Virginia Euwer Wolff taught high school English for thirty years before she quit to write. Her young adult novels have won widespread acclaim, including a National Book Award for the second in her trilogy Make Lemonade.
That series was the focus of our wonderful hour with her last summer. Perhaps it’s not surprising a teacher of teens would focus on an adolescent audience, but Wolff says she stumbled into the genre, inspired by conversations she overheard in the cafeteria.
She remembers the emotion:
I was in the cafeteria in the high school where I was teaching English. A student was looking forward to something. At the same table a week later, a person said such and such didn’t happen. It went to my spine.
That led to her first young adult novel, Probably Still Nick Swansen. It’s a moving account of a boy in special ed classes who asks a girl to the prom. Make Lemonade takes on poverty, identity, and transitioning worlds. Wolff wrote the series in verse, immersing you in her protaganist’s inner dialog. Wolff also explores the legacy of the deportation of ethnic Japanese from Hood River during World War II in Bat 6, which the state Library Association chose this year as part of the Oregon Reads sesquicentennial commemoration.
If you’ve read any of Wolff’s books, what was your favorite?