Zina Lee on Jane Yolen

Over a few pints of Guinness, I asked Zina what her favorite Jane Yolen tale was and why so. Here’s her answer:

I’ve so many favorite Yolen stories and I am so grateful to her for them all, but I suppose that right now my favorite is ‘Briar Rose’, her re-telling of Sleeping Beauty within the framework of the Holocaust.

There are three things that I love about Jane Yolen’s writing and that ‘Briar Rose’ seems to me to be an exemplar of:

First, Jane Yolen’s luminous use of language is fluid, facile yet challenging, exquisite in its clarity.

Second, Yolen is a writer’s writer; the story is the thing in a Jane Yolen tale, everything furthers the story along, there’s almost never any self-indulgent prose that doesn’t keep the story in the air.

and finally,and possibly the most important, Jane Yolen is a remarkably human writer. Her stories always always always illuminate some facet of human nature, strengths, weaknesses, abilities, or beauties, in some way that causes me to look at life differently, from someone else’s viewpoint, through another human’s eyes.

That ‘Briar Rose’ is about an evil that grew to be so large that it almost eclipsed the humanity of its participants, yet still manages to be a beautiful tale astounds me as a writer. As a human being and a reader, I was touched to the core over and over again.

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