Shimko, Bonnie 1941-
Shimko, Bonnie 1941-
Born 1941, in Plattsburgh, New York; married; children: one son, one daughter.
Agent—Wendy Schmalz Agency, P.O. Box 831, Hudson, NY 12534. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Formerly worked as a second grade teacher.
Lambda Literary Award, for Letters in the Attic.
Letters in the Attic, Academy Chicago Publishers (Chicago, IL), 2002.
Kat's Promise, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
A native of Plattsburgh, New York, Bonnie Shimko uses rural, northeastern New York as the setting for her first novel, Letters in the Attic. Set in the 1960s, when Shimko herself was a teenager, the novel tells the story of Lizzy and her mother, Veronica, as they cope following the departure of Lizzy's father. After moving in with Veronica's parents, Lizzy discovers a stash of letters that hint that the man who abandoned them might not have been her real father at all. She turns to new friend Eva to share her findings, only to discover herself falling for the other girl and unsure how to deal with these emotions. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Letters in the Attic an "amusing tale notable for its sharp and quick-witted tone."
Kat's Promise, Shimko's second novel, was inspired by an orphanage located in Shimko's hometown. "I couldn't stop thinking about the kids who were inside, and what went on behind those cold cement walls," the author wrote on her home page. The story of orphaned Kat came out of that curiosity. After her mother's death, Kat is sent to live with wealthy Aunt Paulina, who had refused to help pay for the cancer operation that could have saved Kat's mother's life. Kat blames Aunt Paulina and is determined to make her aunt pay for what she did; Aunt Paulina seems just as determined to punish Kat for living off of her hospitality. As Kat learns how to navigate her new life, she also discovers a number of secrets about her own family history. "Well written, with a compelling protagonist, Kat's Promise allows readers to see that there is hope out of a life of pain," Tracy Karbel wrote in School Library Journal. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called Kat "a sympathetic character who approaches her problems with courage and honesty."
Shimko once commented: "Letters in the Attic won a Lambda Literary Award, which was a huge, wonderful thrill for me. I wrote the book as a labor of love and also as an apology to my daughter for being a terrible mother when she ‘came out’ to our family at age nineteen. I always thought I was a broad-minded person. But I found out that I was broad-minded as long as it was somebody else's daughter. After a couple of months of horribleness, I realized that I was going to have to change or I would lose my only daughter. I contacted a psychologist and she told me about PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). When I called the number, a man answered the phone. I gave him my name and poured out my whole tearful, blubbering story. After I finished, he said, ‘Lady, this is the Veterans Administration!’ I had taken the first step toward recovery. I had told someone and the world didn't come to an end. The people at PFLAG took me under their wings, worked their magic and my daughter and I became closer than ever. Then I wrote Letters in the Attic and dedicated it to her.
"A little more about me as a writer: I never even thought about writing anything until I retired from teaching. I didn't have much to do, so I decided to write a book. I did and it was putrid. Then I wrote another one and that one was a little less horrible. The third one, Letters in the Attic, was pretty okay. It was published when I was sixty and I haven't stopped writing since. I hope they have computers in ‘the home’ because I intend to keep writing until I croak."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of Kat's Promise, p. 146.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Letters in the Attic, p. 1170; July 15, 2006, review of Kat's Promise, p. 730.
Publishers Weekly, September 30, 2002, review of Letters in the Attic, p. 52.
School Library Journal, November, 2006, Tracy Karbel, review of Kat's Promise, p. 152.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2003, review of Letters in the Attic, p. 59.
Bonnie Shimko Home Page,http://www.bonnieshimko.com (July 2, 2008).