Mirjam Pressler was born in Darmstadt, Germany in 1940 and grew up with foster parents and in children’s homes. After studying visual arts and languages in Frankfurt and Munich she spent a year in Israel on a kibbutz. Back in Germany, she worked at different jobs. She did not start writing until she was 39, and yet is today among the most important authors of children’s and young adults’ literature in the German language. Since her début, »Bitterschokolade« (1980; tr. »Dark Chocolate«), which tells the story of a young girl suffering from bulimia, she has published more than forty novels, as well as texts for very young readers and picture books, and has translated over 300 titles from Flemish, Hebrew and English, including the work of Bart Moeyaert and Zeruya Shalev.
Mirjam Pressler addresses young readers, portraying their emotional world and the reality the face in society. She writes about neglected children or outsiders who, despite their toughness and the often problematic social circumstances they live in, grow into strong personalities thanks to their courage and vitality. She also draws from personal experience, for example, in »Wenn das Glück kommt, muss man ihm einen Stuhl hinstellen« (1994; En. »Halinka«, 1998), a sensitive portrait of twelve-year-old Halinka, who has been living unhappily in an orphanage for years, and uses her diary as the space where her imagination can run free. Like the author herself, language is crucial for the characters’ survival, as it enables them to express their aspirations. A sharp observer, Mirjam Pressler also tells the story of many quiet destinies within the context of Jewish history. In »Malka Mai« (2001; En. »Malka«, 2002), her novel for young adults, she delves into the period of World War II with the story of a Jewish dentist and her daughters’ flight from the Nazis. Malka’s poignant odyssey is a striking evocation of the inseparable bond between mother and child. In her most recent novel, »Golem stiller Bruder« (2007; tr. »Golem, Silent Brother«), Mirjam Pressler leads her readers to the golden city of Prague around 1600. She gives her own impressive version of the famous legend of Golem, a story about the hubris of mankind.
Pressler‘s most recent novel »Ein Buch für Hanna« (2011; tr. »A Book for Hannah«) she tells the story of the 14-year-old Jewish girl Hannah, who has to leave Nazi Germany in 1939. She arrives in Denmark only to be deported from there to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Pressler has managed to create a poignant and poetic story about the fate of a fictional person that is based on real facts.
Pressler has received many awards for her work, including the Special Prize of the German Youth Literary Award as a translator (1994), the German Book Prize for her literary oeuvre (2004) and the Special Prize of the German Youth Literary Award for her life’s work (2010). Mirjam Pressler has three daughters and lives in Landshut.