Born October 4, 1941, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Arthur and Loretta (Heller) Lipski; married Philip Cushman (a professor), September 6, 1969; children: Leah. Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1963; United States International University, M.A. (human behavior), 1977; John F. Kennedy University, M.A. (museum studies), 1986. Religion: "Secular humanist." Hobbies and other interests: Working in the garden (especially growing tomatoes), reading, medieval music.
Home—Vashon Island, Seattle, WA. Agent—Marilyn Marlow, Curtis Brown, 10 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003.
John F. Kennedy University, Orinda, CA, adjunct professor in museum studies department, 1986. Writer, 1990—.
Newbery Honor Book, American Library Association (ALA), Carl Sandburg Award for Children's Literature, Golden Kite Award, Bay Area Book Reviewers' Association Award for Children's Literature, Best Books list of School Library Journal, Ten Best Books list of Parent's Choice Foundation, and Cuffie Award from Publishers Weekly, all 1994, Young Adult Library Services Association Best Books for Young Readers and Recommended Books for Reluctant Readers, and Pick of the Lists Award from the American Booksellers' Association, all 1995, and Honour List of the International Board on Books for Young People, 1996, all for Catherine, Called Birdy; Best Books, School Library Journal, 1995, ALA Notable Children's Book, ALA Quick Picks for Young Adults, Parents' Choice Award for Fiction, Notable Trade Book in the Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), Parenting Magazine Best Books of 1995, and Newbery Medal, ALA, 1995, all for The Midwife's Apprentice; Best Books of the Year School Library Journal, and Books for Youth Editors' Choice, Booklist, both 1996, John and Patricia Beatty Award, Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, NCTE, Teachers' Choice, International Reading Association, Notable Children's Trade Books in Social Studies, NCSS/CBC, all 1997, all for The Ballad of Lucy Whipple; Best Books of the Year, School Library Journal, 2000, Parents' Choice Award, 2000, nominee for Pennsylvania Children's Choice Award, 2002, Iowa Teen Choice Award, 2002-2003, and nominee for Arizona Young Reader Award, 2004, all for Matilda Bone.
Catherine, Called Birdy, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Midwife's Apprentice, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Matilda Bone, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Rodzina, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2003.
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple was adapted as a sound recording.
Karen Cushman scored an impressive success with her first young adult novel, Catherine, Called Birdy. Beginning her writing career at age fifty, she took over three years to write this debut title, the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who tries to control her own destiny in the medieval world. With this novel, Cushman won numerous awards, including a prestigious Newbery Honor. And with only her second published work, The Midwife's Tale, also set in the Middle Ages and featuring a young female protagonist, Cushman earned a Newbery Medal. Cushman turned to the California Gold Rush for her third novel, The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, but returned to the Middle Ages with her fourth title, Matilda Bone, in which a young orphan is apprenticed to a bonesetter. Orphans again figure in Cushman's fifth novel, Rodzina, though the action is moved forward in time to the late-nineteenth century in the United Sates. Dubbed the "queen of historical fiction" by Kristin Fletcher-Spear in Library Media Connection, Cushman is living proof of the old adage "Better late than never." "I've always been a late bloomer," Cushman once explained. "But I always eventually bloom. Here I am making a new career late in life and having a wonderful time."
The Constancy of Change
Cushman seems quite comfortable with change. Born in a suburb of Chicago in 1941, just before the United States entered World War II, she moved with her family to Tarzana in southern California at age eleven. As a child, she was an avid reader. "Once I discovered the library, I discovered books," Cushman has said. "Fiction was my favorite, but I would get these wild passions and read all there was on the Civil War, for instance, or on the physiology of the brain. I guess this kind of curiosity explains my later fascination with the Middle Ages." Attending Catholic school through high school, Cushman received an education that "was more controlled than inspired. I remember coming home from the first grade with all the books for the entire year and reading them the first night and then crying all night because I knew I would be stuck with those same books all year long."
