Shyer, Marlene Fanta
Shyer, Marlene Fanta
PERSONAL: Born in Czechoslovakia; daughter of Eric G. and Gertrude Fanta; married Robert M. Shyer (an optical manufacturing executive), June 3, 1954 (divorced); children: Kirby, Christopher, Alison. Education: University of Bridgeport, B.S. Religion: Unitarian.
CAREER: Elementary school teacher in Portchester, NY, public schools, 1955–57.
MEMBER: PEN, Writers Guild, Authors League of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Children's Book of the Year Award, Child Study Association of America, 1969, for Tino.
Tino, Random House (New York, NY), 1969.
Blood in the Snow, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1975.
Welcome Home Jellybean, Scribner (New York, NY), 1978.
My Brother, the Thief, Scribner (New York, NY), 1980.
Adorable Sunday, Scribner (New York, NY), 1983.
Stepdog, Scribner (New York, NY), 1983.
Grandpa Ritz and the Luscious Lovelies, Scribner (New York, NY), 1985.
Here I Am, an Only Child, Scribner (New York, NY), 1985.
Me & Joey Pinstripe, the King of Rock, Scribner (New York, NY), 1988.
Ruby, the Red-Hot Witch at Bloomingdale's, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
The Rainbow Kite, Marshall Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2002.
Fleabiscuit Sings!, Marshall Cavendish Tarrytown, NY), 2005.
Local Talent (novel), Bobbs-Merrill, 1974.
Never Trust a Handsome Man (novel), Coward, 1979.
First Wife (play), produced in Westchester Country, NY, 1996.
(With, son, Christopher Shyer) Not like Other Boys: Growing Up Gay: A Mother and Son Look Back (memoir), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.
Second Chance (novel), Kensington (New York, NY), 2001.
Two Daughters (novel), Kensington (New York, NY), 2002.
Also author of the novel Weekend and several television scripts. Contributor of stories and articles to periodicals, including Writer, Redbook, McCall's, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies Home Journal.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Coming Attractions, a play.
SIDELIGHTS: Marlene Fanta Shyer explained in an article for Writer: "I'm not one of the people who can sit down and write out an outline of the story I will then flesh out, the writer who incredibly seems to know at the beginning how the story will end at the end. Although I do think it's important to know ahead the climax of the plot (like aiming at the bull's-eye), I seem to have only vague inklings about the rest of the story, which constantly gets overhauled as I go along. I'm a sloppy soul, untidy to the marrow. I have the closets, drawers and first drafts to prove it."
Known for her short stories in popular magazines as well as for novels aimed at both adults and young readers, Shyer covers a wide variety of themes and styles in her work. The children's book Welcome Home Jellybean, for instance, examines the trials and triumphs of a brain-damaged girl and her apartment-dwelling family, while the adult novel Local Talent traces the comic action as several housewives try to establish a brothel in their suburban neighborhood. Blood in the Snow, set in the harsh and often cruel world of rural Vermont, focuses on fear, violence, compassion, and individual bravery as it tells the story of its young hero, Max Murphy, and a silver fox cub.
Whatever her subject, maintains the author, the plot must be probable, not merely possible. "Truth is stranger than fiction, but fiction should be less strange than truth." Concluded Shyer in another Writer article, "Actually, the best story ideas are at the A&P and in the chiropodist's waiting room if I'm listening, which I am, all the time."
Shyer has published two books that are very personal. The first, written with her son, Christopher, is Not like Other Boys: Growing Up Gay: A Mother and Son Look Back, a memoir that contains the voice of each as it follows Chris's life from his childhood, when his parents first suspected that he might be gay. He came out to them at the age of twenty-six, and his father's inability to completely accept Chris led to his parents's divorce. Chris, who is now a successful businessman, writes that "it is homophobia that should be in the closet."
Shyer was inspired to write her fictional account of a gay boy in The Rainbow Kite. Matthew is the younger brother of Bennett, a junior high school student who comes out to his family and whose sexuality becomes known to everyone in the community. Bennett is ridiculed and taunted, and his best friend's parents forbid Jeremy from associating with him. A black friend who understands bigotry is sympathetic, and a lesbian couple "lend support that is a masterpiece of subtlety," noted Nancy Garden in Lambda Book Report. The symbolic flag of the title is made by Bennett and Jeremy, who plan to fly it at their graduation. When it sets off a hate crime, Bennett attempts suicide by jumping from a bridge, but is rescued. Debbie Carton wrote in Booklist that "this is a character-driven story, with a cast that includes refreshingly complex adults." Garden described the ending as "feel-good."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Shyer, Marlene Fanta, and Christopher Shyer, Not like Other Boys: Growing Up Gay: A Mother and Son Look Back, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.
Booklist, January 1, 1996, Charles Harmon, review of Not like Other Boys, p. 764.
Lambda Book Report, April, 2003, Nancy Garden, review of The Rainbow Kite, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, May 14, 2001, review of Second Chances, p. 59; December 11, 1995, review of Not like Other Boys, p. 65; December 15, 2002, review of The Rainbow Kite, p. 754.
School Library Journal, November, 2002, Betty S. Evans, review of The Rainbow Kite, p. 176; May, 2005, Debbie Stewart Hoskins, review of Fleabis-cuit Sings!, p. 138.
Writer, May, 1970, Marlene Fanta Shyer; April, 1972, Marlene Fanta Shyer.
Marlene Fanta Shyer Home Page, http://www.marleneshyer.com (February 12, 2006).