Mazer, Norma Fox 1931-
MAZER, Norma Fox 1931-
PERSONAL: Born May 15, 1931, in New York, NY; daughter of Michael and Jean (Garlen) Fox; married Harry Mazer (a novelist), February 12, 1950; children: Anne, Joseph, Susan, Gina. Education: Attended Antioch College and Syracuse University. Politics: "I believe in people—despise institutions while accepting their necessity."
CAREER: Writer, 1964—.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Book Award nomination, 1973, for A Figure of Speech; Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, University of Wisconsin, 1975, for Saturday the Twelfth of October, 1976, for Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories; American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book citation, 1976, for Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories, and 1988, for After the Rain; Christopher Award, 1976, for Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories; New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year list, 1976, for Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories, 1984, for Downtown; School Library Journal Best Books of the Year list, 1976, for Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories, 1997, for When She Was Good, 1979, for Up in Seth's Room, 1988, for After the Rain; ALA Best Books for Young Adults list, 1976, for Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories, 1977, (with Harry Mazer) for The Solid Gold Kid, 1979, for Up in Seth's
Room, 1983, for Someone to Love, 1984, for Downtown, 1988, for After the Rain, 1989, for Silver, 1993, for Out of Control, 1998, for When She Was Good; Children's Book Council/International Reading Association Children's Choice, 1978, for The Solid Gold Kid, 1986, for A, My Name Is Ami, 1989, for Heartbeat; ALA Best of the Best Books list, 1970-83, for Up in Seth's Room; Austrian Children's Books list of honor, 1982, for Mrs. Fish, Ape, and Me, the Dump Queen; Edgar Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1982, for Taking Terri Mueller; German Children's Literature prize, 1982, for Mrs. Fish, Ape, and Me, the Dump Queen; New York Public Library Books for the Teenage List, 1984, for Downtown, 1989, for Silver, 1990, for Heartbeat and for Waltzing on Water, 1991, for Babyface, 1994, for Out of Control, and, 1995, for Missing Pieces; California Young Readers Medal, 1985, for Taking Terri Mueller; Iowa Teen Award, 1985-86, for When We First Met, 1989, for Silver; Association of Booksellers for Children Choice, Canadian Children's Books Council Choice, Horn Book Fanfare Book, Newbery Honor Book, all 1988, all for After the Rain; ALA One Hundred Best of the Best Books, 1968-1993, for Silver and for The Solid Gold Kid; German Literature Prize, 1989, for Heartbeat; American Booksellers Pick of the Lists, 1990, for Babyface, 1992, for Bright Days, Stupid Nights, 1993, for Out of Control, 1994, for Missing Pieces; International Reading Association Teacher's Choice, for Babyface, Bright Days, Stupid Nights, Out of Control, and Missing Pieces; Editor's Choice, Booklist, 1997, for When She was Good.
young adult fiction
I, Trissy, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1971, reprinted, Dell (New York, NY), 1986.
A Figure of Speech, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1973.
Saturday the Twelfth of October, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1975.
Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1976.
(With husband, Harry Mazer) The Solid Gold Kid, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1977.
Up in Seth's Room, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1979.
Mrs. Fish, Ape, and Me, the Dump Queen, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980.
Taking Terri Mueller, Avon/Morrow (New York, NY), 1981.
Summer Girls, Love Boys, and Other Short Stories, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1982.
When We First Met, Four Winds (New York, NY), 1982.
Downtown, Avon/Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.
Someone to Love, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1983.
Supergirl (screenplay novelization), Warner Books (New York, NY), 1984.
A, My Name Is Ami, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1986.
Three Sisters, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1986.
After the Rain, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.
B, My Name Is Bunny, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.
Silver, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
(With Harry Mazer) Heartbeat, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.
Babyface, Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.
C, My Name Is Cal, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
D, My Name Is Danita, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
E, My Name Is Emily, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Harry Mazer) Bright Days, Stupid Nights, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
Out of Control, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
Missing Pieces, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
When She Was Good, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Crazy Fish, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
Good Night, Maman, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1999.
Girlhearts, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Axel Daimler) When We First Met (novel), Learning Corporation of America, 1984.
