Kimberley Heuston (1960–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
(Kimberley Burton Heuston)
Born 1960, in Provo, UT; Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1981; Vermont College, M.F.A., 2000. Politics: "Independent." Religion: Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon).
Office—Waterford School, 1480 E. 9400 S., Sandy, UT 84093.
Waterford School, Sandy, UT, teacher, 1984–.
Utah Children's Writers and Illustrators.
Association for Mormon Letters Award for Young-Adult Literature, honorable mention, 2002, for The Shakeress; Association for Mormon Letters Award for Young-Adult Literature, 2003, and Children's Book Award Notable Book designation, International Reading Association, Books for the Teen Age designation, New York Public Library, and Canadian Children's Book Centre Choice designation, all 2004, all for Dante's Daughter.
FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
The Shakeress, Front Street (Asheville, NC), 2002.
Dante's Daughter, Front Street (Asheville, NC), 2003.
(With Jonathan M. Kenoyer) The Ancient South Asian World (juvenile nonfiction), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Single Parenting: Help for Latter-Day Saint Families, Deseret Book (Salt Lake City, UT), 1998.
Work in Progress
The Velvet Years, an historical fiction novel about the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia; books on Mesoamerica and the Spanish-American War; a young-adult novel about seventeenth-century Dutch and English history.
Kimberley Heuston worked as an English and history teacher for several years before she decided to start writing books; although she had always loved books while growing up, writing one seemed too daunting. In an author interview for the Utah Writers and Illustrators Web site, Heuston explained: "I taught English and history, and after a while, writing wasn't scary anymore. I finally figured out that if you spend enough time on something, eventually you will figure out what it is you really want to say and then all you have to do is say it."
Much of Heuston's writing focuses on young people in history who are in the process of finding out who they are. In her first novel, The Shakeress, set in the 1820s, Naomi and her siblings are orphaned. Instead of staying with their stern aunt, Naomi takes the children to live in a Shaker community where they are taken in and cared for. After a few years among the Shakers, Naomi realizes that she is hungry to experience more of life, and that she does not share the Shakers' beliefs. Leaving her siblings, she goes on a journey both to find who she is meant to be and to discover her relationship with God—a relationship she eventually finds in the Mormon faith. While some critics, including a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, felt that "character development takes a backseat to protestations of faith and to cultural history," other reviewers cited Heuston's treatment of religion as well-handled. "What is noteworthy about this story is the intensity with which it treats spiritual questions," commented a critic for Kirkus Reviews. Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser felt that "since Naomi is such a strong heroine, with skills and common sense, and with a great love of live, most YAs will enjoy reading her story."
Another strong young woman is at the center of Heuston's second novel, Dante's Daughter. The writer Dante Alighieri, who lived in fourteenth-century Italy and wrote The Divine Comedy, had a young daughter named Antonia; very little is known about her life except that she eventually became a nun. Heuston imagines what Antonia's life was like as the daughter of the famous storyteller. Noting the details of the setting and the historical events the story encompasses, a Publishers Weekly reviewer considered Dante's Daughter "rich in its setting and ambitious in its scope, if less than fully successful as fiction." Hazel Rochman, writing in Booklist, also noted that the historical detail "overwhelms the story," but added that "Heuston has clearly done her research." Gerry Larson, writing for School Library Journal, did not feel that history overwhelms Heuston's tale; instead, the critic wrote, "This well-researched, imaginative story unfolds steadily with factual information smoothly interwoven into it."
Heuston told SATA: "About ten years ago, I heard Lois Lowry give a speech about her road to becoming a writer at an English teacher's convention and thought, 'I could do that!' On my way home, I bought a copy of the Horn Book, saw that Vermont College was beginning a low-residency program in writing for children, and signed up. I was incredibly fortunate in the instruction and inspiration I received in that wonderful place.
"I was raised in New York City, where my father was the headmaster of the Spence School. We spent our summers in Waterford Springs, Vermont, in a house my father built bit by bit. Later, this would be the setting for my first novel, The Shakeress. (Its wonderful cover was painted by my daughter Jennifer.)
"Today I am an English and history teacher during the school year and a writer during the summers, although the two jobs are really impossible to divide neatly. I hope my novels are deepened by both my teaching and by my experience as a mother to four very distinct and wonderful personalities. I also hope that they are informed and shaped by the realities of the historical period that they seek to describe; that they treat the lives of those who have gone before with honesty, sympathy, and dignity."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Dante's Daughter, p. 844; June 1, 2002, Frances Bradburn, review of The Shakeress, p. 1706.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2004, Karen Coats, review of Dante's Daughter, p. 278; June, 2002, review of The Shakeress, p. 366.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2002, review of The Shakeress, p. 492; November 1, 2003, review of Dante's Daughter, p. 1311.
Kliatt, May, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of The Shakeress, p. 10.
Library Media Connection, March, 2004, review of Dante's Daughter, p. 67.
Publishers Weekly, April 1, 2002, review of The Shakeress, p. 84; December 15, 2003, review of Dante's Daughter, p. 74.
School Library Journal, July, 2002, Renee Steinberg, review of The Shakeress, p. 120; February, 2004, Gerry Larson, review of Dante's Daughter, p. 148.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2004, Rebecca Barnhouse, review of Dante's Daughter, p. 46; August, 2002, review of The Shakeress, p. 192.
Utah Children's Writers and Illustrators Web site, http://www.ucwi.org/ (January 16, 2006), "Kimberley Heuston."