Fantasy worlds played an important part in her private education. "I used to hold plays with my neighborhood friends," Cushman recalled. "One time I got hold of a book on ballet, and I had my friends take a ballet class, gripping the car door
handles like a ballet bar as I read to them what to do." Her younger brother's homemade scooter provided another outlet: "I used to borrow that scooter and take off and imagine myself going all around the world, which is sort of what I do now, only I travel backwards in time in my writing." Writing was an early avocation as well, and once her talent for writing poems and stories was discovered by classmates and teachers, Cushman was in demand for everything from valedictory speeches to writing contests. "I used to write poems and short stories for myself at this time," Cushman said. "Recently I came across a play I wrote in junior high, 'Jingle Bagels,' a sort of multicultural Christmas story. I also wrote several possible plots for new Elvis movies."
Upon graduation from high school, Cushman won a scholarship that would allow her to attend any college in the United States, and more by accident than design, she attended Stanford University. "I never thought about writing as a profession or as a way to make a living. No one I knew made their living that way. I thought I might want to take creative writing in college, but that's as far as the ambition went." However, Stanford did not offer an undergraduate creative writing major, so Cushman began with the next best thing, English. "But I liked the wrong kinds of books," she recalled. Soon she was also studying Greek and began dreaming of a career in archaeology. Her writing stopped for a time. "Writing was a thing I did to ventilate my feelings or to celebrate. But at Stanford there were all these semi-intellectual East Coast types who read [Albert] Camus, and I felt very intimidated about sharing my writing with them. To be honest, the whole experience at Stanford was a bit intimidating."
"After graduation, I wanted to dig for treasures on the Acropolis by moonlight," Cushman said. "Instead, I got a job as a customer service representative for Pacific Bell in Beverly Hills." Several jobs later, she was working at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, where she met her future husband, who was then a rabbinical student. Together, the two packed up for Oregon, where her husband found a job at a small college and "I wove and made blackberry jam and had a daughter, Leah," Cushman recalled. After two years the family returned to California, where both Cushman and her husband earned master's degrees in counseling and human behavior. Her husband went on to earn a doctorate in psychology, set up a private practice, and become a professor and respected writer in the field of psychotherapy. Cushman, meanwhile, studied for a second master's, in museum studies, and became an adjunct faculty member at John F. Kennedy University, where she edited Museum Studies Journal,
taught classes in museology and material culture, and coordinated the master's project program. "Museum studies was an interesting way for me to put together many of the things that interest me in life. I am fascinated about the concept of what artifacts say about a culture." She also enjoys figuring out why cultures save some artifacts and not others.
Increasingly, she focused on writing again. "Over the years I did a lot of reading of children's books to and with my daughter," Cushman said. "When we got to young adult literature, I just stayed there while she went on to adult books. There is something about the themes of these books that appeals to me—coming of age, the acceptance of responsibility, and development of compassion. I was always coming up with great ideas for books and sharing them with my husband. And finally, one day in 1989, when I told him this great idea for a book set in the Medieval world, he just told me he didn't want to hear any more about it until it was down on paper." Cushman accepted the challenge and sketched out the book in seven pages. That, however, was the easy part. What followed was another three years of research into the medieval world, trying to discover, she said, "what it might have been like for a girl during the Middle Ages."
Life in the Middle Ages
Methodical in her approach, Cushman first read some of the better-known writers of historical fiction for young adults, including Rosemary Sutcliff and Patricia MacLachlan. In an interview with Amy Umland Love for Publishers Weekly, she said that she especially admired the "simple and polished prose" of these two writers. She also attended writers' conferences but got little help from the inside tips on marketing and other hot topics until the day she heard one speaker dispense the simple advice to write from the heart.
