Robert Edmund Cormier
|Born||January 17, 1925|
Leominster, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||November 2, 2000 (aged 75)|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Genre||Realist young adult (YA) novels, crime fiction, thrillers|
|Notable awards||Margaret A. Edwards Award |
Robert Edmund Cormier (January 17, 1925 – November 2, 2000) was an American author and journalist, known for his deeply pessimistic novels, many of which were written for young adults. Recurring themes include abuse, mental illness, violence, revenge, betrayal, and conspiracy. In most of his novels, the protagonists do not win.
Cormier's most popular works include I Am the Cheese, After the First Death, We All Fall Down, and The Chocolate War, all of which have won awards. The Chocolate War was challenged in multiple libraries.
Early life and education
Robert Cormier was born in 1925 in Leominster, Massachusetts, in the French-Canadian section of the town called French Hill. He was the second of eight children. His family moved frequently to afford rent, but never left his hometown. Even when he was much older and owned a summer home, it was only 19 mi (31 km) away from Leominster. In a few of his books, Cormier's hometown of Leominster became the fictional town of Monument, and its village of French Hill became Frenchtown. The nearby city of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, became Wickburg.
Cormier attended St. Cecilia's Parochial School, a private Catholic school. He began writing when he was in the first grade and was praised at school for his poetry. He first realized his aspiration to become a writer in 7th grade, when he was encouraged by a nun to write a poem. He attended Leominster High School, graduating as the president of his class.
As a freshman at Fitchburg State College, Cormier had his first short story published when a college professor, Florence Conlon, without his knowledge, sent one of his stories to a national Catholic magazine The Sign for $75.
Cormier began his professional writing career scripting radio commercials. He eventually became an award-winning journalist. Even though he became widely known, he never stopped writing for his local newspaper, the Fitchburg Sentinel.
Cormier became a full-time writer after the success of his first adult novel for teenagers, Now and at the Hour (1960); others followed, such as The Chocolate War and After the First Death. He was concerned with the problems facing young people in modern society, which was reflected in his novels. He soon established a reputation as a brilliant and uncompromising writer. His awards include the Margaret A. Edwards Award of the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association, a lifetime award that recognizes a particular body of work that provides young adults with a window through which they can view the world, and which will help them to grow and understand themselves and their role in society. Cormier won the annual award in 1991, citing The Chocolate War; I Am the Cheese; and After the First Death.
The Chocolate War has been challenged in various libraries and schools for its language and its depictions of sexual activity, secret societies, and anarchic students. Between 1990 and 2000 it was the fourth most frequently challenged book in the US, according to the American Library Association.
Cormier's book I Am the Cheese (1977), which was named to several contemporary book lists, won the 1997 Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association as the best English language children's book that did not win a major award when it was originally published twenty years earlier. That is named for the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, to suggest the book's rise from obscurity.
By that time Cormier had won the 1991 Edwards Award citing I Am the Cheese as one of three 1974 to 1979 books "taken to heart by young adults over a period of years.” The American Library Association determined that "Cormier's brilliantly crafted and troubling novels have achieved the status of classics in young adult literature."
Cormier died on November 2, 2000 due to complications from a blood clot.
- I Have Words to Spend (1991)
- Novels except as stated
- Now and at the Hour (1960)
- A Little Raw on Monday Mornings (1963)
- Take Me Where the Good Times Are (1965)
- The Chocolate War (1974)
- I Am the Cheese (1977)
- After the First Death (1979)
- 8 Plus 1 (1980), short story collection
- The Bumblebee Flies Anyway (1983)
- Beyond The Chocolate War (1985)
- Fade (1988)
- Other Bells for Us to Ring (1990); UK title, Darcy (1991)
- We All Fall Down (1991)
- Tunes for Bears to Dance To (1992)
- In the Middle of the Night (1995)
- Tenderness (1997)
- Heroes (1998)
- Frenchtown Summer (1999)
- The Rag and Bone Shop (2000)
- I Am the Cheese (1983)
- The Chocolate War (1988)
- Lapse of Memory (1991), an adaptation of I Am the Cheese
- The Bumblebee Flies Anyway (1999)
- Tenderness (2009)
- The Assignment (2012), a student feature film adaptation of The Chocolate War
- "Robert Cormier". Penguin Books. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
- "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000". ALA.org. American Library Association. Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2008.
- "Robert Cormier". A City of Words: The Worcester Writer's Project. WPI Library. Retrieved January 19, 2008.
- "Robert Cormier". (interview) London: ACHUKA Books. July 11, 2000. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
- Gardner, Lyn (November 6, 2000). "Robert Cormier: American novelist whose work was a hotline to the hearts and minds of teenagers all over the world". The Guardian. London. Retrieved January 28, 2008.
- "Robert Cormier". bn.com. Archived from the original on June 6, 2007. Retrieved January 25, 2008.
- "Robert Cormier". eNotes. Retrieved January 28, 2008.
- "1991 Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner". ALA.org. Young Adult Library Services Association, American Library Association. Archived from the original on October 6, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- "Phoenix Award Brochure 2012" (PDF). childlitassn.org. Children's Literature Association. Retrieved December 14, 2012.[permanent dead link]
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