Authors: S. E. Hinton

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Outsiders, 1967

That Was Then, This Is Now, 1971

Rumble Fish, 1975

Tex, 1979

Taming the Star Runner, 1988


Rumble Fish, 1983 (adaptation of her novel; with Frances Ford Coppola)

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Big David, Little David, 1995

The Puppy Sister, 1995


With the publication of The Outsiders, Susan Eloise Hinton revolutionized young adult literature. Considered the first modern young adult novel, the beginning of “new realism” in works for teenagers, this novel portrays teenagers realistically rather than idealistically. The Outsiders resonated with readers because Hinton captured characters, settings, and dialogue that were characteristic of teenage life in the United States, perhaps because she was a teenager when she wrote the novel.{$I[A]Hinton, S. E.}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Hinton, S. E.}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Hinton, S. E.}{$I[tim]1948;Hinton, S. E.}

S. E. Hinton

(David Inhofe)

Little is known of Hinton’s childhood, and some controversy exists even as to her year of birth, but most biographers agree that Hinton was a sophomore at Tulsa’s Will Rogers High School when she began writing The Outsiders. Her father, Grady P. Hinton, had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and her mother observed that the more ill her husband became, the harder Hinton worked on her writing. He died in her junior year, about the time she finished the book. She actually worked through four drafts of it and still had no dreams of having it published until a friend’s mother who wrote children’s books gave her the name of her agent in New York. Hinton sent her the manuscript and thus became a published author when the novel appeared in stores during the spring of her freshman year in college.

The book was published under her initials, to maintain her anonymity; the publisher was concerned that boys would find it difficult to relate to the book–despite the fact that it is written from the male perspective–if they knew the author was a woman. Writing from the male point of view seemed quite natural to Hinton, who considered herself a tomboy and had many close male friends. Further, part of the impetus for writing came from her need to read such a book. Up to that time, books for young adults tended to focus on issues like whether Betty Jane or Sally were going to be invited to the prom. Hinton also wrote in response to the divisions in her own school, the final push occurring after a friend suffered a terrible beating.

Royalties from The Outsiders, which initially sold four million copies, helped finance Hinton’s education at the University of Tulsa, where she majored in education and graduated with a B.S. in 1970. During this time she met David Inhofe, whom she married in 1970. He helped her to overcome a disabling writer’s block. Once she began taking literature courses at college and reread her first book, she became convinced it had little merit and could never match the quality of literature she was studying. Inhofe helped her return to writing; he insisted that she complete two pages a day (if she did not, they did not go out in the evening). It was a method that worked; four years later, That Was Then, This Is Now was published. Considered a more disciplined book than The Outsiders, and more technically refined, the novel is thought to lack something of her first: the quality that has maintained The Outsiders’ popularity since teens first discovered it through word of mouth and made it the phenomenon it has been since publication.

Four years later came Rumble Fish, and then four years after that, Tex. All four of these novels, set in Oklahoma, include realistic dialogue and are narrated by a young, sensitive male protagonist who either lack parental supervision or have ineffective adult role models. The characters in each were confronted with difficult decisions, often with violent outcomes. In terms of literary merit, Hinton is proudest of Rumble Fish. She has stated that it is the easiest to read but the hardest to understand; she has declared it the hardest to write. Tex, however, is her favorite book.

With Tex, Hinton’s novels began their tenure in Hollywood. Disney produced the film version of Tex (1982), while Frances Ford Coppola optioned the rights to The Outsiders (1983). Shooting in Tulsa, with Hinton on site, he proposed that on their Sundays off from filming, the two of them write the screenplay for Rumble Fish (1983) and then film it immediately afterward. They did. In both Coppola productions, Hinton had cameo roles, and part of the agreement with Disney was that her own horse be used in Tex; however, Hinton was not involved in the fourth movie, the adaptation of That Was Then, This Is Now (1985), written by Emilio Estevez. It is considered the least successful of the four films.

In 1983, Hinton’s son, Nicholas David, was born, and in 1988 came Hinton’s fifth young adult novel, Taming the Star Runner, her most autobiographical novel, as part of the story revolves around Travis’s publishing a book while still in his teens. Published just after she was given the first annual Margaret A. Edwards Award for career achievement in 1988, honoring her impact on young adult literature, this novel confirmed that Hinton still could connect with teenage readers. Indeed, what she likes most about The Outsiders is that it has enabled many students to enjoy reading, clearly a significant accomplishment.

Contributing to that recognition of lifetime achievement are the myriad awards these books have won through the years. For example, all five novels were named among the Best Young Adult Books by the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association and School Library Journal. The Outsiders and That Was Then, This Is Now were each named a Chicago Tribune Book World Spring Book Festival Honor Book and presented with the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award. Rumble Fish, Tex, and Taming the Star Runner were each named as one of School Library Journal’s Best Books of the year. Tex was nominated both for the American Book Award and the California Young Reader Medal.

Her career shifted with the publication of Big David, Little David and The Puppy Sister, picture books for preschool and early elementary-school readers. Instead of being written from Hinton’s experience growing up, these books focused on her son’s childhood. In 1998, Hinton was the sole inductee into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.

BibliographyChevalier, Tracy, ed. Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers. 3d ed. Chicago: St. James Press, 1989. Includes a concise review of Hinton’s major works.Daly, Jay. Presenting S. E. Hinton. Updated ed. Boston: Twayne, 1989. A comprehensive and authoritative reference.Drew, Bernard A. The One Hundred Most Popular Young Adult Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1997. Helpful commentary on Hinton and list of additional references.
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