Trudy (B.) Krisher (1946-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1946, in Macon, GA; children: Laura, Kathryn, Mark. Education: College of William and Mary, B.A., 1968; Trenton State College, M.Ed., 1972. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Unitarian.
Office—Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402-1460. Agent—Danielle Egan-Miller, Browne & Miller Literary Associates, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Ste. 460, Chicago, IL 60605-1465.
University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, assistant professor and campus writing center coordinator, 1985-2001; Sinclair Community College, Dayton, assistant professor, 2001—.
National Council of Teachers of English, National Association of Developmental Education, Miami Valley Literacy Council (member of board of directors), Miami Valley Chorale.
Miami Valley Cultural Alliance Arts Award, 1994; Honor Book selection, Parents' Choice, and Best Book for Young Adults selection, American Library Association (ALA), both 1994, and Best Young Adult Novel award, International Reading Association, and Jefferson Cup Honor Book, Virginia Library Association, both 1995, all for Spite Fences; Cuffie Award for Most Promising New Author, Publishers Weekly, 1994; ALA Best Books award, 1997, 2004; New York Public Library award, 1995, 1997; Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award, Tennessee Association of School Librarians, 1999; Best Children's Book of the Year, Bank Street College of Education, 2004, for Uncommon Faith; Amelia Bloomer Project honors, City of Austin, TX, Youth Services, 2004; Culture Works Artists' fellowship, 2004.
Kathy's Hats: A Story of Hope, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1992.
Spite Fences, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.
Writing for a Reader: Peers, Process, and Progress in the Writing Classroom (college text book), Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1994.
Kinship (sequel to Spite Fences), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.
Uncommon Faith, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.
Fallout, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to anthologies, including Time Capsule: Short Stories about Teenagers throughout the Twentieth Century, edited by Don Gallo, Delacorte, 1999; contributor of book reviews to the Journal Herald.
Author's works have been translated into Japanese and Norwegian.
Spite Fences and Kinship were adapted as audiobooks, Recorded Books, 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Trudy Krisher's first two books for children and young adults established her reputation as a talented writer who does not hesitate to explore sensitive issues. Kathy's Hats: A Story of Hope portrays the courage of a child battling cancer, and Spite Fences presents a young white woman's difficult attempt to stand up for civil rights in the southern United States during the early 1960s. This latter book earned Krisher critical recognition in 1994, and she won the Cuffie Award from Publishers Weekly for 1994's most promising new author. It was also selected by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults, received an International Reading Association Children's book award, and was voted a Parent's Choice Honor Book.
Krisher once told Something about the Author SATA that "my father, through his love of history, taught me to value the telling detail, and my mother, through her concern for the welfare of others, taught me the gift of compassion. My own love of literature has taught me the value of true and honest work." Krisher's life struggles have also served her writing well. Her first book, Kathy's Hats, was inspired by her daughter Kathy's battle with cancer.
Kathy's Hats begins as Kathy discusses her fondness for hats: she wore a hat when she was a baby and still wears them during the winter and the summer and at Easter. Yet when Kathy is diagnosed with cancer and her chemotherapy treatments make her hair fall out, Kathy's perspective on hats changes. Her treatments are difficult and painful; she especially dislikes the long needles the nurses use to inject her medicine. Having to wear hats is another aspect of her cancer treatment Kathy resents. Finally, Kathy's mother explains that the young girl can think of her hats as thinking caps which can help her fight her disease. Kathy finds this advice helpful and changes her attitude about hats. By the time the children in her class enjoy a favorite hat party with Kathy, she is far along the road to recovery. According to Krisher, Kathy's Hats affirms "the courage and creativity" she has witnessed in young children with cancer.
Some reviewers appreciated the positive tone of the book, its realistic portrayal of cancer treatment, and the bright illustrations that accompany Krisher's text. A Kirkus Reviews critic appreciated the story as a "straightforward and upbeat picture of a child coping with cancer," and Ilene Cooper in Booklist concluded that Kathy's Hats is a "good piece of bibliotherapy" which may be useful in the classroom.
Krisher once told SATA that Spite Fences "marks a young girl's evolving social consciousness, and it has its roots in my childhood in the Jim Crow South at the beginning of the modern civil rights movement." Life for thirteen-year-old Magnolia "Maggie" Pugh has never been blissful. Her father is withdrawn, and her emotionally and physically abusive mother cares only about helping Maggie's little sister, Gardenia, win a beauty pageant. Yet events in the summer of 1960 in Kinship, Georgia, add to Maggie's troubles. First, her friend Zeke, a black man who has listened to Maggie's concerns and even given her a camera, is arrested after he uses a restroom designated for white people. Later, while Maggie is high up in a tree, she witnesses a terrible scene. A group of men which includes one of her neighbors strips Zeke, humiliates him, and beats him mercilessly. Although she would like to help Zeke, Maggie stays in the tree, and after the incident she is afraid to tell anyone what she has seen. To make matters worse, Virgil Boggs, one of Zeke's attackers, maliciously harasses Maggie and her little sister. At one point in the story, Virgil almost rapes Maggie.
