Wenner, Kate 1947-
WENNER, Kate 1947-
PERSONAL: Born November 17, 1947, in San Francisco, CA; daughter of Edward (in business) and Sim (a writer) Wenner; married a painter/illustrator; children: two. Education: Radcliffe College, B.A. (cum laude), 1970; attended University of Grenoble, summer, 1964, and Center for Intercultural Documentation, Cuernavaca, Mexico, 1971.
CAREER: Ruvuma Development Association, Songea, Tanzania, community development worker in Litowa, 1966–67; Center for War/Peace Studies, Cambridge, MA, researcher, 1968–69; Training for Community Action Projects, Cambridge, project director, 1970; Family Day Care Program, Cambridge, assistant educational director, 1971; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, creative writing teacher for "Project Self," 1973–74, editor for crime and delinquency program, 1973–75; creative writing teacher at Berkshire County Jail and House of Corrections, 1974; Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, MA, staff features writer, 1977; Bronx Teachers and Writers Collaborative, New York, NY, elementary school creative writing teacher, beginning 1978; Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, creative writing teacher in adult learning program, beginning 1978. Producer for 20/20 television news series for fourteen years. Editorial and research consultant to Model Education Program Evaluation, Catholic University, 1977.
AWARDS, HONORS: Michael Rockefeller Memorial fellowship, 1971–72; Business and Professional Women's Foundation scholarship, 1975; CAPS Grant for Fiction.
Shambu Letu (nonfiction), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1970.
Setting Fires (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 2000.
Dancing with Einstein (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times and Village Voice. Shambu Letu was published in a German edition and was a condensed book selection in the international edition of Reader's Digest.
SIDELIGHTS: Kate Wenner was a journalist for many years before turning to fiction writing. She has traveled widely, including an overland trip from Mexico City to Urshaia, Argentina, the southernmost town in the world. Wenner also spent a year living in a small village in the Andes Mountains of Peru, and a year working in a communal village in Tanzania, Africa. She described her Tanzanian experience in her book Shamba Letu.
Wenner's first novel, Setting Fires, concerns a documentary filmmaker named Annie Waldman. When Annie's Connecticut home is burned down, she discovers that an arsonist has been targeting Jewish property owners in the area. While trying to discover the identity of the arsonist, Annie must also deal with her father's struggle with cancer. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called Setting Fires a "well-told family saga." Ann Fisher, a reviewer for the Library Journal, found the character of Annie to be self-absorbed and self-pitying, but concluded that "her story is involving and her crises significant." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "Understated yet intense and touching, this is a sophisticated account of one woman's perseverance."
Wenner created a "fragile, haunted" protagonist in her more recent novel, Dancing with Einstein, according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The story concerns Marea Hoffman, a woman about thirty years old who has been haunted by dreams of nuclear destruction since her childhood in the 1950s. Marea has drifted around the world for several years when she finally settles in New York, where she pays many visits to her therapist and works nights in an organic bakery. She struggles to make sense not only of her own life but of her father's. A nuclear scientist and Austrian refugee, he helped build the atomic bomb and later took his own life. Library Journal reviewer Reba Leiding found the book's scenes of Marea's childhood among famous scientists to be well-done, but added that the author "truly shines at depicting the sights and sounds of Greenwich Village in the 1970s." Donna Seaman, reviewing Dancing with Einstein for Booklist, declared the story to be "achingly beautiful." She concluded that Wenner "brilliantly parses the terrible ethos of the atomic bomb and celebrates the power of stories."
Wenner once told CA: "I worked as a volunteer through a student program at Harvard. My work included everything from organizing a cooperative day care center to driving pregnant women thirty miles in a Landrover to the hospital. [Shamba Letu] tells the story of the beginning of a grass roots African socialist movement which later became the basis for Tanzania's national "ujamaa" policy. Tanzania now has a widespread program of ujamaa villages in which community members work and hold property communally. The book also tells my own story as a young American confronting new ideas and a new and alien culture, and tells the story of my sometimes rocky growth into a new maturity through working and living in an isolated African Bush village."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of Dancing with Einstein, p. 1140.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2000, review of Setting Fires, p. 831; December 1, 2003, review of Dancing with Einstein, p. 1381.
Library Journal, August, 2000, Ann Fisher, review of Setting Fires, p. 163; February 1, 2004, Reba Leiding, review of Dancing with Einstein, p. 126.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 18, 2004, Diana Nelson Jones, review of Dancing with Einstein.
Publishers Weekly, August 14, 2000, review of Setting Fires, p. 327; January 26, 2004, review of Dancing with Einstein, p. 228.
San Diego Union Tribune, May 2, 2004, Carol Deptolla, review of Dancing with Einstein.
All Curled Up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/ (October 10, 2005), review of Dancing with Einstein.
BookLoons, http://www.bookloons.com/ (October 10, 2005), review of Dancing with Einstein.