I dearly love a good coming-of-age story. The genre’s very existence implies that at some point In Real Life, all shy, scabby teenagers will grow into the boots of mature self-possession, developing skins thicker than silk pocket squares and generally drawing themselves up to their full heights. There’s hope for me yet.
Lately, I’ve read several – some funny, some desperately sad, some both – of a very high standard. […]
What these books have in common is that they’re all by American authors (with a high proportion of National Book Awards and nominations among them). Is this merely coincidence, or is there something else at work here? Do American writers absorb Bildungsroman aptitude alongside fluoridated water and Wonder Bread? The titles that inevitably pop into my head when I hear the phrase “coming-of-age story” are Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird.
The question is, though, is this genre specific to American writers?