Valley Ranch Library celebrates 50th anniversary of “The Outsiders”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Valley Ranch Library hosted a 50s-style sockhop on Friday, Aug 4, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the influential young adult novel, “The Outsiders.”

Written by 16-year-old S.E. Hinton, the book was first published on April 24, 1967. It tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis and the conflict between two gangs in the 1960s in rural Oklahoma. Ponyboy and his brothers are the Greasers, a gang of low-income working class teens. Their rivals the Socs, or Socials, are wealthy teens from the other side of town. When one of the Socs is killed by a Greaser, Ponyboy’s life is changed forever as he learns death and pain can affect anyone, no matter what their background.

“It’s a story about social classes,” Annette Burford, youth librarian at the Valley Ranch Library, said. “It’s about bringing differences together. There’s no perfect lifestyle, there’s no perfect group of people, and I think the message S.E. Hinton wanted to get across is that everybody comes from a different walk of life, but everyone is basically the same. Everybody has problems, everybody has conflicts, everybody has the same emotions. It’s important for kids to understand that no matter what walk of life they come from, nothing should hinder them from doing what they want to do, regardless of their background.”

Although the book is 50 years old, Burford believes its message is just as relevant today.

“It’s really different [today] as far as teen angst and problems people go through,” Burford said. “But it‘s all part of life, and everybody goes through it.”

The book was considered highly controversial at the time of its publication. It was ranked #38 on the “American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999” for its portrayal of gang violence, underage smoking and drinking, and strong language. Despite the controversy, The Outsiders was adapted into a film in 1983 directed by Francis Ford Coppola and also had a TV series adaptation in 1990.

Mindy Ewing, a volunteer with the Valley Ranch library, saw the film when she was a teenager.

“I saw the movie for the first time in the theater when it was showing,” Ewing said. “It’s one of those things that sticks with you. All teens have conflict, no matter what clique you’re in. You’re not always a Greaser, and there’s not always knife fights, but there’s always some kind of clique conflict between teens. I thought it was encapsulating of what we were feeling without us being able to express it.”

In addition to being directed by Coppola, the film also boasted a cast of up-and-coming stars, including Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane.

“Being that I saw [the movie] back then, I have grown up with all these actors,” Ewing said. “They’re very young, and it’s almost hard to realize that those people you’re seeing there are really famous actors now and that this was one of their first big breakout roles.”

The party was held as part of a tri-annual book party series held at Valley Ranch. The library held similar events this year for The Chronicles of Narnia in January and Alice in Wonderland in March.

“The parties are a great way to introduce classic books to a new audience, whether it is families who are new to the country or tweens and teens who haven’t yet encountered the book in school,” said Marianne Follis, the head librarian of Valley Ranch Library. “By creating a party, we give the books fun and memorable points of access which will hopefully stay with the attendees.”

About the Author

Ariel Graham
Ariel Graham is a freelance reporter and blogger. She graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Media & Communication in December of 2011. Prior to moving to Dallas, she worked for AM 790 KFYO in Lubbock, Texas, as a commercial voiceover actress, board operator, and producer for “Lubbock’s First News” & “The Chad Hasty Show.” She also wrote a weekly technology blog “The Geek Girl Report,” as well as various news stories and podcasts for the station. She is currently working on her new blog “Super Geek Girl Report,” and in her free time, she enjoys drawing, video editing, and playing video games.