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Obituary: William Taylor (1938-2015)

Wed 14 Oct 2015 In: People View at Wayback View at NDHA

Obituary: William Taylor (1938-2015) William Taylor was a prolific author, writing a total of thirty eight books for children, young adults and adults, mostly fiction. Agnes the Sheep, Knitwits, Numbskull and Hark: The Herald Angel are among his best-known works.  Taylor grew up in rural New Zealand during World War II. Given that his father was serving overseas, his family financial situation was somewhat stressed during that time, until his father came home at war's end. Taylor left school at sixteen, worked in a bank for a while and then went to Christchurch Teachers College, and taught for the next few decades of his life.  In 1981, he had his first YA novel, Pick Up Pack Up and Off published and retired from teaching in 1986 to write full time.    In 1987, he achieved his first success in the competitive US YA marker  after he published Possum Perkins,  which centred on the life of the daughter of a rural alcoholic dysfunctional adult family and was widely praised for its challenging themes, realism and characterisation.  As noted in the news item on his work, there are three subsequent young adult books which deal with the issue of gay adolescent sexuality that have won him some admiration and respect within our community, especially among LGBT youth and their families.The Blue Lawn (1999) dealt with a younger gay teenager's crush on an older teenage male rugby player and the reactions of those around them, while Jerome (2003) dealt with the painful but sadly relevant question of youth suicide, and the effects on two friends of the dead teenager who discover new truths about themselves in the wake of his tragic death, and Pebble in a Pool (2003) dealt with the death of two students, one of them from homophobic violence. One of his friends comes to terms with his own sexuality and speaks out about what has happened.  His books have been acclaimed by critics, such as John Stephens (Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinities in Children's Literature: 2002), for offering nuanced and active gay teenage protagonists in resistance to contemporary New Zealand straight male norms, sometimes maintained through violence, ostracism and traumatic social exclusion. More focused on LGBT affirmative content, Michael Cart and Christine Jenkin also praised the standard of his work in their critical volume The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature With LGBT Themes: 1969 -2004. Andrew Rumbles notes that Taylor was also ambiguous about his own sexuality- he argues that he belonged to a particular generation of New Zealanders who were reticent and private when it came to disclosure of matters such as sexual preference, although Taylor himself described himself as 'somewhere between heterosexual and homosexual' in his biography,Telling Tales: A Life in Writing (2010).   Taylor was a courageous, forthright author and one of whom we can be well proud.  His contribution to New Zealand LGBT and Young Adult literature is rich and he will be much missed.     Craig Young - 14th October 2015

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Wednesday, 14th October 2015 - 8:47am

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