PERSONAL: Born in Geneseo, IL; divorced. Education: Ohio University, B.A. (English) and B.S. (education), 1990. Also studied at North Carolina School of the Arts. Hobbies and other interests: Playing with horses, acting, directing children's theatre, ballroom dancing, cooking.
CAREER: Miami Valley School, Dayton, OH, sixth-and seventh-grade English teacher. Has worked variously as a freelance writer, writer-in-residence, director of children's theatre, creative-writing instructor, high-school teacher, and veterinary assistant; also taught creative writing workshops, cleaned houses, and worked in case management at AIDS Foundation Miami Valley (now AIDS Resource Center).
AWARDS, HONORS: Grants from Ohio Arts Council and Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District.
Traveling Light, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Two Truths and a Lie, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2001.
The Kindness of Strangers, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A fourth novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist Katrina Kittle "grew up in a home where books were prized possessions, and original stories and poems were given as gifts," she explained on her Internet home page. Kittle later taught English and creative writing to people ranging in age from eight to eighty.
Kittle arrived on the literary scene with the publication of her 2000 novel, Traveling Light, which, in addition to providing the narrative of Summer Zwolenick, sheds light on controversial issues including homosexuality, homophobia, AIDS, and family relationships. Summer, a ballet dancer turned schoolteacher, has returned to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to care for her brother Todd, who is dying of AIDS. In addition to dealing with her brother's impending death, Summer must confront other problems in her life: her indecision about marrying her boyfriend, the spousal abuse suffered by her older sister, problematic students at school, and a strained relationship with her mother. As a reviewer for TopWriteCorner.com explained, "In this story of love, loss, hope, family, strength, inspiration and courage, Katrina Kittle has created a work that stays with you long after you've gone past the last page."
While Library Journal critic Reba Leiding felt that a few of the characters in Traveling Light lack substance, she added that "Kittle's narrative skill shines through as she describes how AIDS destroys [Todd's] vitality." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "With Summer's story as the centerpiece, the book is absorbing and readable," while Whitney Scott concluded in Booklist that "this wonderfully moving book … is hard to put down, and harder still to forget."
Kittle's next novel, Two Truths and a Lie, tells the story of Dair Canard, a compulsive liar who not only gets tangled in her own web of lies but also in a mystery involving a close friend's death. On the day she met her husband, Peyton, Dair told him about her twin who died during childhood. Many years later, Dair still has not told Peyton, who believes Dair's childhood tragedy is what brought them together, that the story was a complete fabrication. In addition to her personal dilemma, Dair attempts to discover why her friend Craig has leapt to his death and why another member of her theatre group has gone missing. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that "skeptics and hardcore mystery buffs might balk at Dair's mother's use of animal telepathy as a sleuthing tool," but concluded that readers would enjoy the "suspenseful conclusion." In a review for the Books 'n' Bytes Web site, Harriet Klausner asserted that "the intelligent story line is deep as it peels away the human mask to reveal that lies are part of the ego."
With The Kindness of Strangers Kittle tackles the disturbing topic of the sexual abuse of children. The novel follows widowed mother Sarah Laden as she discovers that the eleven-year-old son of her best friend and neighbor has tried to commit suicide after having been sexually abused for years. Kittle revealed on her home page that all of the statistics on sexual abuse found throughout the novel are accurate and were gleaned from sources that included the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the U.S. Justice Department. A Publishers Weekly critic commented that while some of this research "sits awkwardly in expository dialogue … it doesn't slow the momentum" of the novel. In Kirkus Reviews a critic commented on Kittle's "exceptionally fluent narrative skill," and described the book as "utterly compelling."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2000, Whitney Scott, review of Traveling Light, p. 1436.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2005, review of The Kindness of Strangers, p. 1101.
Library Journal, April 1, 2000, Reba Leiding, review of Traveling Light, p. 130.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2000, review of Traveling Light, p. 83; June 18, 2001, review of Two Truths and a Lie, p. 58; October 10, 2005, review of The Kindness of Strangers, p. 34.
Redbook, December, 2001, Jill Lane, review of Two Truths and a Lie, p. G3.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 8, 2001, review of Traveling Light, p. 6.
BookReporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (January 13, 2006), "Authors: Katrina Kittle."
Books 'n' Bytes, http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (January 27, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Two Truths and a Lie.
Katrina Kittle Home Page, http://www.katrinakittle.com (January 13, 2006).
TopWriteCorner.com, http://www.topwritecorner.com/ (January 13, 2006), interview with Katrina Kittle, review of Traveling Light.