Fogelin, Adrian 1951–
Fogelin, Adrian 1951–
PERSONAL: Born August 28, 1951, in Pearl River, NY; daughter of Carl Edward (a chemical engineer) and Maria (a writer) Fogelin; married Raymond S. Faass (a cabinetmaker), August, 1978; children: Josephine Sand-berg Faass. Education: Rhode Island School of Design, B.F.A., 1974. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, birdwatching, butterfly tagging, environmental activism, "managing family land for wildlife conservation."
ADDRESSES: Home—Tallahassee, FL. Agent—Jack Ryan, The Ryan Literary Agency, 12 Nob Hill Rd., New London, CT 06320. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Baltimore Zoo, Baltimore, MD, illustrator, 1972–78; Soft Shell Designs (art gallery), Islamorada, FL, owner, 1982–89; Key Largo Library, Key Largo, FL, branch manager, 1991–93; Jefferson Clay Creations, Islamorada, assistant potter, 1993–95; Florida State University, Tallahassee, library technical assistant, 1995–2001; writer, 2001–. Florida Keys Community College, adjunct instructor in art, 1981–91; also taught at a daycare center. Bay Watch, water quality monitor; Monarch Watch, member of monarch butterfly-tagging program.
MEMBER: Wednesday Night Writers.
Crossing Jordan, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2000.
Anna Casey's Place in the World, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2001.
My Brother's Hero, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2002.
Sister Spider Knows All, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2003.
The Big Nothing, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2004.
The Real Question, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer Adrian Fogelin has produced a series of middle-grade novels set in the author's home town of Tallahassee, Florida. Her stories introduce readers to an assortment of youths dealing with race relations, loss of friends, being an orphan, and being an outsider, all compacted into coming-of-age stories. Her novels are typified, as Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg noted, by "emotional drama, revealed in funny, realistic dialogue and spot-on descriptions."
Fogelin's first novel, Crossing Jordan, appeared in 2000; she has since reprised some of the characters from that debut in Anna Casey's Place in the World, My Brother's Hero, and The Big Nothing, while Sister Spider Knows All, though also set in Tallahassee, deals with a new cast of characters. Fogelin once commented on her reasons for writing for young readers: "I consider children our best hope for a livable future. In my writing I try to raise the issues that will affect that future, trusting young readers to think them over and do better than we have when they take over from us. But why do it with fiction? Simple. Like my mother, I love a good story."
Like her daughter, Fogelin's mother was also involved in writing. "The background music of my childhood was the clatter of typewriter keys punctuated by an occasional ding," the author once noted. "The music was made by my mother, Maria Bontempi Fogelin, a fiction writer who left manuscript pages, worked over with a number two pencil, in small piles throughout the house. She wrote many novels, published a couple, one of which was serialized in Redbook and translated into half-a-dozen languages. But selling books was not what sustained my mother's lifelong romance with writing. It was always that lightning bug in a bottle, the story. She gleaned material for her stories everywhere: her own childhood, the activities of her children (to our frequent embarrassment), conversations overheard in the checkout line at the store. She was relentless. She never forgot anything."
Inspired by observing a writer at work, Fogelin was also early on influenced by her love of words. "I was a dreamy kid," she noted on her Web site. "Most of the time … I was imagining, making up stories." She began keeping a diary in grade school; many of her entries were addressed, "Dear George," to George Harrison of the Beatles. "Because of my mother, writing books seemed like a normal thing to do," Fogelin added. "I've always written stories and poems. Like the diaries, they didn't always get finished, but they always got started. I've always been a good starter."
Books and writing were not her only childhood interests; Fogelin also loved the arts and acting, and in planning for college she applied to both a theater arts school and a fine arts and design college. Her acceptance at the Rhode Island School of Design was interpreted by Fogelin as a sign she was meant to be an artist. After graduation, she performed illustration work for the Baltimore Zoo for several years.
After a move to Florida with her husband and young daughter, Fogelin and her family lived on a boat and Fogelin opened an art gallery. Other work included being a potter and a librarian. "I was writing a little during all those years," the author commented on her Web site. "I still kept diaries, although they were in spiral notebooks (no locks). I wrote scratchy beginnings for stories. I wrote soupy poems. Then, one day, I got a call from an old friend who told me there was lots of money to be made in writing. I should have known this wasn't true, but making money selling my art wasn't a get-rich-quick scheme either." She set about putting her experiences at the Baltimore Zoo down on paper, and after a dozen years she had finished what she thought was her first novel. However, another more compelling theme then presented itself.
