VanOosting, James 1951–

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VanOosting, James 1951–


Born 1951; son of Jean Reed; stepson of Robert Reed; married twice (divorced); married Dawn LaJuana Williams (a university dean), September 15, 2001. Education: Taylor University, graduated; Northwestern University, Ph.D. (performance studies).


Office—Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus, Bronx, NY 10458. E-mail[email protected]


Educator and author. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, professor of English for 16 years, and department chair for 8 years; Seton Hall University, NJ, dean of arts and sciences, beginning c. 1998;. Visiting professor and St. Edmund Campion fellow, Fordham University, beginning 2005; visiting professor at University of California, San Diego, and Louisiana State University.



Maxie's Ghost, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1987.

Electing J.J., Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1990.

The Last Payback, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

Walking Mary, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.


Business Correspondence: Writer, Reader, and Text, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1983.

The Business Report: Writer, Reader, and Text, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1983.

The Business Speech: Writer, Reader, and Text, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1985.

Practicing Business: Communication in the Workplace, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1992.

(With Paul H. Gray) Performance in Life and Literature, Allyn & Bacon (Boston, MA), 1996.

And the Flesh Became Word: Reflections Theological and Aesthetic, Crossroad (New York, NY), 2005.


In addition to working as a college English professor, James VanOosting has written several novels for young-adult readers, among them The Last Payback, Electing J.J., and Walking Mary. Narrated by twelve-year-old Dorothea "Dimple" Dorfman, The Last Paycheck focuses on a grief-stricken girl's desire for revenge immediately following the accidental death of her twin brother. Praising VanOosting for creating realistic characters, Horn Book reviewer Elizabeth S. Watson added that the novel's "intriguing plot and fast-paced dialogue" keep readers turning pages. In Booklist GraceAnne A. DeCandido also praised the work, calling The Last Payback "startling in its unsentimental, first-person approach." In praise of Electing J.J., a humorous story about a middle-school newcomer who decides to run for town mayor of Framburg, Illinois and shake up stodgy town politics, a Publishers Weekly contributor deemed the novel "cleverly written and highly entertaining."

VanOosting tells what School Library Journal contributor Nancy P. Reader called a "dark, disturbing tale of mental instability and sexual abuse" in his young-adult

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novel Walking Mary. Walking Mary draws readers back once again to Framburg, Illinois. This time they arrive during the 1940s and 1950s, as Pearl and Franklin Keenan are attempting to survive a harsh childhood under the sway of an abusive home and an authoritarian father. Almost drowning at age six, Pearl is pulled to safety by an elderly black woman known as Walking Mary; a poignant town fixture, the woman haunts the train station, awaiting the arrival of a beloved son who was actually killed during World War II. As a way of avoiding her own problems, Pearl becomes increasingly fascinated with Mary and takes up the habit of shadowing the woman, dressing in similar mourning black, and spending time at the train station. Although the two never speak, their lives ultimately reconnect during another tragic set of circumstances. In Booklist Frances Bradburn called VanOoosting's story "quietly disturbing with undercurrents of foreboding" that will captivate readers, while a Kirkus Reviews critic praised the novel as "wonderfully expressive" work that "captures the magic and intensity of childhood" while also dealing with more serious themes.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, June 1, 1997, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Last Payback, p. 1706; August, 2005, Frances Bradburn, review of Walking Mary, p. 2017.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1988, review of Maxie's Ghost, p. 104; June, 1997, review of The Last Payback, p. 377.

Horn Book, July-August, 1997, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of The Last Payback, p. 465.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2005, review of Walking Mary, p. 484.

Kliatt, May, 2005, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Walking Mary, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, October 30, 1987, review of Maxie's Ghost, p. 72; June 29, 1990, review of Electing J.J., p. 102.

School Library Journal, January, 1988, Martha Rosen, review of Maxie's Ghost, p. 78; August, 1990, Joel Shoemaker, review of Electing J.J., p. 150; July, 1997, Jana R. Fine, review of The Last Payback, p. 98; July, 2005, Nancy P. Reeder, review of Walking Mary, p. 110.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2005, Susan Allen, review of Walking Mary, p. 227.