PERSONAL: Education: Attended Bennington College; University of Michigan, M.F.A., 1985.
ADDRESSES: Home—WI. Agent—c/o Elizabeth Ives, Publicity Department, Plume, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Writer and certified wilderness emergency medical technician (EMT). Has taught writing workshops at the University of Michigan, Bennington College, and the University of Southern Maine.
True North (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 2000.
Miranda's Vines (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Texas Review, Quarterly West, Crescent Review, Quadrille, and Blue Ox Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Little has been written about author Kimberly Kafka's personal life, except that she is a direct descendant of the famous Austrian writer Franz Kafka (1883–1924). Her first novel, True North, was published in 2000. Boston Herald reviewer Kurt Brown called the novel "a good old-fashioned tale of courage, lust and gold-rush fever set in Alaska's wilderness, where the simplest tasks, decisions and events test the mettle of everyone who lives or ventures there." True North is the story of Bailey Lockhart, who, after suffering a tragedy, leaves Maine for the remoteness of Alaska, where she can be alone. Her property is surrounded by Native American Ingalik land, and she is the only non-native in the area. Lockhart is employed as a bush pilot, and as a nurse in Alaska she finds herself interacting with the Ingalik tribe members. Lockhart also ends up helping a young white couple who have rented a lodge owned by the tribal leader. The couple is naive about the Native Americans and wilderness survival and find themselves, along with others, in life-and-death situations. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly commented: "Serious issues such as Native land rights and self-government, racism and environmentalism are among the topics Kafka tackles in her atmospheric, tightly wrought debut novel." BookPage online critic Maude McDaniel called True North "thoughtful," noting that it "will raise your consciousness about the anomalous position of Native Americans in the state of Alaska."
With her second novel, Miranda's Vines, Kafka again combines several themes ranging from family issues and friendship to a fight against corporate greed. When San Francisco chef Miranda Perry inherits an Oregon vineyard from her deceased father, she is at first reluctant to keep a business for which she has little talent or passion. A large beverage company hungrily eyes Perry's vineyard, and she is tempted to sell, until other considerations come to the fore. Among these are her father's loyal friends and workers, who want desperately to keep the vineyard independent; then, when Miranda's lifelong friend Bridie is paralyzed during an Iditarod race and comes to stay at the Oregon home, Miranda realizes how important the place is to others besides herself. However, if she wants to keep the vineyard, she is in for the biggest fight of her life. While reviewers noticed some minor flaws in the book, most critics had high praise for Miranda's Vines. For example, a Publishers Weekly contributor found some inconsistencies with the characters' voices but enjoyed the "great warmth and authority" of Kafka's descriptions of the landscapes. "Carefully written, seamlessly plotted, wine-country backgrounds fully realized," commented a Kirkus Reviews writer. "And if the happy ending is a tad predictable, few will cavil."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2000, Grace Fill, review of True North, p. 1008; December 15, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of Miranda's Vines, p. 727.
Boston Herald, April 2, 2000, Kurt Brown, "Novelist's Aim Is 'True'—Adventure Tale a Star Turn for Kimberly Kafka," p. 44.
Capital Times, March 17, 2000, Rob Thomas, "Kafka in Right Direction with North," p. A9.
Dallas Morning News, June 11, 2000, Lee Milazzo, "Books in Brief," p. J8.
Entertainment Weekly, June 30, 2000, Clarissa Cruz, "Family Fare: Does Having a Famous Last Name Lead to Literary Fame? It Sure Doesn't Hurt," p. 124.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2003, review of Miranda's Vines, p. 1244.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Patrick Sullivan, review of True North, p. 160.
Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2000, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of True North, p. E1.
New York Times Book Review, April 2, 2000, Sally Eckhoff, review of True North, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, January 17, 2000, review of True North, p. 41; January 26, 2004, review of Miranda's Vines, p. 230.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 21, 2000, "Romance and Brewing Tension Heat This Kafka's Icy Frontier," p. E2.
Seattle Times, April 16, 2000, Wingate Packard, "True North Is a Thrill," p. M10.
Sunday Herald, June 18, 2000, David Stenhouse, "A Thriller by Any Other Name Would Be as Bland," p. 10.
BookMagazine, http://www.bookmagazine.com/ (March 8, 2002), Elizabeth Crane, review of True North.
BookPage, http://www.bookpage.com/ (March 8, 2002), Maude McDaniel, review of True North.
Guardian Online, http://www.books.guardian.co.uk/ (July 1, 2000), Lisa Darnell, "Big in First Novels."
Kimberly Kafka Home Page, http://www.kimberlykafka.com (January 19, 2006).