Coming of Age Literature

Compares the coming-of-age theme in three autobiographies.

This paper compares and critiques the autobiographies of Maya Angelou, Margaret Mead, and Thu Huong Duong. The paper discusses the coming-of-age theme in each book and offers a positive review of Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Mead’s “Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years”, while suggesting that Doung’s Paradise of the Blind does not satisfy the criteria for a successful autobiography. The paper contends that Mead’s and Angelou’s autobiographies expose the facts of the authors’ lives to the reader, and thereby enlighten the reader, while Duong’s autobiography does not achieve this objective.
There are so many coming of age books in the English language, it is almost meaningless to refer as coming of age books to any work of fiction about growing up or to autobiographies that begin at birth and chronicle a life until at least, for argument’s sake, the sixteenth year. One could include in the roster of English language coming of age books such transcendentalist works as Alcott’s Little Women, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, all the Nancy Drew mysteries, and other non-literary literature, as well as such mannered works as Pride and Prejudice (where coming of age happens beneath laced corsets topped with lacy petticoats topped with flowery language in short, far removed from the earthiness of the modern entries in the genre.)