(Editor, with Margery Lewis) Waltzing on Water: Poetry by Women, Dell (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor, with Jacqueline Woodson) Just a Writer's Thing: A Collection of Prose and Poetry from the National Book Foundation's 1995 Summer Writing Camp, National Book Foundation (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Nathan Aaseng, Myra C. Livingston, and others) Courage: How We Face Challenges, Troll Communications (Mahwah, NJ), 1997.
Also contributor to Sixteen … Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults, edited by Donald R. Gallo, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984; Short Takes, by Elizabeth Segal, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1986; Visions: Nineteen Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults, edited by Donald R. Gallo, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1987; "Ice-Cream Syndrome (aka Promoting Good Reading Habits)," In Authors' Insights: Turning Teenagers into Readers and Writers, edited by Donald R. Gallo, Boynton/Cook (Portsmouth, NH), 1992; Leaving Home: Stories, edited by Hazel Rochman and Darlene Z. McCampbell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997; Stay True: Short Stories about Strong Girls, edited by M. Singer, 1998; Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Short Stories by Censored Writers, edited by Judy Blume, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999; Hot Flashes: Women Writers on the Change of Life, edited by Lynne Taetzsch; Ultimate Sports, edited by Donald R. Gallo; and Night Terrors, edited by L. Duncan.
Also contributor of stories, articles, and essays to magazines, including Jack and Jill, Ingenue, Calling All Girls, Child Life, Boys and Girls, Redbook, English Journal, Voice of Youth Advocates, Signal, Top of the News, and ALAN Review.
ADAPTATIONS: Mazer's novels recorded on audio cassette and released by Listening Library include Taking Terri Mueller, 1986, Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories, 1987, and After the Rain, 1988. The novel When We First Met was filmed for television by Home Box Office, 1984.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Several novels; a short story.
SIDELIGHTS: "It's not hard to see why Norma Fox Mazer has found a place among the most popular writers for young adults these days," observed Suzanne Freeman in the Washington Post Book World. "At her best, Mazer can cut right to the bone of teenage troubles and then show us how the wounds will heal. She can set down the everyday scenes of her characters' lives in images that are scalpel sharp," the critic continued, adding that "what's apparent throughout all of this is that Mazer has taken great care to get to know the world she writes about. She delves into the very heart of it with a sure and practiced hand." New York Times Book Review contributor Barbara Wersba described Mazer as "a dazzling writer" who "brings to her work a literacy that would be admirable in any type of fiction." For example, in A Figure of Speech, Mazer's story of an elderly man neglected by all of his family except his granddaughter, "the fine definition of all characters, the plausibility of the situations and the variety of insights into motivation make [the novel] almost too good to be true," Tom Heffernan asserted in Children's Literature: Annual of the Modern Language Association Seminar on Children's Literature and the Children's Literature Association. "There is no point at which it passes into an area of depiction or explanation that would exceed the experience of a young adolescent. But there is also no point at which the psychological perceptiveness and narrative control would disappoint an adult reader."
Born the middle daughter of three, Mazer grew up in Glens Falls, New York. Mazer noted in a Teen Reads interview that she taught herself to read when she was four or five and "read voraciously from then on. The love of reading and stories perhaps led to my want to be a writer."
Mazer has been especially acclaimed for her young adult novels. She has written a number of award-winning and highly acclaimed books for young adults, some with her husband, critically acclaimed author Henry Mazer. Her characters are not always likable, but they are believable young people on the verge of adulthood struggling with issues of importance.
Mazer's short-story collections also have a broad appeal, as reviewers have commented about Summer Girls, Love Boys and Other Short Stories. Bruce Bennett, for instance, noted in the Nation that the collection "is accessible to teenagers as well as adults. Most of the characters are young people," the critic elaborated, "but Mazer writes about them with an affectionate irony that older readers will appreciate." Because Mazer "has the skill to reveal the human qualities in both ordinary and extraordinary situations as young people mature," stated New York Times Book Review contributor Ruth I. Gordon, "… it would be a shame to limit their reading to young people, since they can show an adult reader much about the sometimes painful rite of adolescent passage into adulthood." Strengthening the effect of Mazer's collections is that they are "written specifically as a book, a fact which gives the stories an unusual unity and connectedness," related Bennett. "Clearly, Mazer appreciates the short-story form, with its narrow focus and spotlit moments," commented a Kirkus Reviews writer about Dear, Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories, "where others might do up the same material as diluted novels."
