Hassinger, Amy 1972-
Hassinger, Amy 1972-
PERSONAL: Born 1972, in Newton, MA; married; children: one daughter, one son. Education: Barnard College, B.A., 1994; studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Hobbies and other interests: Yoga, reading, cooking, chatting with friends, singing.
CAREER: Writer and teacher. University of Nebraska at Omaha, teacher in low-residency M.F.A. writing program. Has taught creative writing at Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Iowa State University.
AWARDS, HONORS: Peter S. Prescott Prize, 1994, for short story “The Kiss”; Joseph E. and Ursi I. Callen Scholarship, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 1999–2001; Teaching-writing fellow, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 2000–01; Listen Up! Award, Publishers Weekly, 2003, and Audiobook of the Year Award, ForeWord magazine, 2003, both for audio edition of Nina: Adolescence; Finalist Award in Prose, Illinois Arts Council, 2006.
Finding Katahdin: An Exploration of Maine’s Past (history), University of Maine Press (Orono, ME), 2001
Nina: Adolescence (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.
The Priest’s Madonna (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2006
Contributor to periodicals, including Arts and Letters and Hunger Mountain.
SIDELIGHTS: Amy Hassinger’s debut novel, Nina: Adolescence, uses the story of one shaken family to explore themes of adolescent sexuality, artistic license, and coping strategies in the face of tragedy. Eager to help her parents deal with their grief over the accidental drowning of her younger brother, fifteen-year-old Nina encourages her artist-mother to begin painting again. When her mother chooses to paint a series of nudes of Nina—in effect documenting Nina’s burgeoning femininity—the whole family must deal with the issues surrounding the mother’s decision to display the portraits in a show. “Hassinger perfectly captures the guilt and thirst for affection,” recorded a Publishers Weekly writer, “that compels Nina to pose nude,” stemming from her role in her brother’s death and from her need to reconnect with her parents.
One of the issues she encounters in her career as her mother’s model centers on Nina’s mother’s ex-boyfriend, photographer Leo Beck, who abuses Nina’s trust by photographing her naked and beginning a serious relationship with her. “The story is beautifully told,” wrote Kliatt critic Susan Allison, “arousing sympathy for each member of the family caught in this web, but especially for Nina and her father Henry.”Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg called Nina“an unsettling and acutely sensitive debut” and a “powerful, disturbing story,” and a Kirkus Reviews correspondent noted that Hassinger “builds her touching drama with a refreshingly undramatic simplicity.”
Hassinger’s second novel, The Priest’s Madonna, traces the story of the nineteenth-century affair between a small-town French girl, Marie Dernanaud, and the priest who serves her village. During renovations to the village church Marie uncovers evidence about the purported relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Hassinger parallels Marie’s story with Mary’s, showing how each woman has to struggle to “serve the man she loves,” declared Anna M. Nelson in Library Journal, “without destroying him and his faith.” “What is riveting about this novel is NOT... the sexual relationship,” noted Viviane Crystal on the Best Reviews Web site. “What grips the reader is how people find and lose faith because of their immersion in either material things or belief in worldly ideas.” “Hassinger brings historical characters to life,” Booklist critic Michele Leber stated, “in this vivid and affecting account of love and faith.”
Hassinger told CA:“I have always loved to read, and after a while, it occurred to me that I might like to write something of my own. I am a very disciplined writer, or was until I had small children anyway. In the days before little ones, I wrote every day for four hours, shooting for 1, 000 words a day. I’ll get back there someday, when I can afford more babysitting hours. I find that consistency with the work is one of the most important things in my process.
“I hope [that my] stories will enthrall people, and that the sentences will jazz them, maybe make them want to write something of their own. On a deeper level, I hope they’ll encourage people to step into my characters’ shoes for a while, and see the world through their eyes.”
When asked to state the most surprising thing she has discovered as a writer, Hassinger responded: “That I can actually write a novel. Who knew?”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, May 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Nina: Adolescence, p. 1579; November 15, 2003, Nancy Spillman, review of Nina, p. 616; February 15, 2006, Michele Leber, review of The Priest’s Madonna, p. 41; October 1, 2006, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of The Priest’s Madonna, p. 70.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of Nina, p. 558.
Kliatt, September, 2004, Susan Allison, review of Nina, p. 20.
Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Nancy R. Ives, review of Nina, p. 142; March 1, 2006, Anna M. Nelson, review of The Priest’s Madonna, p. 77.
Publishers Weekly, September 1, 2003, review of Nina p. 32; January 30, 2006, review of The Priest’s Madonna, p. 36.
Amy Hassinger Home Page, http://www.amyhassinger.com (December 20, 2006), author biography.
Best Reviews, http://www.thebestreviews.com/ (December 20, 2006), Viviane Crystal, review of The Priest’s Madonna.
LitLine: A Web site for the Independent Literary Community, http://www.litline.org/ (December 20, 2006), author biography.