Blais, Madeleine 1947-
BLAIS, Madeleine 1947-
PERSONAL: Born August 25, 1947, in Chicopee, MA; daughter of Raymond Joseph (a doctor) and Maureen (a teacher; maiden name, Shea) Blais; married John Strong Miner Katzenbach (a writer), May 10, 1980. Education: College of New Rochelle, B.A., 1969; Columbia University, M.S., 1970.
ADDRESSES: Office—Tropic Magazine, Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33101.
CAREER: Journalist and nonfiction writer. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, faculty member, 1987. Worked as reporter for Trenton Times, Trenton, NJ, and Boston Globe, Boston, MA; freelance journalist; Miami Herald, Miami, FL, feature writer for Tropic (Sunday magazine), 1979—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nieman fellowship, Harvard University, 1986; second place in Ernie Pyle feature competition; Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, 1980; National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction, 1995, for In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle.
They Say You Can't Have a Baby: The Dilemma of Infertility, Norton (New York, NY), 1979.
The Heart Is an Instrument: Portraits in Journalism, foreword by Geneva Overholser, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1992.
In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Uphill Walkers: Memoir of a Family, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor of articles to newspapers and periodicals, including Chicago Tribune and Miami Herald.
SIDELIGHTS: Madeleine Blais portrays the joy of women's sports in her book In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, which focuses on the girls' basketball team at a regional high school in Amherst, Massachusetts. The New England-based team, known as the Lady Hurricanes, captured the state championship in 1993. In one sense, the book is simply a play-by-play description of one season for the team, and it can be read as a thrilling sports story on that level. Yet, noted Steve Gietschier in the Sporting News, "there is so much more here to savor and absorb. The young women who give themselves so completely to their team's quest are extraordinary each in her own way. Burdened with the pains of adolescence, the duties that high school imposes and, in some cases, the tough circumstances of families rent asunder, they learn from one another how to dig deep to find the resources they need to reach their goal." In These Girls proves "that women's sports can be an astoundingly fulfilling and moving experience." Ruth Conniff, writing in the Progressive, noted that Blais's writing bogs down occasionally, yet still highly recommended the book, stating that it is "worth reading for the last chapter" alone, which describes the climactic final game of the 1993 basketball season. Conniff enthused, "Blais's description of that fateful night, from the pre-game locker-room talk to the bus ride home, is beautiful. She evokes exactly the feeling of time crystallized on those rare, clear moments. . . . I admit I had tears in my eyes."
Blais draws on her own life in Uphill Walkers: A Memoir of a Family, published in 2001. The author was born into a large Irish-American family in western Massachusetts, and her childhood was fairly typical until the death of her father. Her mother was pregnant at the time, and the family entered a period of hard times as the widowed mother struggled to keep her children's lives as unchanged as possible, despite financial strain and the increasing problems with a brother's mental illness. The memoir is "involving and beautifully written," approved a Booklist contributor. A Publishers Weekly writer found Uphill Walkers occasionally marred by overwriting but enlivened by "flashes of brilliance."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Austin American-Statesman, May 13, 2001, Mary Alice Davis, review of Uphill Walkers: Memoir of a Family, p. K6.
Booklist, December 1, 1994, Wes Lukowsky, review of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, p. 650; May 15, 2001, Mary Carroll, review of Uphill Walkers: A Memoir of a Family, p. 1712.
Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1979.
Library Journal, July, 1992, Judy Solberg, review of The Heart Is an Instrument: Portraits in Journalism, p. 94; October 15, 1994, Kathy Ruffle, review of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, p. 64; May 15, 2001, Nancy R. Ives, review of Uphill Walkers, p. 132.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 13, 2001, Geeta Sharma Jensen, "In Town: Madeleine Blais," p. 7.
New York Times Book Review, March 19, 1995, Gail Shister, review of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, p. 45.
Progressive, January, 1995, Ruth Conniff, review of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, p. 45.
Publishers Weekly, November 7, 1994, review of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, p. 56; April 9, 2001, review of Uphill Walkers, p. 64.
School Library Journal, November, 1995, Frances Reiher, review of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, p. 8.
Sporting News, May 15, 1995, Steve Gietschier, review of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, p. 8.
Washington Post, June 3, 2001, Reeve Lindbergh, review of Uphill Walkers, p. T5.*