pages, there is not space enough in Aronson's biography to discuss every topic presented by Ralegh's multifaceted life, but she added that "the book is beautifully researched, and it is written with wit and passion." A reviewer for the Los Angeles Times praised Aronson's portrait of Ralegh as "both provocative and tantalizing, revealing his subject as a person of canny wit and magnetism with all-too-human shortcomings," while Cooper dubbed Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado "sweeping, multilayered nonfiction."

Also focusing on the development of the New World, John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise "charts a parallel history between seventeenth-century Great Britain and colonial New England, as represented by emblematic figures Oliver Cromwell and John Winthrop," according to Horn Book reviewer Peter D. Sieruta. Both Cromwell and Winthrop were influential Puritan leaders: Cromwell deposed King Charles I of England, and Winthrop served as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the work, "Aronson shows how events of the 1630s and ‘40s have affected political thought ever since," a Kirkus Reviews critic explained. According to Booklist contributor

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GraceAnne A. DeCandido, Aronson illuminates "the reality of religious faith and the cataclysmic clash of beliefs that created fertile ground for ideas about democracy and equality." Praising the book's focus as "fair and nonjudgmental," School Library Journal contributor Ginny Gustin added that John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise provides history buffs with a "fascinating and provocative" study that is enriched by Aronson's "extensive research."

As he did in John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise,in The Real Revolution Aronson couches a discussion of North American history within the history of the world community. Utilizing what Aronson calls a "transnational" approach, The Real Revolution explores a Western world in tumult and shows that America's Boston Tea Party, the development of Britain's Indian colony, and the corruption exposed within the British Parliamentary system were all intertwined. Combining American history and world history, he also reveals the kernel at the core of any study of history: that the past foreshadows the present, and the interrelationships of nations and individuals

who sparked the "Age of Revolution" of the late 1700s have their parallel in the modern world. Describing the historic epoch as characterized by a "complex social, political, and economic dance" of competing interests, John Peters added in Booklist that in The Real Revolution Aronson frames the American Revolution as part of a world war "which, paradoxically, George Washington ‘inadvertently helped to start.’" "This outstanding work is highly compelling reading," Gustin exclaimed in her School Library Journal review, while in Kirkus Reviews a writer noted that The Real Revolution provides young historians with "a new way to look at the subject, supplying the global context often neglected in textbooks and demonstrating how the lessons of the Revolution are relevant today."

In Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials, Aronson examines the events surrounding the infamous series of trials held in Massachusetts in 1692. Dispelling the wealth of misinformation that has overshadowed the historical record surrounding these trials, he examines the contentious social, economic, and religious issues then facing the small Salem community. According to Andrew Medlar in School Library Journal,

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the author "actively encourages the rethinking of past notions of the events leading up to the accusations and hearings." A Publishers Weekly contributor stated that Aronson "uses primary source documents and trial records to help tease out the facts of the highly charged court atmosphere," and Booklist critic Stephanie Zvirin remarked that, as a result, he produces "a dense, wide-angle view of the tragedy that evaluates causative theories ranging from deceit and outright fraud to spoiled food that caused hallucinations." Aronson also draws parallels to the "counterculture of the 1960s, modern terrorism, and current tensions between Western countries and Islamic fundamentalists," a Kirkus Reviews critic noted.

In 2002 Aronson co-edited 911: The Book of Help, a "highly personal, often affecting roundup of essays, short stories, and poems inspired by the events of September 11th," according to a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. The contributors to 911 include award-winning children's and young-adult authors such as Katherine Paterson, Walter Dean Myers, Sharon Creech, Naomi Shihab Nye, Margaret Mahy, Russell Freedman, and Marion Dane Bauer. "Some of the best essays put the attacks in historical or autobiographical perspective," Roger Sutton noted in Horn Book. Claire Rosser, reviewing the work in Kliatt, felt that 911 "would be an excellent resource for teachers of writing, helping students realize the power of words to educate, inspire, to express deepest feelings."