While she has earned praise for her forays into the short-story form, it is Mazer's novels that have brought her the most recognition, both with critics and readers. Taking Terri Mueller, for example, earned Mazer an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America although she had not intended it as a mystery. The book follows Terri Mueller and her father as they wander from town to town, never staying in one place for more than a year. Although Terri is happy with her father, she is old enough to wonder why he will never talk about her mother, who supposedly died ten years ago. An overheard discussion leads her to discover that she had been kidnaped by her father after a bitter custody battle. "The unfolding and the solution of the mystery [of the truth about Terri's mother] are effectively worked," remarked a Horn Book reviewer; "filled with tension and with strong characterization, the book makes compelling reading." Freeman similarly observed that despite the potential for simplifying Terri's conflict, "Mazer does not take the easy way out in this book. There are no good guys or bad guys. There are no easy answers." The critic concluded, "We believe in just about everything Terri does, because Mazer's writing makes us willing to believe. She wins us completely with this finely wrought and moving book."
In her Newbery Honor Book, After the Rain, Mazer returns to the subject of a elderly man dying; but in this instance, grandfather Izzy rebuffs his loving family, and granddaughter Rachel must exert herself to build a relationship with him. As it becomes clear to her that Izzy is dying and needs companionship, Rachel decides to regularly spend her free time with him. "It's surprising that she should make such a decision," claimed Washington Post Book World contributor Cynthia Samuels, "but once the reader accepts her choice and begins to join her on her daily visits with the crotchety old man, the story becomes both moving and wise." The result, continued the critic, is a book that "deals with death and loss in an original and sensitive way." Carolyn Meyer, however, felt that there is a lack of tension in the story: "you never really worry that Rachel won't do the right thing," she wrote in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. In contrast, a Kirkus Reviews critic suggested that "what distinguishes this book, making it linger in the heart, are the realistic portrayals of the tensions, guilt, and sudden, painfully moving moments involved in Rachel's and Izzy's situations." As a Horn Book reviewer concluded, Izzy's "harsh, rough personality [is] so realistic and recognizable that we feel we have known him and can understand the sorrow that overcomes Rachel. [After the Rain is] a powerful book, dealing with death and dying and the strength of family affection."
With the publication of Good Night, Maman, Mazer ventures into historical young adult fiction. The novel centers around twelve-year-old Karin, who must struggle to find freedom and begin a new life without her beloved mother. The Nazis have sent Karin's father to a prison in Poland and Karin, her brother, and her mother are in hiding in an attic. When they are told they must leave, the children head south. Karin and her brother eventually board a ship headed to America, but they must leave their ill-stricken mother behind. "This moving World War II story is neither highly dramatic nor politically charged. It is the very personal and immediate experience of a young girl grappling with the loss of her old life and a new life that changes daily," explained Lauren Adams in Horn Book. A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded, "The strength of this novel lies in its intimate recognition of the way adolescents think and feel." Mazer explained in a Teen-Reads interview that writing historical fiction is difficult because you have to fit a fictional character into an actual event. "I had to write this novel over completely four times, and this was because I was working out how to balance fiction and history," she remarked. To prepare to write the book, Mazer said, "I read a fair number of books, most of them memoirs of people who had lived through the Holocaust. What struck me was that despite the numbing universality of that murderous time, each person's story, each survivor's story, was unique, distinct….my intention in writing this book was not to write history, but to write the unique history of an individual, albeit a fictional one."
Like Good Night, Maman, Mazer's novel Girlhearts deals with a young girl's loss of her mother. Sarabeth Silver must deal with the loss of her mother, the only parent and family member she knows. Because she has no one else to turn to, Sarabeth must eventually track down her long-lost extended family members, who had turned their back on her mother when she became pregnant at sixteen. "With a pitch-perfect intensity, Mazer captures the fractured sense of loss, of self, of time, that comes with a death in the family," explained GraceAnn A. DeCandido in Booklist. Writing in School Library Journal, Susie Paige noted, "The theme of death and renewal is not a new one, but Mazer's characters deal with the process in a realistic, heartrending manner."
Mazer once told CA:"I seem to deal in the ordinary, the everyday, the real. I should like in my writing to give meaning and emotion to ordinary moments. In my books and stories I want people to eat chocolate pudding, break a dish, yawn, look in a store window, wear socks with holes in them…."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 5, 1990, Volume 36, 2000.
