A trip into Yolen’s fantastically immersive world grounded in reality!

By Himanshu Nimbhorkar

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“Stories” he’d said, his voice low and almost husky, “We are made up of stories. And even the ones that seem the most like lies can be our deepest hidden truths.”

Psychologically driven, a wondrous sense of worldview, vivid imagery, deeper humane metaphors – and countless other things come together – to form a monumental body of work spanning across 400+ books. Genres like sci-fi, humor, history, animation, fantasy – you name one, and the legendary Jane Yolen might have something or the other to her credit for anything and everything that exists.

Born on 11th February 1939, in New York, Yolen (a novelist, poet, songwriter, journalist, and much more) quickly acquainted herself with the artistic world inherited partially from her parents. Fantasy, music, folktales – Yolen got influenced by the stories she read as a kid.

‘The Devil’s Arithmetic’, a Holocaust novella, is Yolen’s most famous work. Involving time travel back to the days of the Holocaust and the surrounding atmosphere, the book revolves around a young girl who is sent back in time to understand and learn about the Holocaust, which changes her as a person.

Yolen writes every day. May it be a paragraph, a sentence, or a word. A summary of an idea, thought, sketches, or drawings. Anything and everything under the sun that could keep her in shape as a writer. She firmly believes writing every day does wonders for a writer’s prowess. Just the way an athlete works out and practices their sport every single day. And other professionals do their thing like a ritual on a routine basis. Writing every day is important.

A few of the titles in Yolen’s long list of the body of work include the likes of ‘Favorite Folktales from Around the World’, ‘Lost Girls’, ‘The Wizard of Washington Square’, ‘The Gift of Sarah Baker’, ‘Cards of Grief’, ‘Wizard’s Hall’, ‘Briar Rose’, ‘Armageddon Summer’, the list goes on.

Yolen has won the Special World Fantasy Award, Sydney Taylor Book Award, The Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal, Nebula Award for Novelette, World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, and the hearts of millions of her young (as well as old) readers.

Yolen also emphasizes upon the significance of fairy tales in our lives. These stories, though being exaggerated versions, still fall back upon the real world, real life, real people, and real emotions. For the sake of effect, everything is mounted on an unbelievably fantastical scale, but the emotions are all very humane and grounded. It’s the metaphors that we need to identify and relate ourselves with. These metaphors exist in every good fantastical book. It’s a mirror of sorts to the real world.

“We all have such stories. It is a brutal arithmetic. But I – I am alive. You are alive. As long as we breathe, we can see and hear. As long as we can remember, all those gone before are alive inside us.”

In the world of Jane Yolen’s stories we reside, embrace, love, and make peace with our own world.