This was a revelation for Cushman, and it gave her the confidence to follow her own passions and instincts. Her career in museum studies was helpful in giving her access to material on the culture of the Medieval world; she also heavily researched the period, using records of the time, including one thirteenth-century book on manners that contained such sage advice as not to blow one's nose on the tablecloth. The distance in time and philosophy afforded by writing about the Middle Ages also allowed Cushman to take a fresh look at the role of women in society. The transition from the Medieval period to the Renaissance, with its increased intellectual turmoil, is mirrored in the rite of passage of the adolescent girl Catherine, who is nicknamed Birdy. "There was a change toward personal accountability and emphasis on the development of privacy," Cushman said in her Publishers Weekly interview. Yet the personal accountability of young women was stymied in the thirteenth century, as it often still is. "Everything I had read about children's books or had heard at conferences told me the child should solve the problem," Cushman explained. But for Catherine and many other children, Cushman believed, that simply is not possible. "What I wanted to show with Catherine was what a child would do in a situation she could not control and for which she had no options."
The resulting story is told in diary form: "I am bit by fleas and plagued by my family. That is all there is to say." So begins Catherine's personal description of her fourteenth year. She lives in a manor house, in a room full of caged birds—thus the nickname Birdy—and keeps a journal. She resists not only her mother's campaign to make her a lady but also her father's plan to marry her to an older land-owner she calls Shaggy Beard. Birdy writes in her journal that she and her friend Aelis are in "grave danger of being sold like pigs at autumn fair." Her account of her daily adventures takes the reader through an entire year of Medieval life in an English manor house in Lincolnshire. There are fairs and feasts, planting and harvest, difficult births, pitiful deaths, and drunken weddings, all described in vivid detail. The harsh realities of life in the Middle Ages are not glossed over: the smells of dung heaps and raw sewage, the bone-strewn floor of the manor, and the total lack of privacy are all minutely presented.
Birdy continues to resist her father's attempts to marry her off by blacking out her teeth when one suitor comes calling and setting the privy on fire with another suitor still in it. She would much rather marry some swashbuckler like her Uncle George, the Crusader. But Birdy, like the caged birds she keeps in her room, ultimately is trapped—in a marriage not to Shaggy Beard but to his less offensive son. However, by accepting this match, she achieves a new level of maturity and understanding.
Jane Langton noted in the New York Times Book Review that it is this very process of maturation in the protagonist that makes the novel work: "Birdy's progress toward becoming Catherine is the true grist of the story," Langton wrote. Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Rebecca Barnhouse praised the novel for its realism: "The novel succeeds because of the attention to detail in both the historical setting and in the development of the delightful character of Catherine." Dinah Stevenson commented in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that Birdy seems endowed with a modern sensibility and that Cushman "writes with vigor and craft of a life most young people won't have contemplated but will find fascinating here." Ann A. Flowers noted in Horn Book that Catherine's rebelliousness and curiosity mixed with kindness make her "an amusing and sympathetic figure," concluding that the book is "fascinating and thought-provoking." School Library Journal critic Bruce Anne Shook called Catherine "a feminist far ahead of her time" and summed up the book as "superb historical fiction." As for the critical reaction to her book, Cushman explained: "I was very lucky."
"I still take that seven-page synopsis of the book with me when talking in the schools," Cushman has said. "For me it's a symbol—it's great to have ideas, but ideas alone are not enough. We have to be willing to act on them." And act on them Cushman did. The first novel was still in the mail to her agent when she began her second book, also set in the Middle Ages. In this next tale, however, she left the world of the manor house for the life of the commoners.
"The Midwife's Apprentice grew from the title and an image of a nameless, homeless girl sleeping on a dung heap," Cushman said. "I could see this girl crawling out of the warm spot she had created for herself in the heap, sort of exploding out of it like she herself was being born." This Newbery Medal-winning novel is considerably shorter than the first book but every bit as rich in period detail. The story opens on a frosty morning early in the fourteenth century in a nameless English village with a preteen girl known as Brat sleeping on a dung heap for warmth. The girl is described as "unwashed, un-nourished, unloved, and unlovely." A voice awakens her, and Brat sees a formidable-looking woman called Jane the Midwife standing over her. Thinking of her as free labor, Jane takes in this waif and turns her into her apprentice.
