Kathleen Vereecken

Portrait Kathleen Vereecken
© Koen Broos

The Belgian writer Kathleen Vereecken was born in Ghent in 1962. After training as a teacher, she worked as a freelance journalist for various women’s magazines and other outlets such as the »Standaard«.
Kathleen Vereecken made her debut in 1993 with »Het raadsel in het fluisterbos« (tr: The Riddle in the Whispering Forest), a story she had written for a competition. Her breakthrough came with her fourth book, the young adult novel »Alle kleuren grijs« (1997; tr: All Colours Grey). In it, she intertwines fact and fiction. The book is based on the life of her great-grandmother and describes the harsh living conditions of a working-class family in the 19th century. This book was followed primarily by historical novels for young adults. She has written about a girl with dwarfism who is sold by her parents to a circus (»Kleine Cecilia«, 1999; tr: Little Cecilia), about the friendship between the white daughter of a plantation owner and a slave girl during the American Civil War in 19th century Louisiana (»Lara & Rebecca«, 2006), and about the imaginary life of a foundling in 18th century France who learns that Jean-Jacques Rousseau is his father (»Ik denk dat het liefde was«, 2009; tr: I Think It Was Love). In doing so, Vereecken knows how to portray life in the respective historical epochs in a particularly gripping way and to develop her characters with psychological precision. The children’s story »Ik heet Jan en ik ben niets bijzonders« (2014; tr: I Am Jan and I Am Not Special) tells of a boy who wants to be special and get into the Guinness Book of Records. »Alles komt goed, altijd« (2018; tr: Everything Will Be All Right, Always) is about a girl named Alice who experiences World War I in Belgium with her family. It is told from the twelve-year-old’s perspective as she watches war, hunger, and homelessness eat away at her previously carefree daily life. Her mother is killed in an attack, her sister dies of typhus, and her father and brother also fall ill or are wounded. Alice finds refuge with two younger siblings in a French convent. Deutschlandfunk praised Vereecken, stating that »The author’s great art is how she manages to write down this drama in such an unagitated way that even young readers from the age of ten can read and gain much from this story.«
Kathleen Vereecken has also written non-fiction books for children, for example about global warming and Barack Obama. Her twenty books in total have been translated into German, Chinese, Korean, French, Italian, and Latvian and have been awarded, among others, the Boekenleeuw and the Woutertje Pieterse Prijs and nominated for the Thea Beckmanprijs 2021. She lives in Ghent.