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Madge Harrah (1931-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

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Born 1931, in Lamar, MO; married Larry Harrah (a physical chemist Madge Harrah and spectroscopist), June 5, 1952; Education: University of Missouri, Columbia, B.S.; studied playwriting at Antioch College, 1963. Politics: Independent. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Astronomy, music.

Addresses

Agent—Robin Rue and Emily Sylvan, Writers House, 21 West 26th St., New York, NY 10010.

Career

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, OH, graphic artist, 1958-60; writer and illustrator, 1960—; freelance artist, 1962-85; instructor and lecturer in creative writing, 1980—.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National League of American Pen Women (former state president), SouthWest Writers Workshop.

Honors Awards

New Mexico Civil Air Patrol award, 1985-88, for outstanding service as a public-affairs officer; (with Colonel Larry Harrah) Decade of Dedication Award, 1990, for dedicated service to New Mexico Civil Air Patrol; Golden Spur Award for best juvenile fiction, Western Writers of America, 1990, for Honey Girl; Parris Award, 1993, for service to Southwest Writers Workshop; Woman of Distinction Award, New Mexico Chaparral Girl Scout Council, 1994; First Prize for Juvenile Fiction, National League of American Pen Women, 1998, ZIA Award for Best Juvenile Fiction, New Mexico Press Women, 1999, and national Grand Prize for Best Juvenile Fiction, National Association of Press Women, 2000, all for My Brother, My Enemy; Notable Trade Book citation, National Council for the Social Studies, 2004, for Blind Boone: Piano Prodigy; The Prize earned grand prize in an international play competition.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS

The Nobody Club, Avon (New York, NY), 1989.

(And illustrator) Honey Girl, Avon (New York, NY), 1990.

No Escape, Avon (New York, NY), 1993.

(And illustrator) Comet Luck, Avon (New York, NY), 1994.

My Brother, My Enemy, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Blind Boone: Piano Prodigy, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.

FOR ADULTS

Call of the Dove, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1985.

(As Monique Harrah) Mirror of Darkness, Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1986.

(As Monique Harrah) The Mists of Milwood, Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1987.

(As Monique Harrah) Shadow of the Cat, Zebra Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Author of novel Dark Current, serialized in Cappers Weekly, 1979. Contributor of stories and articles to periodicals, including Guideposts Magazine, Readers' Digest, Catholic Digest, Church Herald, Saturday Review, Light and Life, Grit, Outlook, Upper Room, Impact, Sunday Digest, Ragtimer, Prism, Albuquerque, Albuquerque News, Mississippi Rag, and Fellowship in Prayer. Essays and stories included in anthologies, including On Children and Death, edited by Elizabeth Kublar-Ross, 1983; A Treasury of Catholic Digest: Favorite Stories of Fifty Years, 1986; Show Me Missouri Women, Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1993; The Gifts of Love, Guideposts Book Division, 1994; and Night Terrors, Simon and Schuster, 1996.

STAGE PLAYS

Teenagers of the Bible (one-acts), Baker's Plays (Boston, MA), 1969.

(With Paula Paul) The Legend of Old Tome (musical), produced in Tome, NM, 1976.

(With Paula Paul) Bravo Rio Grande (musical), produced in Albuquerque, NM, 1977.

Wake to the Stars, produced in Albuquerque, NM, 1978.

Born of the Sun (musical), produced in Raton, NM, 1992.

Also author of play Tales of the Trail.

OTHER

(Illustrator) Jeanne Bonnette, Geronimo Chino, Montana Council for Indian Education, 1980.

(Illustrator) Jeanne Bonnette, Three Friends (coloring book), Montana Council for Indian Education, 1981.

The Prize (radio play), NBC Radio, 1983.

Also author of The Sacred Monkey (radio play), 1965.

Work in Progress

Drawing the Line, a middle-grade historical novel; two one-act musical plays.

Sidelights

Madge Harrah has written widely, for both adults and children, in many genres—novels, historical fiction, stage and radio plays, and biography. As she told Something about the Author (SATA): "When I was young I wanted to be the Renaissance Woman. I majored in art education at the University of Missouri in Columbia, with minors in English and music. Later I exhibited paintings in juried shows, published short stories and articles, and composed music that was performed in recitals. When I was thirty-two years old my husband said, 'You're spreading yourself too thin. You're trying to be a wife, mother, painter, writer, composer. You may already be halfway through your life. I know that being creative is important to you, but if you're ever going to accomplish anything worthwhile in the arts, you need to choose one creative discipline and concentrate on that. Otherwise, you'll just become a dilettante.' Good advice. After much soul-searching I decided I was primarily a storyteller. Shortly thereafter I had a chance to study writing with Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone television series. The year after that I won my first international playwriting contest. I have been writing ever since."