Up to this time Brat, a child of the streets, has led a hand-to-mouth existence. That life has given her a certain wisdom regarding her fellow humans, but not much hope. Slowly, however, Brat begins to develop a sense of self and of hope. She also acquires her own name: Alyce. "Alyce is every child who is parentless, homeless, and hungry, who lives on the edges of our world, who is mocked or excluded for being different," asserted Cushman in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech, published in Horn Book. Through aiding in the delivery of twin calves and her first successful delivery of a baby, Brat/Alyce grows in confidence and spirit. By the end of the book she has learned the powerful lesson that "trying and failing are not the same as failing without ever trying," according to Barnhouse in another Voice of Youth Advocates article. Sara Miller wrote in School Library Journal that Cushman tells her story with "simplicity, wit, and humor," making The Midwife's Apprentice "a delightful introduction to a world seldom seen in children's literature." A reviewer for Booklist also commented on Cushman's directness of approach: "Cushman writes with sharp simplicity and a pulsing beat." And a Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "a rouser for all times."
Tackles Other Historical Eras
Cushman's third book is also historical fiction, though the time period is some five-hundred years later then her first two books. Set during the California Gold Rush, The Ballad of Lucy Whipple tells the story of a young girl dragged "like a barrel of lard" from her quiet Massachusetts home to the noise, adventure, and dirt of the California gold country. Twelve-year-old California Morning Whipple is distraught at the move but must help her mother run a boardinghouse. Morning soon renames herself Lucy and starts a pie business to follow her own dream: she longs to return to her home in the East. However, by the time she is presented with the chance to return, Lucy has learned that home is not a geographical location, but the people she is with and the experiences she has every day. For the time being, then, Lucy's home is California.
Part of the inspiration for this story was a fact that Cushman stumbled across in her reading: some ninety-percent of those who participated in the Gold Rush were men. "I asked myself, what about the other ten-percent? The women and children? Why did they come? What about their stories?" She set the story in the fictional mining camp of Lucky Diggings, which is in the northern mines. "I wanted there to be inclement weather, and I also wanted the miners to be doing wet mining," Cushman said. Two years of research and writing went into the book. "I found it harder to learn about the everyday life of women and children in California of the nineteenth century than I did in thirteenth-century England. Everybody was too busy working, I guess, to keep records." One invaluable source was a set of letters sent back east to a sister by the wife of a miner. The Ballad of Lucy Whipple contains several of Cushman's usual motifs and themes: the spirited adolescent girl, the change of name, the will and dream at the center of things. Reviewers once again responded warmly to the work of Cushman. Reviewing The Ballad of Lucy Whipple in Horn Book, Kristi Beavin found the novel, at first reading, to be "that rarest of rare commodities: engagingly readable historical fiction." Similarly, a contributor for Publishers Weekly found the same novel "a coming-of-age story rich with historical detail," and Booklist's Hazel Rochman felt that Cushman delivered her Western tale with "zest and wit."
Cushman returned to the Middle Ages with her novel Matilda Bone, a story of yet another plucky teenage girl battling adversity. However, as Ilene Cooper observed in Booklist, with this novel "setting not character takes precedence." The book tells the story of a well-born orphan who is raised by a priest. For her first fourteen years, Matilda has lived in a manor house educated by Father Leufredus. Before she is apprenticed to an earthy bonesetter, Red Peg, she knows all about saints, heaven, and hell but nothing about the real world. For Matilda, her new life in London is a total shock, and slowly she begins to learn about healing and about what really matters in life. Such lessons include a new-found understanding for and appreciation of honest qualities in common people. Horn Book's Susan P. Bloom commented that at first the reader might think that Matilda is another Alyce from The Midwife's Apprentice, or a Birdy from Catherine, Called Birdy. "But Matilda is made of her own medieval cloth, garbed in obeisance," wrote Bloom. In fact, for Bloom, "Matilda's very seriousness accounts for much of the humor" in this novel. Bloom also praised Cushman's historical detail, especially the "arcane medicine of the day." Such historical detail somewhat overpowered the plot and character, according to Booklist's Cooper, who concluded that "readers will find much of interest here, but it probably won't be the evolution of Matilda." A contributor for Publishers Weekly had similar concerns, noting that the bonesetter Peg, "her witty husband and her circle of friends will be the characters readers remember most." Amy Leonard, writing in the New York Times Book Review, likewise stated that with her fourth novel Cushman "fails to captivate the reader as winningly as before." However, in School Library Journal, Kit Vaughan noted that Matilda's spiritual growth is compellingly described, further commenting that the book "shows readers that love and compassion, laughter and companionship, are indeed the best medicine."
