Farish, Terry 1947-

views updated

FARISH, Terry 1947-

PERSONAL: Born June 8, 1947, in Waterbury, CT; daughter of Clifford and Eleanor (Bronson) Dickerson; married Stephen Farish (a U.S. Air Force officer), 1970; children: Elizabeth. Education: Texas Woman's University, B.S., 1969; California State University—Fullerton, M.L.S., 1976; Antioch University, M.A. (literature and creative writing), 1985. Politics: Democrat.

ADDRESSES: Home—192 New Castle Ave., Portsmouth, NH 03801. Agent—Marilyn Marlow, Curtis Brown, Ltd., 10 Astor Pl., New York, NY 10003. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Ralston Public Library, Ralston, NE, director, 1976-82; Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA, head of children's services, 1986-90; Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, Lowell, MA, director of Young Parent Program, 1990-91; Rivier College, Nashua, NH, writing instructor, beginning 1993; Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, Portland, ME, instructor in nonfiction writing. Lecturer, workshop presenter, and literacy volunteer; involved in New Hampshire Theater Project, Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, and Casey Family Services. Worked for American Red Cross in Cu Chi, Vietnam, 1969-70.

MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Writers Union, American Library Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: New Hampshire individual artist fellow.


Why I'm Already Blue (young adult novel), Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1989.

Shelter for a Seabird (young adult novel), Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1990.

Flower Shadows (adult novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.

If the Tiger (adult novel), Steerforth Press (South Royalton, VT), 1995.

Talking in Animal (young adult novel), Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1996.

A House in Earnest (adult novel), Steerforth Press (South Royalton, VT), 2000. The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup (children's picture book), illustrated by Barry Root, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Braids, and More True Stories about Sudanese Teenagers, a nonfiction book about a group of teens living in Portland, Maine.

SIDELIGHTS: In her novels for both adults and teen readers, Terry Farish focuses on issues such as divorce, teen pregnancy, illness, and loss. Drawing from the people and places she has encountered, the author uses these elements to help create her characters and settings. Her work in Vietnam for the American Red Cross after she graduated from college brought her face to face with the realities of war, and her more recent work with immigrant teens from Africa and Asia has allowed her to see typical adolescent concerns from a broader-than-usual perspective.

Working for many years as a children's librarian, Farish began her writing career penning fiction for young adults. Her first novel, Why I'm Already Blue, examines the complex feelings of an adolescent girl whose parents are on the verge of divorce. Feeling as if the burden of family stability lies on her shoulders, twelve-year-old Lucy Purcell begins to retreat into herself after her older sister, Jane, leaves for nursing school. She also distances herself from her closest childhood friend, Gus, who has muscular dystrophy. When Lucy's sister brings a baby from the hospital to the family cottage, Lucy reunites with Gus and begins to assume some responsibilities for the child's care. Thanksgiving dinner finally presents Lucy and her family with the opportunity to resolve differences, make plans, and adjust to new relationships in a novel that a Publishers Weekly reviewer described as "about the collision of emotions rather than a simple comingof-age tale." School Library Journal contributor Bonnie L. Raasch noted the novel's serious tone, while a Kirkus Reviews critic called the story "atmospheric" and "moody," and maintained that Farish's "airy, elusive writing subtly conveys the full weight of each character's concerns."

With 1990's Shelter for a Seabird, Farish addresses a range of issues, including teen pregnancy, loss of community, and the desire for acknowledgment and understanding. Returning to her Shelter Island home after giving up her baby for adoption, sixteen-year-old Andrea is frustrated to find that her parents act as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. For Andrea, her whole life and outlook has changed as a result of her summer fling and the consequential experiences of pregnancy and birth, and she soon realizes that this change has set her apart from her friends at school as well. Then Andrea meets Swede, an AWOL soldier who listens without judgment as Andrea talks about her life. Together, Andrea and Swede help each other deal with the erosion of stability in their lives and confront their problems responsibly in preparation for building a solid and mature relationship, in a novel a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised for its "ruggedly believable characters" and "pockets of tellingly placed details."

In Talking in Animal, pre-teen Siobhan realizes that her dog Tree, which has been a part of her family as long as she can remember, is quietly suffering great pain as he nears the end of his life. As if that imminent loss is not enough, her favorite person, wildlife rehabilitator Maddy Todd, is getting married, which means Maddy will not be able to spend as much time with Siobhan as she was once able. In frustration, she petulantly decides to make life miserable for Lester Grace, the girl who will soon be Maddy's stepdaughter. Ultimately, however, Siobhan comes to terms with her jealousy over Maddy's future and also summons the courage to take Tree to the vet to be euthanized. Calling Farish's protagonist "a really great kid" who makes the transition from her idealized world to reality "naturally and easily and believably," Voice of Youth Advocates critic Helen Turner dubbed the novel "a quiet, funny story," while in Horn Book, Jennifer Brabander noted that the author "writes with humor and precision about Siobhan's growing awareness of the many forms friendship can take."

Taking a break from more serious fare, Farish experimented with the picture-book genre in 2003's The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup. Illustrated by Barry Root, the book focuses on the close relationship between a curmudgeonly old man and a unique cat. Living together in their rural Texas home, the pair have things down to a routine, and despite the occasional cross word, they get along just fine. Instead of catching birds, the cat prefers to eat potato soup, which the old man enjoys sharing. And rather than exhibiting a usual cat's aversion to water, this cat likes nothing more than to sit in the bow of the old man's fishing dingy, feeling the spray in her face as they row to a likely fishing spot each morning. The two seem inseparable until one day when the cat exhibits normal cat behavior and disappears for several days in retaliation for a slight change in their daily routine. Noting that Farish "demonstrates herself an exciting new talent" as a picture-book author, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor Deborah Stevenson praised The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup as a "casually told yet tender tale about the prickly friendship between an old man and his cat." In Kirkus Reviews, a contributor had special praise for the restrained illustrations by Barry Root, noting that Farish's "evocative language" is enhanced by "the rich array of subtle verbal and visual nuances" created by the author-illustrator collaboration.

