Why I Write for Young People

I’m often asked why I write for young people. The following note from Molly K. should answer that question.

Dear Mrs. Cushman,

Recently I just finished your book The Loud Silence Of Francine Green. It was such a great book. I really felt and feel close to the main character Francine. I am a eighth grade girl and I need to find a high school soon. I also go to a catholic school and I have to wear a skirt. I love how in your book Sophie drew little flowers all over her skirt, I just admire her bravery to stand up for herself and others. When I was finished reading your book I felt a sense of bravery in a way, the way you wrote the book made me feel I could do anything. I am a very introverted girl and I don’t have very many friends. But this year I started coming out of my shell and talking to more to people and I have really talked a lot.  In your book Francine was a very shy girl, then she grew and grew throughout the novel. Then finally at the end she stood up to Sister Basil. I have started to become a girl that stands up for myself and others more and more each passing day. Your book helped me so much, it helped me believe a small, shy girl can do anything she wants.

From one of your biggest fans,

Molly K.

In no other place or time

Q. Some people feel that if the writer has lived through it, it can’t be termed historical fiction. Teachers are considering historical fiction to be anything before 2000, because their students didn’t live through those times. How do you feel about this? Is The Loud Silence of Francine Green historical fiction?

A. Jane Yolen says that children think a historical novel is about anything that happened before they were born. But that misses what I think is the most important attribute of a historical novel: it tells a story that could not possibly have happened in any other place or time, a story that results from the combination of character and circumstances. The character would not have been faced with the particular situation or issues at any other time. The situation springs from the period, focused through individuals. For example, The Loud Silence of Francine Green and the anti-communist hysteria of the late 1940s/early 1950s. Or Catherine Called Birdy facing an arranged marriage for her family’s gain. Or the science that made alchemy believable while superstition prevailed in Alchemy and Meggy Swann.

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The Hollywood Ten

The Loud Silence of Francine GreenBackground: The Loud Silence of Francine Green: From reading the book, you know that Francine’s friend Sophie’s father was a screenwriter in Hollywood, which is a factor upon which the plot turns.

You may find it interesting to learn more about Ring Lardner, Jr., a writer who won Academy Awards for M*A*S*H and Woman of the Year. In 1947, he was one of the Hollywood Ten, actors and writers from Hollywood who were questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee for suspicions of having left-wing or Communist sympathies. He refused to answer questions about his political status and was sent to prison for 12 months and fined $1,000. He was fired as one of the highest-paid screenwriters in Hollywood and blacklisted from working there again. 

Here’s a 90-minute reading by various actors from Ring Lardner, Jr’s, memoir, I’d Hate Myself in the Morning

You can listen to an audio clip from The Loud Silence of Francine Green here.