"At age thirty-five, I began to write seriously," Fogelin once recalled. "I was working on an adult novel when the eight-year-old next door told me that her family had to move. 'There are getting to be too many black people in the neighborhood. Black people break into your house, they rob you. They shoot you.' Hearing this parroting of ideas that had originated with her parents so galvanized me that I began writing a book for middle-school readers that addressed the question, 'What do you do when the lesson your parents teach you is wrong?' At first the moral issue cast a long shadow over the story, but quickly the characters, many of whom are based on the kids who live and play on the streets of my Tallahassee neighborhood, gave my indignation a more human voice."
The result was Fogelin's first published novel, Crossing Jordan, the story of an interracial friendship that is cemented despite parental objection. When a black family moves in next door to Cass Bodine, her racist father builds a high fence between the properties and forbids his daughter to have anything to do with the newcomers. A knothole in the fence, however, provides an introduction between twelve-year-old Cass and the neighbor girl, Jemmie, who is about the same age. Both runners, the girls also share a love for reading; a friendship develops, one known about only by Jemmie's grandmother. When Cass's father catches the girls playing, he forbids Cass to see Jemmie again, but a resolution of sorts is accomplished by a family medical emergency in which Jemmie's mother, a nurse, comes to the rescue. Gerry Larson, reviewing Fogelin's first novel in School Library Journal, wrote that "Jemmie and Cass are likable, lively characters, and readers will enjoy the repartee between them."
Fogelin did not have far to look for inspiration for her second book. "Anna Casey's Place in the World grew out of the first," Fogelin once explained. "The characters demanded it. In Anna two new children enter foster care in the neighborhood. This story addresses the deep need to find home, and the wider issue of protecting our global home, the environment."
With no parents to care for her, Anna is another twelve year old in search of herself. Carrying a rock from each place she has been farmed out to relatives, she now has run out of kin. Thus she is put into foster care in Tallahassee with a woman who already has one foster child, a younger boy named Eb, who has asthma and who dreams of being reunited with his uncaring mother. For Anna, no such illusory dreams exist; death and divorce have seen to that. But she does harbor a secret dream: to belong somewhere. During the summer they are together, Anna and Eb make friends with the neighbor kids, including Cass and Jemmie, from Fogelin's first novel. They also take up with a homeless Vietnam veteran and with Miss Johnette, a biology teacher who lives in the neighborhood.
For GraceAnne A. DeCandido, reviewing Anna Casey's Place in the World in Booklist, "Anna has inner pluck and outer charm." DeCandido further praised Fogelin's narrative style, writing that "Evocative descriptions bubble up from a deep reality." Faith Brautigam, writing in School Library Journal, also had positive things to say about Fogelin's protagonist, noting that "through her natural-sounding, first-person narrative, Anna comes off as being polite, eager to please, and with a great love of the world around her." Likewise, Kliatt contributor Nola Theiss called Anna "an intrepid heroine" of this "thoughtful coming-of-age story."
Fogelin continues with her series of novels set in one Tallahassee neighborhood with My Brother's Hero, which features a character from Crossing Jordan: Cass's young friend Ben. In this 2002 tale, Ben and Cass have progressed from friendship to having romantic yearnings for one another. Cass is mostly off-stage in this novel, however, as Ben travels with his family for Christmas to help take care of his uncle's marina in the Florida Keys. There he meets a spirited young girl named Mica who becomes increasingly important during the days of the vacation. Neglected by her alcoholic, marine-biologist father and with a mother who is oddly missing and rumored to be a famous dancer, Mica leads Ben and his brother on expeditions, nearly getting them lost on the ocean. For Debbie Whitbeck, reviewing the work in School Library Journal, My Brother's Hero "has trouble finding a focus," with its myriad of themes and subplots. While Whitbeck felt the novel is "not as compelling" as Crossing Jordan, Booklist reviewer Engberg wrote that the novel "has plenty of action" and that "readers just leaping into adolescence will easily connect with Ben."
In Sister Spider Knows All, Fogelin mines new territory, relating a "charming story about a girl who lives in a trailer with her chain-smoking, obese grandmother," according to Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser. Young Rox loves her grandmother deeply, but when cousin John, who shares a home with them, brings in his new upper-middle class girlfriend, friction arises. Lucy, the girlfriend, complains about the junk food and Grandmother Mimi's smoking, and also tries to talk Rox into being more curious about her biological mother, who left her in Mimi's care as a baby. Discovering her mother's diary, Rox slowly comes to understand that wanting to be successful in school is not a betrayal of Mimi. As Rosser noted, the novel helps make it clear that "a loving, close family is a treasure whatever circumstances they are living in."
