Aronson, Marc 1950–
Aronson, Marc 1950–
PERSONAL: Born 1950; married Marina Budhos (an author); children: two sons. Education: New York University, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—NJ. E-mail—[email protected]
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.
(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 History, 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 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 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 in his talents, ambition, and willingness to take large risks. 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 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 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."
As in John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise, 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.'" "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 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.
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: 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 in 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:
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 WitchHunt, 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.
Marc Aronson Web site, http://www.marcaronson.com (December 19, 2006).