»All I ever really wanted to do was write my own books«, says Carolyn Coman. The fact that she began writing for children and young adults was more of a coincidence: »I found out that I write for children and teens by accident, only after I’d written stories and a novel that were about (and from the point of view of) children.« Her teachers had an especially strong influence on her, persuading her to reflect on what she was reading and writing and thus, from an early age, she nurtured her gift of careful observation and her ability to put feelings into words. Coman, who was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1951, and who studied at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, had always felt the need to work with books. For many years she worked as a bookbinder and then as an editor at an educational publisher. In 1993 she drew attention to herself as an author with the publication of her debut novel »Tell me Everything«. Since then, she has been writing for adolescents and young adults. In 1995 »What Jamie Saw« followed, a forceful book about fear and the retrieval of trust and wellbeing, told from the point of view of nine year-old Jamie, whose mother has to flee from her violent partner with Jamie and his little sister.
With much empathy and courage, Carolyn Coman writes about painful upheavals experienced when growing up. This is also the case in her novel for young adults »Many Stones« (2000), which tells the tale of a difficult family relationship. The painful experience of sixteen year-old Berry Morgan and her father becoming closer to each other is explored. After the murder of her older sister, who had been an activist against Apartheid in South Africa, they travel together to her grave. There they try to work through their mutual past. Carolyn Coman specialises in writing between the lines, with a psychological depth that delicately depicts her characters. Her texts deal with extreme situations and borderline experiences – violence, death, alienation, speechlessness – which go so far as to intrude on daily (family) life. »I am very interested in how people (especially young people) respond to and figure out the complications of their lives. I am interested in the emotional journeys that involve moving out of the darkness and into the light.« With »The Big House« (2004) Coman created an entertaining detective story about two children, whose heartfelt affection bonds them to each other and to their parents. As they have to go back to pr ison, Ivy and Ray stay with, of all people, cunning, rich Marietta Noland, who carries a grudge against their parents. There the resourceful siblings begin to uncover the secrets of the old Noland – in the hope of thereby helping their parents.
Coman’s novels have received many awards, for example »What Jamie Saw« was awarded the John Newbery Honor Award (1996) and »Many Stones« the Michael L. Printz Honor Award (2001). Both books were nominated for the National Book Award. Besides her work as an author, Carolyn Coman teaches in the Writing for Children Programme at Vermont College, and is a freelance editor for Front Street Books. She is married to publisher Stephen Roxburgh, and the mother of two children. Carolyn Coman lives in Sout Hampton, New Hampshire and Ashville, North Carolina.
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