By Betty Smith
Set in Brooklyn, just before the first World War, this novel is not simply the story of a girl coming of age. It's raw and uncensored in the way it deals with poverty and class. The main character, Francie Nolan, doesn't have much of a childhood, and mostly she accepts her circumstances. But when one of her teachers tells Francie that she's a terrible writer, she rejects it. It's a real gift when you're doing art to understand that what you're doing is right. Something similar happened to me, and I remember being frustrated by the idea that I had to accept that an adult had a better estimation of my talents or my limitations. Francie is only a child—and yet she is certain the teacher is wrong.