Aidan Chambers, one of the most important authors in contemporary English fiction for young adults, was born in 1934 in Chester-le-Street in the north east of England. Before entering an Anglican monastery in 1960 and while he was a monk, he worked as a teacher. In the following years, he published his first texts and established himself as renowned teacher and librarian. Chambers left his order in 1967 and has lived in Gloucestershire since then, working as a freelance writer. After initially writing for teenage reluctant readers, he turned to young adults in 1975: »I found the audience that I wanted to talk to – myself at the age of sixteen-and-a-half.« After every encounter with adolescents, he discovered anew that their language and their emotions were not adequately represented in books: »Like all ›suppressed‹ people, they need their own literature to liberate themselves.«
His novel »Breaktime« (1978) initiated his award-winning »Dance«-sequence in which every novel tells an independent story of contemporary youth. Ditto is escaping the confines of everyday life in his family, at the same time gaining first experiences in love with Helen. Bold print and speech bubbles, different typesets and inserted comic-style drawings brilliantly express Ditto’s emotional chaos. In Aidan Chambers’ novels adolescents and young adults discover moments of great authenticity, tenderness and emotion. Just like the characters in his novels, the readers are confronted with the complex experiences of friendship, love and sexuality as well questions of identity, trust and responsibility. With the powerful language of his novels and their artfully composed plots, Aidan Chambers ambitiously addresses courageous readers.
One of his most well-known books for young adults, »Dance on my Grave« (1982), engagingly narrates the emotional, physical, social and spiritual aspects of the relationship between Hal and Berry. Chambers describes both the ecstasy and the uncertainty that accompanies this first love, depicting the imminent conflict that does not arise from the lovers’ homosexuality but rather from their opposed personalities. In »The Toll Bridge« (1992) the author once again develops a dramatic scenario of closeness and distance, of shocking perceptions about both the self and others: Jan, in an attempt to escape his home, takes a job at an isolated toll house. Before long, the dauntless Tess and the attractive Adam intrude into Jan’s withdrawal. »Die Zeit« wrote of this novel: »›The Toll Bridge‹ belongs in the front row of young adult fiction.«
In his latest novel, he uses the »Pillow Book« as a source of inspiration, a collection of thoughts, impressions and descriptions in letters, notes, lists and poems written by the famous socialite Sei Shonagon at the Japanese Imperial Court around 1000 A.D. In his book »This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn« (2005), Chambers lets the nineteen-year-old Cordelia recount her adolescence from the age of fifteen up until the imminent birth of her baby.
Aidan Chambers is an authority on literature for children and young people. He has produced essays, reviews, radio and television shows, and worked as a publisher and dramatic adviser. His intellectually engaging novel »Postcards from No Man’s Land« (1999) was awarded the Carnegie Medal (1999) and the Michael L. Printz Award (2003). In 2002 Aidan Chambers was the recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Medal in recognition of his entire body of work.
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