Cushman's fifth book, Rodzina, takes readers to a less distant historical period in a tale about an orphan from Chicago who goes west on an orphan train. Such trains took orphans out of the eastern cities and out onto the prairies and further west, matching up children with new homes and parents. Often, however, these children found themselves as little better than unpaid laborers or perhaps even mail order brides for lonely bachelors. Twelve-year-old Rodzina Brodski is newly orphaned and looks older than her dozen years because of her size and her fearless expression. Rodzina travels with twenty-one other orphans from Chicago in 1881. In a way, she is more fortunate than many of these other children in that she was part of a loving family of Polish immigrants until disease and accident killed them all. She is looked up to by the younger children whom she takes under her adolescent wing, telling them stories her mother used to tell her. One of the adults accompanying the children, Miss Doctor, looks after the babies and is at first antagonistic toward Rodzina, but finally warms to her and becomes the girl's protector. Twice escaping disastrous adoptions, Rodzina stubbornly looks for the right home for herself. Such stubbornness seems to finally pay off by the end of the story. "Cushman is too practiced a storyteller to tie everything up too neatly, however," noted Martha V. Parravano in a Horn Book review of the novel. Instead, as the heroine steps off the train into the sun of California, "readers can bet with confidence on plenty of good things happening for her," Parravano concluded.
Reviewing this novel in the New York Times Book Review, Jane O'Reilly praised Cushman for the creation of a "delightful, thoroughly Polish, heroine." However, O'Reilly also felt that Cushman neglected to fill in the full story of the orphan trains themselves. That "enormous other half of the story is curiously incomplete," O'Reilly felt. For Kliatt's Claire Rosser, on the other hand, the novel worked quite well. "Readers . . . will enjoy this well-written novel about a strong heroine in terrible circumstances who finds a way to not just survive but to create a life with real possibilities for herself," Rosser commented. A critic for Kirkus Reviews had further praise for the book, observing that the author, "as usual conveys a contemporary feel without anachronism, and the conclusion of Rodzina's journey though unsurprising, is an agreeable one." In a starred Booklist review, Rochman lauded Cushman's "lively historical novel," and also found Rodzina "portrayed as an unromantic protagonist, big, angry, and tough." Fletcher-Spear noted the "immense reading pleasure this book gives," and a reviewer for Book Links commended Rodzina as a "witty historical novel."
Cushman is constantly learning about her craft. "So much of writing is unconscious and intuitive," she explained. "I have never been plot-conscious. I personally love to read books that have strong plot and strong characters. But when I sit down to write a book, I don't have this structure in mind. I simply want to tell a story about a person's life and how that life changes day to day. I don't consciously think of the audience as I am writing, and I certainly do not wonder if the vocabulary level is correct or not. I just tell a story the way it has to be told. For me, historical fiction is the place where story and setting come together. Historical fiction allows all of us, including kids, to look at today's problems through a prism, to get literal distance on our own problems. I hope my books help kids to see beyond their own experiences and see themselves as part of the sweep of history instead of an isolated vignette."
If you enjoy the works of Karen Cushman
If you enjoy the works of Karen Cushman, you may also want to check out the following books:
Joan Lowery Nixon, A Family Apart, 1987.
Malcolm Bosse, Captives of Time, 1987.
Frances Temple, The Ramsey Scallop, 1994.