Maggie's life begins to change when Zeke finds Maggie a job as a housekeeper for a highly educated black man who has moved to Kinship. George Hardy, a lawyer, teaches Maggie about the civil rights movement. She gradually gains respect for him and begins to fight for civil rights herself. Maggie even tells Mr. Hardy about Zeke's beating. Maggie's parents are upset about her friendship with Mr. Hardy and his friends, and the townspeople of Kinship ostracize her. Despite this lack of support, Maggie manages to overcome the ignorance and cruelty surrounding her, and she uses the camera Zeke gave her to understand and communicate the white community's abuse of the black.
According to a critic in Publishers Weekly, Maggie's "final triumph is a tribute to all who have suffered for justice." Spite Fences was lauded by other critics as well. With the "stunning narrative and achingly real characters, Maggie's pain and redemption are brought to vivid life," commented a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. "To read" Spite Fences, wrote Margaret Cole in School Library Journal, "is to climb inside the narrator's skin, share her emotions, and gain the wisdom she acquires." Frances Bradburn in Booklist described the book as "a superbly crafted first novel" and "a masterful, sobering display." About the writing of Spite Fences, Krisher explained that the novel allowed her to "explore the fences that divide and create the bridges that unite."
Krisher continues where Spite Fences left off with Kinship, which explores the difference between family and kin. To explore the nature of relationships, and to create a realistic vision of Happy Trails trailer park of Kinship, Georgia, where the second novel is set, Krisher wandered through trailer parks. She explained to an interviewer for the University of Dayton, "I found a trailer park to be a wonderful metaphor for what the story is all about—commitment." The main character is Pert Wilson, a friend of Maggie's introduced in Spite Fences. Pert is fifteen when her long-absent father comes back into her life; she first greets him joyfully, but soon realizes everything might not be as wonderful as she had imagined. Krisher explained to the University of Dayton interviewer, "When I was writing Spite Fences, the process of creation through up a friend for Maggie Pugh by the name of Pert Wilson. Where Maggie was cautious, Pert was impulsive. Where Maggie was shy, Pert was brash .… I was eager to learn more about this spunky spitfire who was Pert Wilson. I knew she was a character strong enough to deserve her own book."
The third of Krisher's historical novels, Uncommon Faith, focuses on women's rights activists in the 1840s. The 1837 livery fire in Millbrook, MA, which killed six people and wounded several others, becomes a starting point for characters concerned about both rights for women and rights for workers. The novel has ten narrators, each of whom tells a different story, some focusing on family issues, others focusing on large scale issues like slavery and helping slaves to escape along the Underground Railroad. One of the narrators is Faith Common, a fourteen-year-old champion of women's rights who leads her classmates to rebel against a cruel teacher who thinks that girls are incapable of learning math. "Able teens with an interest in women's history will be particularly drawn to this uncommon tale," promised Kathlee Isaacs in her School Library Journal review, calling the novel, "a crackerjack piece of historical fiction."
"I am happiest when I am dreaming about, planning, working out, sharing, or revising a piece of writing," Krisher once admitted to SATA. "Writing enables me to put the events in my life and those of my characters into perspective. It enables me to deepen my compassion for others and to probe the mystery of the human condition." The writer further commented, "I believe that my strengths as a writer are an eye for detail, a compassion for the joys, pains, struggles, and dreams of other human beings, and an uncompromising honesty. I hope to continue to write books that promote the highest values of which we as human beings are capable."
When she is not writing, Krisher helps others develop writing skills. She works as an assistant professor and writing center coordinator at the University of Dayton, Ohio, an assistant professor at Sinclair Community College, and is the author of a textbook for college students, Writing for a Reader.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 1, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of Kathy's Hats, p. 336; December 1, 1994, Frances Bradburn, review of Spite Fences, p. 666.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1992, p. 46.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1992. review of Kathy's Hats; December 15, 1994, review of Spite Fences.
Publishers Weekly, November 14, 1994, review of Spite Fences, p. 70.
School Library Journal, November, 1994, Margaret Cole, review of Spite Fences, p. 121; October, 2003, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Uncommon Faith, p. 169.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1994, p. 209.
University of Dayton Web site, http://www.udayton.edu/news/ (September 19, 1997), "Local Writer Explores Difference between Kin and Family in Second Novel."