Diana Kidd (1933-2000) Biography
Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1933, in Melbourne, Australia; died 2000, in London, England; Education: Trained as a primary school teacher in Australia.
Taught English to migrant workers' children in Australia; writer.
Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Children's Literature and shortlist citation for Australian Children's Book of the Year award, both 1990, both for Onion Tears; shortlist citation, Victoria Premiers Literary Award, 1992, shortlist citation, Australian Children's Book Council Book Award (junior readers section), 1992, and Australian Multicultural Award for Children's Literature (junior fiction section), 1993, for The Fat and Juicy Place; shortlist citation, Australian Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award, 1997, for I Love You, Jason Delaney; Australian Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award (young readers division), Diversity in Health Children's Book Award, FAW Award, and Family Award for Children's Books, all 2001, all for Two Hands Together.
Onion Tears, illustrated by Lucy Montgomery, Viking (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 1990, Puffin (London, England), 1994.
The Fat and Juicy Place, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1992.
Spider and the King (Young Bluegum), HarperCollins (Pymble, New South Wales, Australia), 1995.
Two Hands Together, Penguin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2000.
Also author of The Day Grandma Came to Stay, 1988; picture book, Paddymelon, illustrated by Maxim Svetlanov, 1994; and I Love You, Jason Delaney, 1996.
Diana Kidd drew the inspiration for her novels from her years teaching English to the children of migrant workers in Australia. She wanted to convey to an Australian reading public that children of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds had similar feelings and goals and should be treated with respect and consideration. The late author's several novels, including The Day Grandma Came to Stay, Onion Tears, and The Fat and Juicy Place all concern themselves with people stuck between cultures, comfortable nowhere, and yearning for whole acceptance, usually by the mainstream Australian society in which they have come to live.
Kidd was born and raised in Australia, but after working for awhile as a primary school teacher in her home-town of Melbourne, she embarked on a bohemian tour of Europe that included lengthy stays in Greece, England, and Spain. Only after marrying an Englishman did she return to Australia to raise her family and resume the teaching profession. She became a published author relatively late in life, releasing The Day Grandma Came to Stay in 1988, when she was fiftyfive. Her most productive decade as a writer was the 1990s, when she garnered nominations and awards in Australia for Onion Tears, The Fat and Juicy Place, and I Love You, Jason Delaney. She died the day her most highly awarded book, Two Hands Together, was sent to the printer. The citations for that title included the coveted Australian Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award.
Kidd's novel Onion Tears explores the life of Nam-Huong, a fictitious young refugee who has left her entire family behind in war-ravaged Vietnam to live with a restaurateur in Australia. Emotionally drained by her experiences in Vietnam, Nam-Huong must learn to feel again, and she does so with the help of a sensitive teacher and with her adoptive "Auntie." To quote Nancy Vasilakis in Horn Book, "Nam's longing for her family permeates the novel, whose lean and unaffected prose is tinged with ineffable sadness." Phyllis G. Sidorsky in School Library Journal maintained that the story "is sympathetic and well told, giving children an idea of how noncombatants … suffered during the Vietnam War."
The Fat and Juicy Place and Two Hands Together examine the difficulties faced by Aboriginal children who try to live within their ancient culture while simultaneously attempting to assimilate into mainstream Australian society. In preparation for these books Kidd actually spent time camping with Aboriginal Australians on the coast of New South Wales and elsewhere. Unfortunately, Kidd died before Two Hands Together earned its critical and commercial success in Australia.
While relatively unknown in America, Kidd was highly respected in her home country and in Great Britain. She was on an extended book tour in England and Spain when she died in London in 2000. On the HarperCollins Web site, a commentator wrote that she was "not only a talented and gifted writer, but a giving and wise soul who always gave much more than she expected back. Her humanity was so clearly visible, and she remained open to discovery, delight and surprise in people all around her."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Horn Book, May-June, 1991, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Onion Tears, p. 330.
Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1991, Diane Roback and Richard Donahue, review of Onion Tears, p. 218.
School Library Journal, June, 1991, Phyllis G. Sidorsky, review of Onion Tears, p. 108.
HarperCollins, http://www.harpercollins.com.au/authors/ (December 15, 2003), biography of Kidd.*
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