Reviewers once again praised Fogelin's narrative voice. Writing in Booklist, Hazel Rochman noted that Rox's narrative is "delivered in a wry voice that swings from laugh-out-loud funny to wrenching sadness," but is "neither sentimental nor condescending." Similarly, Shilo Halfen, writing in School Library Journal, wrote that "Fogelin captures the fragility of this unique family with a lot of humor and great characters."
Fogelin returns to her original cast of characters with The Big Nothing, featuring Justin, a boy who is best friends with Ben. Now that Ben is living out his crush on Cass, and with his older brother Duane off to boot camp in preparation to ship out to Iraq, Justin is on his own. Even worse is the fact that it is becoming abundantly clear that his absent father may have deserted the family. Jemmie, also on her own now that Cass is busy spending time with Ben, steps into the breach to help out the overweight and pimply Justin. Jemmie's grandmother also recognizes a soul in need of comfort, and when Jemmie is off practicing longdistance running in the afternoon, the grandmother lets Justin use the family piano. These ministrations help to bring Justin out of his withdrawn state, what he refers to as "The Big Nothing." Discovering a real musical talent, Justin also finds a much more productive form of escape in the piano.
Writing in School Library Journal, Cindy Darling Codell called The Big Nothing a "thoroughly engaging story of teen angst, multiculturalism, and political divisions." Codell also described the book as "serious and humorous by turns." More praise came from a Kirkus Reviews critic, who described the novel as "satisfying and surprisingly realistic." Similarly, Booklist critic Jennifer Mattson noted that Fogelin's novel "speaks of the painful transitions of adolescence with rare humor and honesty," while Paula Rohrlick of Kliatt called the work "an absorbing and well-written tale."
Fogelin embeds her 2006 coming-of-age novel, The Real Question, in the framework of a road trip. In this story, sixteen-year-old Fisher Brown strives for academic excellence in an effort to please his father, who was abandoned by Fisher's mother when the boy was in sixth grade. Fisher longs to escape the pressures of school and the looming SAT exam, and is intrigued when Lonny, a neighborhood drifter, describes a more laissez-faire lifestyle. Eventually Fisher agrees to accompany Lonny on a road trip "adventure," "which turns out to be three days of free labor re-roofing Lonny's ex-wife's house," stated Myrna Marler in her review for Kliatt. Although events do not go as planned, and place Fisher's academic goals in jeopardy, he learns from his experience helping Lonny's wife and young son, and in turn is able to resolve his own problems with the support of new and old friends. School Library Journal's Jane Cronkhite called the book a "satisfying lesson in caring," while Marler termed it "a most entertaining read … that takes many an unpredictable turn."
On her Web site, Fogelin offered advice for aspiring writers: "If you want to write you have to get your raw material from somewhere, so pay attention to the world around you. Take notes, keep a journal. Write regularly. And don't give up. Being a writer is the best job in the world. Honest."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Anna Casey's Place in the World, p. 389; February 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of My Brother's Hero, p. 993; December 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Sister Spider Knows All, p. 746; December 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Big Nothing, p. 735.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 2000, review of Crossing Jordan.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2004, review of The Big Nothing, p. 1005; September 15, 2006, review of The Real Question, p. 953.
Kliatt, November, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Sister Spider Knows All, p. 5; March, 2004, Nola Theiss, review of Anna Casey's Place in the World, p. 19; January, 2005, Paula Rohrlick, review of The Big Nothing, p. 8; November, 2006, Myrna Marler, review of The Real Question, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly, November 20, 2006, review of The Real Question, p. 60.
School Library Journal, June, 2000, Gerry Larson, review of Crossing Jordan, p. 144; December, 2001, Faith Brautigam, review of Anna Casey's Place in the World, p. 133; February, 2003, Debbie Whitbeck, review of My Brother's Hero, p. 141; December, 2003, Shilo Halfen, review of Sister Spider Knows All, p. 150; December, 2004, Cindy Darling Codell, review of The Big Nothing, p. 145; November, 2006, Jane Cronkhite, review of The Real Question, p. 136.
USA Today, May 25, 2000, Linda Mallon, "For Young Readers: Fitting in, Traveling On," p. 9D.
Adrian Fogelin Home Page, http://www.adrianfogelin.com/ (June 4, 2005).