Since winning the Newbery Medal, Cushman has spent more time in schools talking with students. She is heartened by what she has seen: "It has pleased me to see so many kids still reading and plenty for whom it is a real passion." Among these students there are also aspiring writers, and her advice to these kids is the same as she told Publishers Weekly: "Go with your passion." And speaking with Achuka's Cheryl Bowlan, Cushman expanded on the inspiration for and origins of one of her strongest themes: the orphan making her way in a cruel world. Not an orphan herself, Cushman still "always felt the lack of being at home in a place, and, at the same time, a search for identity," as she explained to Bowlan. "I suppose those issues are clearer and easier if you're dealing with a character who has no home and family. If you're dealing with someone who has both of her parents in an intact family, living in a place she loves, a lot of the tension is gone along with the reason to delve into the importance of place, personhood, who I am and where do I belong. These seem to be very important questions to me."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Volume 9, Beacham Publishing (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Children's Literature Review, Volume 55, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Book Links, January, 2004, review of Rodzina, p. 14.
Booklist, April 15, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of Catherine, Called Birdy, p. 1526; March 15, 1995, review of The Midwife's Apprentice, p. 1328; June 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, "The Booklist Interview: Karen Cushman," p. 1700; August, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, p. 1904; March 1, 1999, Sally Estes, review of The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, p. 1212; April 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of The Midwife's Apprentice, p. 1479; June 1, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Midwife's Apprentice, p. 1875; August, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Matilda Bone, p. 2131; November 15, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Catherine, Called Birdy, p. 632; August, 2001, Elaine Hanson, review of Matilda Bone, p. 2142; March 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Rodzina, p. 1207; January 1, 2004, review of Rodzina, p. 780.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1994, Deborah Stevenson, review of Catherine, Called Birdy, p. 316.
Horn Book, July-August, 1994, Ann A. Flowers, review of Catherine, Called Birdy, p. 457; July-August, 1996, Karen Cushman, "Newbery Medal Acceptance," p. 413, and Philip Cushman, "Karen Cushman," p. 420; September-October, 1996, Susan P. Bloom, review of The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, p. 593; November-December, 1997, Kristi Beavin, review of The Ballad of Lucy Whipple (audiobook), p. 701; November, 2000, Susan P. Bloom, review of Matilda Bone, p. 753; May-June, 2003, Martha V. Parravano, review of Rodzina, p. 342.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1995, review of TheMidwife's Apprentice, p. 380; June 15, 1996; March 15, 2003, review of Rodzina, p. 464.
Kliatt, July, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Rodzina, pp. 8-9; November, 2003, Bette Ammon, review of Rodzina, p. 51.
Library Media Connection, February, 2004, Kristin Fletcher-Spear, review of Rodzina, p. 68.
New York Times Book Review, August 28, 1994, Jane Langton, review of Catherine, Called Birdy, p. 20; March 11, 2001, Amy Leonard, review of Matilda Bone, p. 27; May 18, 2003, Jane O'Reilly, review of Rodzina, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, April 11, 1994, review of Catherine,Called Birdy, p. 66; February 27, 1995, review of The Midwife's Apprentice, p. 104; July 8, 1996, review of The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, p. 84; August 26, 1996, Sally Lodge, "A Talk with Karen Cushman," p. 46; May 18, 1998, review of The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, p. 82; February 14, 2000, September 4, 2000, review of Matilda Bone, p. 109; January 13, 2003, review of Rodzina, pp. 60-61.
School Library Journal, May, 1995, Sara Miller, review of The Midwife's Apprentice, p. 118; September, 2000, Kit Vaughn, review of Matilda Bone, p. 225; December, 2000, review of Matilda Bone, p. 52; October, 2003, Casey Rondini, review of Rodzina, p. 90.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1994, Rebecca Barnhouse, review of Catherine, Called Birdy, p. 81; August, 1995, Rebecca Barnhouse, review of The Midwife's Apprentice, p. 156.
Achuka,http://www.achuka.co.uk/ (2000), Cheryl Bowlan, "Interview with Karen Cushman."
HarperCollins,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (May 24, 2004), interview with Karen Cushman.
Internet Public Library Youth Division,http://www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/ (September 10, 2001), "Karen Cushman's FAQ's."
Tribute to Karen Cushman!,http://www.karencushman.com/ (May 24, 2004).