Dar Williams (1967–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Sidelights
(Dorothy Snowden Williams)
Born 1967, in Mount Kisco, NY; Education: Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT), B.A.
Agent—Ron Fierstein, RF Entertainment Inc., 29 Haines Rd., Bedford Hills, NY 10507.
Musician, songwriter, and novelist; recording artist and performer.
(With Elizabeth Zipern) The Tofu Tollbooth (guide book), Ceres (Woodstock, NY), 1998.
Amalee (juvenile novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Lights, Camera, Amalee (juvenile novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
LYRICIST; SOUND RECORDINGS
The Honesty Room, Burning Fields Music (Northampton, MA), 1993.
Mortal City, Razor & Tie Music (New York, NY), 1996.
The End of the Summer, Razor & Tie Music (New York, NY), 1997.
Cry, Cry, Cry, Razor & Tie Music (New York, NY), 1998.
The Green World, Razor & Tie Music (New York, NY), 2000.
Out There Live, Razor & Tie Music (New York, NY), 2001.
The Beauty of the Rain, Razor & Tie Music (New York, NY), 2002.
My Better Self, Razor & Tie Music (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to and performer on A Home for the Holidays, Mercury (New York, NY), 1997; Badlands, Sub Pop (Seattle, WA), 2000; Labour of Love, 2001; Dan Zanes & Friends: Night Time, 2002; and This Bird Has Flown, 2005.
Singer/songwriter Dar Williams is well known for the lyrical storytelling revealed in both her recordings and her acoustic performances. In 1993, Williams published her first album, The Honesty Room, producing it through her own record label, Burning Fields Music. The songs on the album eventually found their way to the radio, and Williams was soon picked up by Razor & Tie Music, which has recorded much of her music since.
Williams began playing the guitar when she was nine years old, and while in college began performing at coffee houses, accompanying herself and singing music she had written herself. Williams writes all of her own lyrics—something she began doing when she was eleven years old—and has performed with such notable musicians as Ani DiFranco, Pete Seeger, the Indigo Girls, and Sara McLachlan.
Williams's writing talents are not limited to her music. While still in school, she considered becoming a playwright, and in 1998 she collaborated with Elizabeth Zipern on The Tofu Tollbooth, a guide book of natural food restaurants in the United States. In 2004, Williams's storytelling took a new form when she became the author of her first juvenile novel, Amalee. The title character is a sixth grader and only child of a single-parent; when her father becomes extremely ill, his misfit friends step in to help take care of both Amalee and her father. Dealing with the normal problems of middle school has been trouble enough; now figuring out how to fit her father's "goofy" friends into her life makes everything more difficult for Amalee. However, as her dad's friends become a firmer part of her life, the girl discovers that they are like an extended family. "Williams nails the voice of sixth-grader Amalee," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor in praise of the author's debut novel. Jennifer M. Brabander, writing in Horn Book, noted Williams's talent for storytelling by commenting that she "pours that talent into an uplifting story that will grab young readers with its sympathetic portrayal of middle-school life." Though a Publishers Weekly re-viewer felt that the novel "seems to share some of the awkward growing pains of its tween protagonist," Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg called Amalee "a poignant, funny debut filled with wholly endearing characters." Susan Parton, in School Library Journal, maintained that "readers will be cheering for this likable protagonist."
Amalee's adventures continue in Lights, Camera, Amalee. When the preteen inherits a champagne bottle filled with change from her grandmother, she finds herself in possession of over a thousand dollars. Not wanting the money to be spent frivolously, she decides to use it to make a film about endangered species. Her father's wacky friends return to play a part in her efforts, as do a cute older boy and a new friend, as Amalee begins to discover a connection with the mother she never knew.
Williams discussed with Karen Iris Tucker in the Los Angeles Advocate her songwriting style of storytelling, and her comment applies equally well to her novels. "You don't just want a message with really thin characters hanging from it," Williams explained. "What I'd like is to tell stories that are interesting and have overlap for all kinds of people."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Advocate (Los Angeles, CA), November 6, 2001, Karen Iris Tucker, "Dar to Be Different," pp. 62-63.
Booklist, June 1, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Amalee, p. 1734.
Horn Book, July-August, 2004, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of Amalee, p. 462.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2004, review of Amalee, p. 543.
Notes, September, 2003, Rick Anderson, review of The Beauty of the Rain, p. 258.
Publishers Weekly, July 26, 2004, review of Amalee, p. 55.
School Library Journal, October, 2004, Susan Patron, review of Amalee, p. 182.
Dar Williams Home Page, http://www.darwilliams.com (February 18, 2006).
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