In addition to her picture book and her novels for teen readers, Farish has also penned several fictional works for adults, among them Flower Shadows, If the Tiger, and A House in Earnest. Based on the author's own experiences in Vietnam as a war-relief worker, Flower Shadows describes the horrors faced by female Red Cross volunteers during the Vietnam War. The main character's "breathless innocence makes this story a particularly heartbreaking and memorable one," declared a Kirkus Reviews critic.

Also set against the backdrop of the war in Southeast Asia, Farish's If the Tiger describes the impact of war on two young, motherless women—one Cambodian, one American—whose fathers fought on opposite sides during the Cambodian conflict. Chanty Sun is the only member of her family to have survived the war. Now living in the United States with her Cambodian-born husband, Kob, and her infant son, Chanty realizes that Kob's abusive, controlling behavior is not love. Meanwhile, college student Laurel Sullivan is trying to come to terms with her dictatorial Air Force colonel father and her mixed feelings toward a hippie mother who abandoned her. The paths of the two women cross in a Massachusetts mill town, sparking a chain of events that include a tragic death, a trip to a Buddhist temple to chase away spirits from the past, and an emotional reconciliation in a novel that New York Times Book Review writer Laura van Wormer described as "fresh and lyrical." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer praised If the Tiger as "quiet, sensuous, and intensely moving," remarking in particular on Farish's skill in weaving Eastern spirituality and the emotional vestiges of war into a "universal human story."

Published in 2000, the novel A House in Earnest also involves the emotional aftermath of war, this time through the lives of young married couple Cristy and Deborah Mahan. Through what a Publishers Weekly contributor described as a "languidly poetic story" covering the couple's twenty-five-year on-again, off-again relationship, Cristy remains haunted by violent memories of Vietnamese mine fields, while Deborah remains stuck in the hippie counterculture, where drugs, idealized fantasies of a better world, and a host of mundane worries fuel her disillusionment. While Booklist reviewer Michele Leber described Farish's protagonists as "alternately strikingly sensuous and exasperatingly introspective," Jim Dwyer wrote in his Library Journal review that through her writing skills, the novelist succeeds in portraying Cristy and Deborah as "multifaceted individuals with compelling stories."



Belles Lettres, fall, 1992, Bettina Berch, review of Flower Shadows, pp. 55-56.

Booklist, October 1, 1989, p. 347; November 15, 1990, p. 654; January 1, 1992, Cynthia Ogorek, review of Flower Shadows, p. 810; September 1, 1995, Joanne Wilkinson, review of If the Tiger, p. 38; May 1, 2000, Michele Leber, review of A House in Earnest, p. 1651.

Book Report, January-February, 1990, Rose M. Kent, review of Why I'm Already Blue, p. 46; March-April, 1991, Betty Jones, review of Shelter for a Seabird, p. 42; November-December, 1996, Holly Wadsworth, review of Talking in Animal, p. 39; May 1, 2000, Michele Leber, review of A House in Earnest, p. 1651; April 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup, p. 1477.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2003, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup.

Choice, October, 1995, N. Tischler, review of If theTiger, p. 291.

Horn Book, January-February, 1997, Jennifer Brabander, review of Talking in Animal p. 55.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1989, review of WhyI'm Already Blue, p. 1591; September 15, 1990, review of Shelter for a Seabird; October 15, 1991, review of Flower Shadows, pp. 1303-1304; June 15, 1996, review of Talking in Animal, p. 897; May 1, 2003, review of The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup, p. 676.

Library Journal, May 1, 1992, p. 144; April 15, 2000, Jim Dwyer, review of A House in Earnest, p. 122.

New York Times Book Review, January 14, 1996, Laura van Wormer, review of If the Tiger, p. 19; October 15, 2000, James Polk, review of A House in Earnest, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, July 14, 1989, review of Why I'mAlready Blue, p. 80; September 14, 1990, review of Shelter for a Seabird, p. 128; October 18, 1991, review of Flower Shadow, p. 54; May 8, 1995, review of If the Tiger, p. 289; October 7, 1996, review of Talking in Animal, p. 76; March 6, 2000, review of A House in Earnest, p. 80; May 5, 2003, review of The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup, p. 221.

School Library Journal, October, 1989, Bonnie L. Raasch, review of Why I'm Already Blue, p. 117; November, 1990, Judie Porter, review of Shelter for a Seabird, p. 138; November, 1996, Wendy D. Caldiero, review of Talking in Animal, p. 104; July, 2003, Steven Englefried, review of The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup, p. 95.

Times (London, England), April 14, 1990.

Times Educational Supplement, June 1, 1990, Mary Cadogan, review of Why I'm Already Blue, p. B8.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1989, p. 29; October, 1989, p. 212; April, 1997, Helen Turner, review of Talking in Animal, p. 28.

Washington Post Book World, October 8, 1995, Hart Williams, review of If the Tiger, p. 8.

Women's Review of Books, July, 1995, Jeanne Schinto, review of If the Tiger, p. 31.


Terry Farish Home Page,http://www.terryfarish.com/ (January 3, 2004).*