It’s not every day that you get to kick off the best moment of your entire reading, working, writing, and book-loving life. But that’s what launching Lizzie Skurnick Books, and getting to bring back these beloved works of YA fiction, is to me.
I didn’t become a reader until age 7, when I somehow happened upon the novelization of The Karate Kid at a sleepover while my friend was still slumbering. (Don’t worry. It gets better.) Fast-forward to a trip to the independent bookstore, Book Junction, of my hometown of Englewood, NJ, where I’d gone with my mother to check if they stocked a book by a friend — a slightly embarrassing practice I highly recommend, by the way.
Book Junction was ahead of its time in that it stocked YA before there really was anything officially called YA — and it stocked quite a bit. That day, in the lower-right-hand corner of a shelf you had to get on your knees to fully browse, I found copies of Paula Danziger’s The Divorce Express and Madeleine L’Engle’s The Moon By Night (I’ve never been great about doing things in order), books my mother gave a perfunctory look and approved. (I’m looking at my copy of Tiger Eyes, a subsequent purchase, right now — it seems to have cost $2.50. A small price to pay to keep anyone under 10 occupied for a few hours.)
But what my mother didn’t know — and what most of our parents didn’t know — was that this brilliantly expansive library went beyond the brief pull-quotes and jeans-wearing girls on the covers. These were stories about girls our age, yes, but they were also stories that taught us about sharecropping, World War II, date rape, divorce, ghosts, and telekenetic dolphins. (To name a few.)
Here was Salem, losing your virginity, the fourth dimension (Time! Time!), and the witty, knowing teens of 1970s’s Upper West Side. Here was the CIA, the Titanic, Fat Man and Little Boy, Hitler, the reproductive process of bees, and schizophrenia. (Right now, I’ve just turned to the triple-stacked shelves across the room, and am going down them at random.)
These were the books that taught us about love, violence, friendship, family, siblings, war, and boating. (The Odyssey: feh.) And for me, they were the books that taught me about being a person, and a woman, in the world.
Lizzie Skurnick Books was conceived this September, over pizza, with the publisher and editor-in-chief of our now-mothership, Ig Publishing. The plan was to get a few of our favorite books out every year. So much for that. The number soon doubled, then tripled, as we saw what books publishers had (inconceivably) let go. Guess what? Turns out if you call up an author and say, “I love your books, and I’d like to put them all back into print and digital, and into every library, bookstore, and book club all over the land,” they often say, “Sure.”
Our fall season brings us 7 astonishing and delightful works. There’s Debutante Hill, Lois Duncan’s first novel, the story of a girl’s fall from the popular crowd that also managed to put the down payment on the author’s first home. There’s To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie, Ellen Conford’s madcap 1950’s tale of a girl setting off for Hollywood to get out of a string of terrible foster homes. There’s literary powerhouse Ernest J. Gaines’ A Long Day in November, the autobiographical tale of a young boy whose sharecropping parents break up, then come together, in 24 hours that are eventful enough for a year.
Lila Perl’s Me and Fat Glenda, the first of a beloved quartet, introduces us to an unlikely pair of best friends, one fleeing her mortifying, beatnik family, the other the stifling propriety that doesn’t leave room for experimental hamburger recipes. (Or a lot of honesty.) Berthe Amoss’s Secret Lives takes us into 1930s New Orleans and the gawky young Addie, who actually climbs into a crypt in search of the mystery of her glamorous mother’s death. (Don’t worry; it’s funny and scary.) M.E. Kerr’s I’ll Love You When You’re More Like Me is the uber-misfit novel of a teenage soap-opera star and a boy who doesn’t want to be a mortician who meet one summer in the Hamptons (try to do an “It’s X-meets-Y!” on that), while Sandra Scoppettone’s Happy Endings Are All Alike is the first novel to deftly talk about both teenage lesbianism and rape.
Our spring and fall list brings still more works from these authors, including a collection of the first-published stories by Lois Duncan (!), as well as new ones: Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series, Norma Klein’s quite — cough — liberated New York teens, Brenda Wilkinson’s wonderful Ludell series, one of the first YA series with an African-American heroine, and Erich Kastner’s Parent Trap-spawning twins, Lisa and Lottie. We’ve got the amazing regional novels of Lois Lenski, as well as a list of 50+ novels that keeps on growing. (By the way, I love your recommendations and reminders, as do Amazon stock, eBay’s CEO, and the used booksellers of Sixth Avenue in the West Village. Keep them coming.)
You’ve asked for a subscription that lets you simply get a book a month to read at your leisure. You got it. You haven’t asked for contests, but I love them, so you’ll get those too, as well as author essays, readings, classic YA news, cover collections, and — if we’re all very lucky — totes.
It’s an incredible honor, and a privilege, to put these authors back in readers’ hands, where they belong. It’s also a joy to bring them all back to you. I hope Lizzie Skurnick Books can be to you what that shelf at Book Junction, nearly 30 years ago, was to me.