Monday, March 31, 2014

Wordcraft -- Get your rumble on, with Hinton’s Outsiders

My daughter’s favorite book as a teen was, odds on, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Followed by every other young adult book written by Susan Eloise Hinton, whose first bestseller was famously published in 1967 using only her initials, to keep reviewers from dismissing her writing because she was a girl. And I’m not using “girl” as a putdown. Hinton wrote her first book while she was in high school. How’s that for setting the bar high for YA writers?

Lucky commuters today get a head start on the April Big D Reads events. Special edition copies of The Outsiders will be distributed at the West End, Mockingbird and Union Station DART stations from 7 - 8 a.m. and at the Victory station from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Now in her 60’s, Hinton visits Dallas this month in connection with the 2014 Big D Reads program, which will also see her most famous book distributed to every freshman high school student in Dallas and at other locations.

Hinton is scheduled to speak April 24 as part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live series. Her program is sold out, but fans can ask to be added to a waiting list by emailing their names, phone numbers and the number of tickets they're requesting to

Hinton had become distressed by the violence between rival gangs, the blue-color Greasers and upper-class Socs (pronounced “Soshes“) at her Tulsa, Oklahoma, high school. She decided to write from the viewpoint of fictional Greaser member Ponyboy Curtis, whose older brothers, Darrel and Sodapop, are also gang members.

“‘Need a haircut, greaser?’ asks the Soc confronting Ponyboy at the book’s beginning. “(He) pulled a knife out of his back pocket and flipped the blade open.

“I finally thought of something to say.” Ponyboy reports. “‘No.’ I was backing up, away from that knife. Of course I backed right into one of them.”

Hinton set her book in 1965. Its discussion of social class divisions, violence, and gangs has only increased in relevance in the years since.

(Because of the violence, the 1983 movie version of The Outsiders received a PG-13 rating, and the Big D Reads site warns the numerous showings and discussions scheduled this month may not be appropriate for all age levels.)

“I could see boys going down under street lights,” Ponyboy says by the novel’s end, “because they were mean and tough and hated the world, and it was too late to tell them that there was still good in it. . . It was too vast a problem to be just a personal thing.”

For a schedule of Big D Reads events, see

For more about the themes of The Outsiders, see the discussion at this site, “Healing through violence,” September 2, 2011.


Also this week, meet dozens of Texas writers Saturday, April 4, at the 2014 North Texas Book Festival, at the Center for Visual Arts, 400 E. Hickory Street, Denton, Texas. For information and event schedule, see

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