ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Note:this biography an excerpt from Contemporary Authors
With more than 120 books to her credit, Kathlyn Gay has
established herself as a prolific writer of nonfiction information books for teens
and adult readers. Gay has explored topics including environmental
issues, politics, military history, sports, manufacturing, multiculturalism, and
pressing social concerns in books that are held up as examples of what
a good informational title should be. Gay's works are "insightful,
well-researched, and intellectually stimulating," according to Booklist contributor
Stephanie Zvirin. Her books have also been called "relevant [and] engrossing," by
Booklist reviewer Roger Leslie, and "factual, well-organized,
straightforward, and readable," by Diane P. Tuccillo in School Library Journal. Gay does
not steer away from "thorny contemporary issues," noted Chris Sherman in
Booklist. "Writing, for me," Gay once told CA, "has become a way of life,
and I could not imagine trying to function as an individual without exercising
this form of communication."
Born in Zion, Illinois, in 1930, Gay was brought up in a community
controlled by a church group that originated at the turn of the twentieth century.
"'Outsiders' were seldom welcome in this community," