Gourley, Catherine 1950–

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Gourley, Catherine 1950–

PERSONAL:

Born December 18, 1950, in Wilkes-Barre, PA; daughter of Robert (a mail carrier) and Ruth (a government employee); married Dennis Gourley (a social work administrator), July 7, 1972. Education: M.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—Dallas, PA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Educator, writer, and editor. English teacher in Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1972-83; Office for Institutional Advancement, Rosary College, River Forest, IL, assistant communications manager, 1987-89; Weekly Reader Corp., Middletown, CT, editor of special projects and Read magazine, 1989-97; Conari Press, Berkeley, CA, managing editor of "Barnard Biography" series, 1995-97; Library of Congress Center for the Book, director of "Letters about Literature" (national reading promotion program for children and young adults). Curriculum writer for Film Foundation's "Story of Movies" middle-school outreach program. Creative Arts Center, Inc., Corpus Christi, TX, artist-in-residence, 1986-87; adjunct instructor in writing at Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, and Pennsylvania State University, Dubois.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant; Jefferson Cup Award for Excellence in Historical Fiction nomination, for The Courtship of Joanna; Best Fiction for Children award, Education Press of America, for short story "The Chameleon"; Top Ten Books for Reluctant Readers designation, American Library Association (ALA), 1998, for Read for Your Life; Best Nonfiction Books for Young Adults designation, ALA, 1999, for Good Girl Work; Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People designation, National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council, 2008, for "Women's Images and Issues" series.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION; FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Hunting Neptune's Giants: True Stories of American Whaling, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1995.

Dear Author: Students Write about the Books That Changed Their Lives, Conari Press (Berkeley, CA), 1995.

Sharks! True Stories and Legends, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1996.

Beryl Markham: Never Turn Back, Conari Press (Berkeley, CA), 1997.

Wheels of Time: A Picture Biography of Henry Ford, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1997.

Media Wizards: A Behind-the-Scene Look at Media Manipulations, Twenty-first Century Books (Brookfield, CT), 1999.

Welcome to Samantha's World, 1904: Growing up in America's New Century, Pleasant Company (Middleton, WI), 1999.

Welcome to Molly's World, 1944: Growing up in World War Two America, Pleasant Company (Middleton, WI), 1999.

Welcome to Felicity's World, 1774, Pleasant Company (Middleton, WI), 1999.

Good Girl Work: Factories, Sweatshops, and How Women Changed Their Role in the American Workforce, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1999.

Who Is Maria Tallchief?, illustrated by Val Paul Taylor, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2002.

Society's Sisters: Stories of Women Who Fought for Social Justice in America, Twenty-first Century Books (Brookfield, CT), 2003.

War, Women, and the News: How Female Journalists Won the Battle to Cover World War II, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2007.

NONFICTION; "IMAGES AND ISSUES OF WOMEN IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY" SERIES

Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from the Turn of the Century through 1918, Twenty-first Century Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2008.

Flappers and the New American Woman: Perceptions of Women from 1918 through the 1920s, Twenty-first Century Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2008.

Rosie and Mrs. America: Perceptions of Women in the 1930s and 1940s, Twenty-first Century Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2008.

Gidgets and Women Warriors: Perceptions of Women in the 1950s and 1960s, Twenty-first Century Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2008.

Ms. and the Material Girls: Perceptions of Women from the 1970s through the 1990s, Twenty-first Century Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2008.

OTHER

The Courtship of Joanna (historical novel), Graywolf Press, 1989.

(Editor) Read If You Dare: The Best of Read, Volume I, Millbrook (Brookfield, CT), 1997.

(Editor and contributor) Read for Your Life: The Best of Read, Volume II, Millbrook (Brookfield, CT), 1998.

Author of radio play Breaker Boy: A Story for Radio, broadcast on public radio, 1986; and stage play Pandora's Box, published in Middle Level Literature. Contributor of short stories, plays, and articles to Read magazine and to Lerner-Pulitzer Newspaper (Chicago, IL). Contributing editor for Writing! magazine.

SIDELIGHTS:

In her career as a writer, Catherine Gourley has focused on inspiring young readers and promoting literacy and strong reading skills. The author or editor of numerous books for children and young adults, she has also worked on the popular Weekly Reader periodicals and developed reading programs for both the Library of Congress Center for the Book and the Los Angeles-based Film Foundation. Several of her nonfiction books, such as Society's Sisters: Stories of Women Who Fought for Social Justice in America, Good Girl Work: Factories, Sweatshops, and How Women Changed Their Role in the American Workforce, and Ms. and the Material Girls: Perceptions of Women from the 1970s through the 1990s, center on the changing role of women in society, while biographies such as Wheels of Time: A Picture Biography of Henry Ford focus on Americans who create change through their innovative, risk-taking spirit.

Gourley once commented: "I began writing as a child, tapping out single-page stories on my mother's manual typewriter, stories which she, in turn, tapped into a scrapbook that has long been lost. My mother's interest in what I wrote gave me the confidence to continue, even to be daring in what I chose to write about. My first real lesson in storytelling, however, came from my extended family. Whenever my Irish aunts and cousins gathered around the kitchen table to celebrate a birthday or a holiday, they would compete with each other telling funny stories about their relationships with their spouses, their doctors, their children. By listening to and laughing with them, I realized the importance of storytelling in people's lives.

"My second lesson in storytelling—how to use language effectively—came from studying such diverse writers as Eudora Welty and John Gardner.

"The first short story I ever published did not appear in print. ‘Breaker Boy’ was the recipient of a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and produced as a radio drama that aired on public radio stations nationwide. During the production process, I had the unique opportunity of observing the director and the actors, the sound effects specialist. Over days, I heard my story being interpreted, acted, set to music. At the end of a long day of recording, I commented innocently that the story didn't seem like mine anymore, and the director turned to me and said, ‘It isn't. It is all of ours now.’

"And that was still another important lesson to learn about writing and publishing. At some point, the writer gives away her story, sharing it with others who bring their own interpretation to the piece. It is a little like raising a child and then waving good-bye at the door when the child finally sets out on her own."

In "Breaker Boy" Gourley drew on memories of her own Irish mining family. Her first novel, The Courtship of Joanna, also draws from this well, taking readers back to Pennsylvania during the 1880s. In the novel sixteen-year-old Joanna leaves her home to work as a domestic servant for an Irish family, the Flynns, her wages going to help her father purchase some river property. Tim Flynn, a coal miner whose first wife and child died during childbirth, lives alone with his widowed mother in a mining town. Although the harsh conditions of this new life weigh heavily on the homesick teen, Joanna falls in love with Tim, and the two eventually marry. Barbara Weathers, writing in School Library Journal, called The Courtship of Joanna an "exciting, well-developed story," and a Publishers Weekly contributor described Gourley's fiction debut as "a beautifully evoked piece about the lives of [nineteenth-century American] immigrants."

Since The Courtship of Joanna Gourley has focused primarily on nonfiction works, returning to America's past in books such as Hunting Neptune's Giants: True Stories of American Whaling, Welcome to Samantha's World, 1904: Growing up in America's New Century, Welcome to Felicity's World, 1774, the last two historical overviews created for fans of the popular "American Girls" stories published by Pleasant Company. Hunting Neptune's Giants introduces young readers to the whaling industry that once thrived along the New England coast, only to be destroyed by its own greed. In collaboration with Connecticut's Mystic Seaport Museum, Gourley brings together a wide assortment of research, including excerpts from diaries by the sailors themselves, to piece together a colorful part of American history. She "dredges up enough fascinating information … to satisfy almost anybody," concluded Stephanie Zvirin in her Booklist review of Hunting Neptune's Giants.

Gourley returns to the sea with Sharks! True Stories and Legends, in which she pairs natural history with legends from Hawaii and the Solomon Islands as well as true accounts of people's encounters with sharks, giving readers a complete picture of all aspects of this ancient sea creature.

The lives of extraordinary individuals are Gourley's focus in biographies such as Wheels of Time, which brings to life the career of the pioneering founder of the Fort Motor Company. Famous women are the focus of Never Turn Back: A Biography of Beryl Markham and Who Is Maria Tallchief?, the latter a profile of the Native American ballerina who danced with the New York City Ballet from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s. Focusing on the American aviatrix who, in 1936, became the first person to make the east-west flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Never Turn Back presents middle-grade and older readers with a "lively account of Markham's nonconformist, often exciting early life," according to Booklist contributor Susan DeRonne.

