That Was Then, This Is Now



Susan Eloise Hinton was born on July 22, 1950, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she attended Will Rogers High School. She began writing her first novel, The Outsiders, when she was fifteen years old. The Outsiders, a strikingly honest portrayal of the violent class conflict between underprivileged youth known as “Greasers” and wealthy kids from the other side of town known as “Socials” or “Socs,” was based on what Hinton observed in her own life. It was published when Hinton was seventeen, and met with immediate and enduring acclaim. It is currently the best-selling young adult novel of all time, and was made into a popular film in 1983 starring Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, and Matt Dillon, among others.

After the success of The Outsiders, Hinton suffered from a three-year writer’s block, which her boyfriend (who later became her husband) helped her to overcome by insisting that she write two pages a day before going out with him at night. In this way, Hinton wrote That Was Then, This Is Now, published in 1971. Hinton’s second novel takes place in the same unspecified Oklahoma town as The Outsiders, and even features Outsiders’ protagonist Ponyboy Curtis as an auxiliary character. That Was Then, This Is Now tells the story of best friends Mark and Bryon, teenage pool hustlers from a rough part of town who are driven apart by the painful process of growing up. It explores complex issues such as gang fighting, racism, poverty and drug use with depth and honesty. In 1985, the novel was adapted into a film starring Emilio Estevez.

Hinton’s realistic portrayal of young adult characters and the challenges they face have earned her many honors over the years, including the Margaret Alexander Edwards Award, given to authors who “over a period of time, have been accepted by young people as an authentic voice that continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions, giving insight into their lives."

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