PERSONAL: Female. Education: Syracuse University, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Office—English Department, College of Arts and Sciences, Oklahoma State University, 205 Morrill Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer and educator. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater and Tulsa, assistant professor of English and creative writing, c. 1999–. Johns Hopkins Summer Seminar in Creative Nonfiction, Center for Talented Youth, instructor, 2004; Cimarron Review, fiction coeditor, 2004.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholarship, 1996; Arts and Sciences Research Award, Oklahoma State University, 2004.
Thumbelina (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 1999.
Hello Life (novel), Soho Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to NUA: Studies in Contemporary Irish Writing and Tulsa World.
WORK IN PROGRESS: New fiction.
SIDELIGHTS: Andrea Koenig is the author of Thumbelina and Hello Life, two novels about teenage girls trying to cope with almost unbelievable hardship. The narrator of the first, whose name is supremely ironic because of her six-foot height, is a fourteen year old whose mother has just committed suicide and who is pregnant by her late mother's abusive, HIV-positive, bisexual lover. In foster care Thumbelina meets another pregnant teen named Myrna, and the two run away together. "Their tragicomic attempts to fashion a life make up the main plot action," Starr E. Smith wrote in Library Journal. They try living with Myrna's sister and on the streets, they make an attempt at becoming strippers, and they ponder adoption versus keeping their children. "In less nimble hands, such subject matter could have turned this novel into a preachy disaster," Eric Lorberer commented in Wassau, Wisconsin's City Pages, "but Koenig's finger wisely stays on the pulse of her main character."
Sixteen-year-old Gwen Perez, the protagonist of Hello Life, finds herself in foster care following the death of her mother in a car accident. Gwen could not be more different from her housemate, fellow foster child Lila Abernathy, an aspiring ballerina who has recently overcome leukemia. Gwen has been the subject of town gossip since before she was born: her mother, a talented musician who could have made a career of it, instead gave up on music to become involved with a Mexican man, Gustavo Perez, who left town after she became pregnant. "The story is really the portrayal of an attempt at reconciliation—between these two young women of different social classes brought together through hardship, and between the girls and their town's recognition of their rich individual talents," explained a Kirkus Reviews critic.
"It's hard to say what exactly inspires my material," Koenig told Oklahoma State University Web site contributor Alanna Bradley. "I only hope readers will be able to relate to these girls, pity them, and perhaps see themselves in their fear and toughness."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 1999, Grace Fill, review of Thumbelina, p. 832.
City Pages (Wassau, WI), March 17, 1999, Eric Lorberer, review of Thumbelina.
Dallas Morning News, July 2, 2005, Si Dunn, review of Hello Life.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2005, review of Hello Life, p. 498.
Library Journal, December, 1998, Starr E. Smith, review of Thumbelina, p. 156.
Publishers Weekly, November 9, 1998, review of Thumbelina, p. 54; April 11, 2005, review of Hello Life, p. 36.
Oklahoma State University Department of English Web site, http://english.okstate.edu/ (October 10, 2005).
Oklahoma State University Web site, http://www.okstate.edu/ (September 23, 2005), Alanna Bradley, "Say Hello to Life: OSU Author to Release Highly Anticipated Second Novel."
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Department of English Web site, http://www.english.uiuc.edu/ (September 23, 2005), "Robert J. and Katharin Carr Visiting Authors Series, 2002–2003."