Aronson's experience as a publisher, editor, and critic comes to the fore in Exploding the Myths, a collection of his speeches and articles that touches on the development of young-adult literature as well as the genre's major controversies. In a review for Booklist, Hazel Rochman found the author's style "clear, chatty, and tough" while pointing out that Aronson "shows that teenagers today are often more open to challenge and diversity in narrative and format than their adult guardians are." School Library Journal contributor Vicki Reutter called Exploding the Myths a "thought-provoking collection [that] should be not missed." A related work, Beyond the Pale, "reveals the wider context of Aronson's particular concerns as a publisher, writer, and reader of young adult literature," wrote Cathryn M. Mercier in Horn Book. Beyond the Pale contains fourteen essays covering such topics as multicultural book prizes and the challenges of reaching teenage male readers.

As a writer, Aronson's focus is on advancing the quality of young-adult literature by presenting engaging works of nonfiction that both entertain and challenge readers. As an historian, he draws on his years of study in American history as well as on the information he uncovers with each new book he writes. History, for Aronson, is a process of discovery, as he noted in an essay for School Library Journal in which he discussed the writing of The Real Revolution. "I had read enough to be pretty sure I understood how America came to

be," he explained of his decision to write about the events leading up to the American colonies’ battle to be free of British rule. "But, just as John Keats found new worlds when he read Chapman's Homer, I had the exceptional experience of seeing a new ocean of understanding open before me.

"Keats's sensation of looking out from a peak and glimpsing a vast and previously unknown expanse is exactly what I felt as I researched [the book].… What made it even more delicious is that as I pieced together my new sense of why the American Revolution took place, I was describing a world of global contacts very much like the one we live in today." Reflecting on his time studying history as a college student in the 1960s, Aronson recalled "a similar sense of discovery as [historians] … sought to add the experiences of women and minorities into the narrative of America's past. Now, I came to realize, it is time to knit American history into world history, where it has always belonged."

Biographical and Critical Sources


PERIODICALS


Booklist, July, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-Garde; August, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 2130; March 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading, p. 1406; November 1, 2003, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials, p. 488; June 1, 2004, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, p. 1751; September 15, 2005, John Peters, review of The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence, p. 52.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2005, Elizabeth Bush, review of The Real Revolution, p. 129.

Horn Book, September-October, 2000, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 593; September-October, 2002, Roger Sutton, review of 911: The Book of Help, pp. 593-594; November-December, 2002, Marc Aronson, "Starting with the Answers," p. 783; January-February, 2004, Cathryn M. Mercier, review of Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era, pp. 107-108; July-August, 2004, Peter D. Sieruta, review of John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, p. 465; January-February, 2006, Kathleen Isaacs, review of The Real Revolution, p. 97.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2000, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 710; July 1, 2002, review of 911, p. 950; October 15, 2003, review of Witch-Hunt, p. 1268; May 1, 2004, review of John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, p. 437; August 15, 2006, review of The Real Revolution, p. 908.

Kliatt, November, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of 911, p. 29.

Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2000, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 6. New York Times Book Review, February 14, 1999, review of Art Attack, p. 26. Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2001, Jason Britton, "Marcato/Cricket Books," p. 23; July 29, 2002, review of 911, p. 74; December 1, 2003, review of Witch-Hunt, p. 58; May 24, 2004, "Understanding History," p. 64; September 12, 2005, review of The Real Revolution, p. 70.

Reading Teacher, March, 2003, review of 911, p. 589.

School Library Journal, June, 1995, Linda Diane Townsend, review of Day by Day: The Eighties, pp. 144-145; July, 1998, Shirley Wilton, review of Art Attack, p. 102; December, 2000, review of Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, p. 52; May, 2001, Vicki Reutter, review of Exploding the Myths, p. 179; September, 2002, Wendy Lukehart, "One Year Later," pp. 44-46, and Joanne K. Cecere, review of 911, pp. 241-242; November, 2003, Ellen A. Greever, review of Beyond the Pale, p. 175; December, 2003, Andrew Medlar, review of Witch-Hunt, pp. 163; April, 2004, Wendy Lukehart, review of Art Attack, p. 64; September, 2004, Ginny Gustin, review of John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, p. 221; June, 2005, Marc Aronson, "Roots of Revolution Revisited," p. 34; October, 2005, Ginny Gustin, review of The Real Revolution, p. 180.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2006, Beth E. Anderson, review of The Real Revolution, p. 69.

ONLINE


Marc Aronson Web site,http://www.marcaronson.com (December 19, 2006).

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