Two of Harrah's notable works for middle-graders, Honey Girl and My Brother, My Enemy, are historical novels that allow readers to explore America's past. In Honey Girl, which Harrah also illustrates, she tells the story of twelve-year-old Dorothy Stahmann and her family as they travel down the Mississippi River, from Wisconsin to Arkansas, by houseboat in 1908. To earn enough money for the voyage, the travelers keep beehives and sell the honey that is produced, as well as selling the pearls and shells they come across while digging clams. The Stahmanns overcome measles, bad weather, and some nasty strangers, but the kindness of more benevolent acquaintances helps to pull them through. The book is based on a true story, and Harrah uses actual writings by Dorothy and her mother as source material for the book. With Honey Girl "Harrah has fashioned a dramatic tale," Diane Roback and Richard Donahue declared in Publishers Weekly, adding that the author also weaves "scientific, geographic and historical information" into her story.

My Brother, My Enemy is set much earlier, in 1676. Fourteen-year-old Robert Bradford has been left orphaned by a band of Susquehannock Native Americans who killed his family. Now with nothing—even the family's house and barns are burned—but suspecting that his Indian blood brother Naokan was part of the raiding party, Robert sets out to get revenge by killing his former friend. He joins up with Nathaniel Bacon, the leader of a rebellion against both the indigenous peoples of the Virginia colony and the colony's British rulers, but when the rebellion fails Robert is captured and convicted of treason against the king of England. "Fourteen years old and sentenced to hang," as the book's first line declares, Robert sits in his cell the night before his scheduled execution and writes his story. My Brother, My Enemy is based on true events, and "Harrah obviously knows the historical material backward and forward," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. "The political climate of seventeenth-century Virginia is explained clearly," Bruce Anne Shook added in School Library Journal, and "little-known details about Bacon's Rebellion are well-integrated into the story line."

"When I go into schools and speak with children, they ask, 'What is your favorite book that you've written?'" Harrah explained to SATA. "I answer that it's always my latest book. As of now, my latest book is a biography for middle-grade readers called Blind Boone: Piano Prodigy.

"John William 'Blind' Boone was born during the Civil War, the son of a runaway slave. He and his mother Rachel took refuge in Warrensburg, Missouri, where they were befriended by the townspeople. At the age of six months Boone developed 'brain fever,' probably meningitis, which infected his eyes. To save his life, the doctors took his eyes out and sewed the eyelids shut. He proved to be a musical genius who could play anything on the piano having heard it only once. After an adventurous childhood that reads like something invented by Mark Twain, he went on to become a classical concert pianist and composer who toured the United States for forty-seven years. He was one of the early 'ragtimers' and is credited with being the first concert pianist to give legitimacy to black music.

"I first heard about Blind Boone fifty years ago when I became friends with an elderly man named Wayne B. Allen who had been Boone's last manager. For two years he told me stories about Boone, and I took notes. He said, 'I don't want Boone to be forgotten.' Therefore, right now, this is my favorite book."

Critics have appreciated Blind Boone. Ginny Gustin noted that it contains a "lively and appreciative text," in her review for School Library Journal. Praising the book's copious end-matter, including a chronology and discography, the critic added that Harrah presents "a well-organized look at an interesting figure about whom very little has been written." Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan also praised the work, calling it "an interesting biography of a remarkable man."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Harrah, Madge, My Brother, My Enemy, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of My Brother, My Enemy, p. 1493; December 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Blind Boone: Piano Prodigy, p. 663.

Book Report, November-December, 1997, Susan McCaffrey, review of My Brother, My Enemy, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly, April 14, 1989, Kimberly Olson Fakih and Diane Roback, review of The Nobody Club, p. 69; November 23, 1990, Diane Roback and Richard Donahue, review of Honey Girl, p. 65; April 21, 1997, review of My Brother, My Enemy, p. 73.

School Library Journal, July, 1997, Bruce Anne Shook, review of My Brother, My Enemy, p. 93; April, 2004, Ginny Gustin, review of Blind Boone, p. 170.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 2004, Beth E. Andersen, review of Blind Boone, p. 150.

ONLINE

Madge Harrah Home Page, http://www.madgeharrah.com/ (June 1, 2004).

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