“Sometimes I can’t believe my own life.” Katherine Paterson about her memoirs

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“I realized there were family stories that my children didn’t know and I should write them down,” Paterson said to Sally Pollak, Burlington Free Press, about her newly published memoirs “Stories of my Life”. “It would be a good thing for the kids and for the grandchildren.” In “Stories of my Life” (Dial Books, 2014) 2006 ALMA Laureate Katherine Paterson looks back on her life with warmth, self-effacing humor and extraordinary humility (Publishers Weekly). She grew up in China and trained as a missionary in Japan before beginning her writing career in America. Her work has included picture books and books for the very young, often based around fairytales and myths, yet it is as a writer of novels for young readers that she is best known. Often set in historical contexts in Japan, China or the US, yet frequently too against a contemporary American backdrop, these novels deal with important and sometimes difficult issues such as broken families and children at risk.

The main characters in her books are often vulnerable, slightly odd children, a projection of certain aspects of her own childhood. Her upbringing in China during the 1930s and her family’s move back to the US resulted in a feeling of rootlessness:

– When we were evacuated from China to the United States, I was an alien in the country my parents called home. We had very little money, and in the beginning my friends were the people I met in the books I read.

– I suppose I grew up with an understanding about what it means to be outside the mainstream of society. I used to feel sad for my nine year old self, but I finally realized that all during those difficult days of war and then alienation, I had two parents who loved me. A child with two loving parents is rich indeed. I’m afraid I haven’t given most of my characters this gift, but I hope I’ve provided them with the strength and help they need to endure, and, maybe even triumph over, adversity. (ALMA interview 2006.)

In 2006 she received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for her lifetime achievement.

Katherine Paterson is a brilliant psychologist who gets right under the skin of the vulnerable young people she creates, whether in historical or exotic settings, or in the grim reality of the USA today. With a deft aesthetic touch she avoids simple solutions, building instead on the inner strength and courage of her main characters.
The citation of the jury

Katherine Paterson receives the 2006 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

Katherine Paterson receives the 2006 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

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Katherine Paterson at the Astrid Lindgren sculpture during the 2006 Award week.

Katherine Paterson at the Astrid Lindgren sculpture during the 2006 Award week.

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