Bildungsroman is German for “coming of age” novel. Bildung means education and roman means novel. I came across this term in the process of identifying the genre of my novel. Genre is important when querying agents and publishers, and “literary novel” is not acceptable. Too broad. “Coming of age” seems the right category for my book, Beyond the Gate, because that’s exactly what protagonist Jessie does: she comes of age, grows up.
What books and charactersc come to your mind when you consider coming of age novels? From Pip to Holden Caufield to Jem and Scout–and laws-a-me, we can’t forget Tom and Huck–there are many classics in this genre. How about more recent examples? Esperanza who lives on Mango Street. Liesel of The Book Thief.
And another slant–we are all still growing up, maturing, enwizening.* That thought made this quote from Anne Tyler’s 2018 Clock Dance stand out to me: “…it often seemed to her that from behind her adult face a child about eleven years old was still gazing out at the world.”
In BTG, Jessie has to figure out how to live out of a childhood she never had; that is, her first 19 years were devoid of nurturing, fun, healthy relationship and exposure to the world beyond home and school. Even though I am her creator to a large degree, Jessie has become a role model for me of determination to risk and grow and learn and love, despite the difficulty.
*I believe I made this word up. It means “to become wiser, to grow in wisdom.”
What’s one of your favorite coming of age novels? How has the story and its characters affected your life?