Jan Maher

Fiction and plays about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people

There is one story whose details my mother and I agree on, so it must come as close to truth as anything can. I wrote before I could read. As a toddler, I'd fill page after page with loops, swirls, and scrawls designed to look like Mama's artful cursive. Then I'd present her with the pile and explain that though I'd written a story, I needed her to read it to me. When I differed with her on details, she suggested I would just have to learn to read, too...


Just the facts: Jan Maher's writing credits include two novels, Heaven, Indiana and Earth As It Is; one-act plays Ismene and Intruders; Most Dangerous Women; and books for educators Most Dangerous Women: Bringing History to Life through Readers' Theater; and History in the Present Tense: Engaging Students through Inquiry and Action (co-authored with Douglas Selwyn).

She holds a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies: Theater, Education, and Neuroscience. She most recently taught interdisciplinary seminars, education-related courses, and documentary studies at Burlington College at the undergraduate and graduate levels and is currently a senior scholar at the Institute for Ethics in Public Life, State University of New York at Plattburgh.

She lives with her husband Doug Selwyn in Greenfield, MA.

Selected Works

Charlie/Charlene Bader is a heterosexual cross-dresser who struggles through the humiliating break-up of a marriage, migrates to Chicago during the Depression where s/he discovers a supportive community of cross-dressers, serves as a dentist in World War II, and ultimately ends up in a small town in Indiana, living as a woman and working as a hairdresser. Her life becomes complicated when she realizes she has fallen in love with a customer who does not know of her male identity. "Transportive" - Publishers Weekly "Deserves a place on library shelves." - Booklist
One hot week in August 1954, in Heaven, Indiana, a baby is delivered twice: once in a barn by her grandfather, the second time to the tent door of a carnival fortune-teller by her grandmother Helen... "Once I started reading Heaven I couldn't stop reading and thinking about it…Maher's work is…richly evocative, both rooted and visionary." - Susan Koppelman "This little bit of Heaven…leaves us wanting more." - Wendy Fawthrop, Seattle Union Record
"The woman he is looking for now is the one who can call him Bob, or even Baby, without offending him. Where is she? He opens the refrigerator. Not in there. He closes the refrigerator. It’s the refrigerator they bought the day that plane blew up over Scotland. That was on the news when we brought it in and…there’s something else he is trying to remember." - See more at: http://www.persimmontree.org/v2/fall-2010/turn-turn-turn/#sthash.F1ECMbi5.dpuf
"An extraordinary assemblage of women speak about war and peace. They speak in clear and compelling language, often with song and poetry, and what they tell their audience both educates and inspires. If Most Dangerous Women were performed in schools across the country, we might well see a new generation of young people dedicated to ending the scourge of war." - Howard Zinn, Author of A People's History of the United States
MYRNA: I'll admit the knife seems real. But many dreams have a quality of intense reality about them. INTRUDER: So how do you know whether you're alone dreaming I'm holding a knife to your throat or whether I'm holding a knife to your throat while you dream of the possibility of being alone? MYRNA: The old butterfly/man dilemma. INTRUDER: The very one. MYRNA: What if we are both alone dreaming each other?

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