Of all Gourley's nonfiction, she is best known for her books that introduce readers to different aspects of women's history. In Good Girl Work she analyses the role of women within the work force at the turn of the twentieth century, when jobs in weaving and spinning mills, sewing shops, and other piecework were performed by young, often immigrant women and sometimes younger girls. Enriched by period photographs and drawing from diaries, letters, and interviews, Good Girl Work is most notable for containing "dramatic in-depth personal testimonies" that illustrate the evolution of women to more diverse roles within the workplace, according to Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman. Focusing on the social activism of many upper-class women during the early twentieth century, Society's Sisters is arranged by subject, ranging from temperance leaguers to suffragettes to those who worked to alleviate the suffering of children in orphanages and in industry. Refocusing readers' attention to those who recorded such times, War, Women, and the News: How Female Journalists Won the Battle to Cover World War II examines the journalism profession as it slowly accepted women within its ranks, by the 1940s allowing them to serve as war correspondents under sometimes-dangerous conditions. Praising the book as "compel- ling," Engberg noted that in War, Women, and the News Gourley "offers a rare, contextualized view of women journalists" and then "explores their influence on today's professionals." While noting that the author's "passion is sharper than her focus" in the introductory work, John Peters concluded his School Library Journal review of the book by dubbing War, Women, and the News "a worthy work."

Gourley's five-volume "Images and Issues of Women in the Twentieth Century" series spans the many changes experienced across generations of women living during the twentieth century. Beginning with Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918, the series approaches women's history by tracing the popular culture of the era, moving from the post-Edwardian fight for the vote to other gains in independence, whether in the workplace, in society, in the arts and sciences, or in the home as the feminist consciousness took root in America over the century. Reviewing Flappers and the New American Woman: Perceptions of Women from 1918 through the 1920s, Engberg wrote that the author presents a "thoughtful, amply illustrated analysis" of her topic in her "lively text." School Library Journal contributor Ann Welton had praise for the series as a whole, writing that in the "Images and Issues" series "Gourley clearly shows that women have been consistently faced with role expectations that stem from diametrically opposed views of what they should be."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 1995, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Hunting Neptune's Giants: True Stories of American Whaling, p. 470; October 15, 1996, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Sharks! True Stories and Legends, p. 416; March 15, 1997, Susan DeRonne, review of Beryl Markham: Never Turn Back, p. 1233; May 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Good Girl Work: Factories, Sweatshops, and How Women Changed Their Role in the American Workforce, p. 1584; September 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Welcome to Felicity's World, 1774, p. 128; December 1, 1999, Roger Leslie, review of Media Wizards: A Behind-the-Scene Look at Media Manipulations, p. 692; January 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Welcome to Molly's World, 1944: Growing up in World War Two America, p. 908; November 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Society's Sisters: Stories of Women Who Fought for Social Justice in America, p. 591; January 1, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of War, Women, and the News: How Female Journalists Won the Battle to Cover World War II, p. 73; January 1, 2008, Gillian Engberg, review of Flappers and the New American Woman: Perceptions of Women from 1918 through the 1920s, p. 53.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1997, review of Sharks!, p. 171; July, 1997, review of Beryl Markham, p. 395; July, 1999, review of Good Girl Work, p. 387; May, 2997, Elizabeth Bush, review of War, Women, and the News, p. 368.

Publishers Weekly, May 12, 1989, review of The Courtship of Joanna, pp. 295-256.

School Library Journal, October, 1989, Barbara Weathers, review of The Courtship of Joanna, p. 145; December, 1995, Elaine Fort Weischedel, review of Hunting Neptune's Giants, pp. 116-117; December, 1996, Susan Scheps, review of Sharks!, pp. 128-129; May, 1997, Marilyn Heath, review of Beryl Markham, p. 145; August, 1999, Eunice Weech, review of Good Girl Work, p. 170; October, 1999, Krista Grosick, review of Welcome to Felicity's World, p. 137; February, 2007, John Peters, review of War, Women, and the News, p. 137; November, 2007, Ann Welton, review of Flappers and the New American Woman, p. 148.