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Robert Lipsyte

Robert Lipsyte
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.04

     challenging words:    emotionally-disturbed, on-time, roundtable, self-described, starkey, columnist, edwards, age-related, award-winning, dropout, journalist, editorial, boomers, largely, latter, correspondent
     content words:    Robert Lipsyte, Rego Park, New York City, Sidney Lipsyte, York City, Fanny Finston Lipsyte, Columbia College, Graduate School, Miami Beach, When Lipsyte

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Robert Lipsyte
By Jamie Kee

1     Robert Lipsyte, American author and journalist, grew up in Rego Park, Queens, New York City. He wasn't an athletic child, and he felt different from the other kids because he was overweight. He often spent his time reading books and writing stories. Lipsyte grew up as the son of two educators. His father, Sidney Lipsyte, was a principal and later the director of all the New York City schools for emotionally-disturbed children. He died in 2004 at the age of 100. Lipsyte's mother, Fanny Finston Lipsyte, was a teacher and later a guidance counselor, both in the New York City public schools. She died in 1998 at the age of 90.
2     Thanks to his family, Lipsyte knew the importance of education from early on, so upon graduation from high school, he started Columbia College. Lipsyte says he began his "professional journalism life" in June of 1957. At age 19, he answered a classified ad for an "editorial assistant" because he needed a summer job. He later moved on to Columbia College's Graduate School of Journalism. At age 21, Lipsyte became a reporter.
3     In 1964 Lipsyte got an assignment to cover a heavyweight championship fight in Miami Beach. It was this experience that gave him the opportunity to write his first young adult novel, The Contender. When Lipsyte returned to New York from his assignment, he had a letter from Ferdinand Monjo, an editor at Harper and Row (now HarperCollins). Monjo told Lipsyte that he had enjoyed reading his boxing stories and asked Lipsyte if he would be interested in writing a novel with a boxing setting. Lipsyte jumped on the idea. The Contender was published a few years later in 1967.
4     The Contender is about Alfred Brooks, a high school dropout living on the streets of Harlem, New York. While hiding in a gym from street punks, he discovers his goal in life. He wants to become a champion boxer. After rigorous training, Alfred becomes more disciplined and gains confidence in himself. The Contender proved to be an extremely successful young adult novel. It earned numerous awards and recognitions such as the American Library Association Notable Children's Book, New Jersey Institute of Technology Author Citation, One of the 100 Best of the Best Books for Young Adults, and the New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age for the years 2000 through 2006.
5     Although most of Lipsyte's novels come out of his experiences as a journalist, some of his novels are based on his own life. Up until age 14, Lipsyte was very heavyset. He lost the weight, however, when he spent a summer cutting and tending the lawn of "a nasty old man who worked me thin." Ever since that experience, Lipsyte had thought about writing a book about that difficult summer. He was afraid, however, because he was ashamed of himself for being different. Finally, Lipsyte got up the courage to write the book when he saw the words "in the prison of my fat." It took him many years, but eventually he wrote the book, and it became his second young adult book published in 1977. According to Lipsyte, One Fat Summer was "sort of about me." The characters and adventures were fiction, but the emotions were real.

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