Katya Balen

Portrait Katya Balen
© Benjamin Turner

Katya Balen, born 1989 in London, dealt in her Masters studies with the effect texts have on the behavior of autistic children. She also worked at various special schools and is a co-founder of Mainspring Arts, a charity that uses creativity to work with autistic people.

Balen’s first novel »The Space We’re In« (2019) processes her own experiences in this area. Her debut is about ten-year-old Frank, whose little brother is autistic. Five-year-old Max has never learned to speak, doesn’t like to be touched by strangers, and has public temper tantrums. This is often a problem for Frank, who feels that he is overlooked by his family. Eventually, the mother of the two boys falls ill, which presents a stressful new challenge for the whole family. When she passes away, Frank’s problems with his brother are compounded with pain and grief. In the end, the two brothers and their father form a deeper connection in this upheaval, and Frank discovers his deep love for Max. Balen tells the story in a humorous, yet sensitive way. It follows the unraveling of events from the perspective of a growing Frank – with the full range of his emotions and his partially coded world of thoughts. According to »The Guardian«, »This sensitive, heartbreaking story boasts a wonderful narrative voice and secret codes that add another layer of intrigue«.

Katya Balen lives in London, England.