Butler, Francelia, editor, Children's Literature: Annual of the Modern Language Association Seminar on Children's Literature and the Children's Literature Association, Volume 4, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1975.
Children's Literature Review, Volume 23, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 26, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1983.
Holtze, Sally Holmes, Presenting Norma Fox Mazer, Twayne (New York, NY), 1987.
Reed, Arthea J., Norma Fox Mazer: A Writer's World, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2000.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Booklist, June 1-15, 1993, review of Out of Control, p. 1804; April 1, 1995, Merri Monks, review of Missing Pieces, p. 1388; September, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of When She Was Good, p. 118; January 1, 1998, Bill Ott, "Editors' Choice '97," p. 725; April 15, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, "What Grandparents Teach," p. 1445; August, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 2053; November 15, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin review of When She Was Good, p. 613; June, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of When She Was Good, p. 1875; July, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCan-dido, review of Girlhearts, p. 2000.
Book Report, January-February, 1998, Marilyn Heath, review of When She Was Good, p. 35; November, 1999, Sherry York, "Child Sexual Abuse: A Bibliography of Young Adult Fiction," p. 30; November-December, 2001, Catherine M. Andronik, review of Girlhearts, p. 61.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1997, Deborah Stevenson, review of When She Was Good, p. 61; December, 1999, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 53; April, 2001, review of Girl-hearts, p. 310.
Children's Book and Play Review, March, 2002, review of Girlhearts, p. 12.
Emergency Librarian, January, 1998, review of When She Was Good, p. 50.
Horn Book, April, 1983, review of Taking Terri Mueller, p. 172-173; September, 1987; November 1999, Lauren Adams, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 743.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, November, 2001, "Young Adults' Choices for 2001: A Project of the International Reading Association," p. 191.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1976, review of Dear Bill, Remember Me?, pp. 1101-1012; May 1, 1987, review of After the Rain, p. 723; October 15, 1999, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 1647; April 1, 2001, review of Girlhearts, p. 502.
Kliatt, September, 1999, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 10; May, 2001, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 21; July, 2001, review of Girlhearts, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times, September 12, 1987.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 5, 1987.
Nation, March 12, 1983.
New York Times Book Review, March 17, 1974, Jill Paton Walsh, review of A Figure of Speech, p. 8; October 19, 1975; January 20, 1980; March 13, 1983, Ruth I. Gordon, review of Summer Girls, Love Boys, and Other Stories, p. 29; November 25, 1984; June 17, 2001, Emily-Greta Tabourin, review of Girlhearts, p. 25.
Publishers Weekly, July 27, 1990, review of Babyface, p. 235; November 8, 1991, review of E, My Name Is Emily, p. 64; June, 22, 1992, review of Bright Days, Stupid Nights, p. 63; April 5, 1993, review of Out of Control, p. 79; July 21, 1997, review of When She Was Good, p. 202; June 12 1995, review of Missing Pieces, p. 62; November 8, 1999, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 69; April 23, 2001, review of Girlhearts, p. 21; April 23 2001, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 248.
School Library Journal, September, 1980; March, 1991, Judith Porter, review of C, My Name Is Cal, p. 193; March, 1991, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of D, My Name Is Danita, p. 193; November, 1991, Susan Oliver, review of E, My Name Is Emily, p. 120; July, 1992, Cindy Darling Codell, review of Bright Days, Stupid Nights, p. 90; January, 1998, review of When She Was Good, p. 43; December, 1999, Amy Lilien-Harper, review of Good Night, Maman, p. 137; May, 2001, Susie Paige, review of Girlhearts, p. 156.
Teacher Librarian, December, 2001, Rosemary Chance, review of Young Women Speak Out, p. 23.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 17 2001, review of Gladhearts, p. 4.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1993, review of Out of Control, p. 154; April, 1998, review of When She Was Good, p. 38; August, 2001, review of Girlhearts, p. 204.
Washington Post Book World, July 10, 1977; April 10, 1983, Suzanne Freeman, "The Truth about the Teens," p. 10; October 14, 1984; March 9, 1986; May 10, 1987, Cynthia Samuels, review of After the Rain, p. 19.
TeenReads, http://www.teenreads.com/ (November 4, 2003), "Author Profile: Norma Fox Mazer Interview."*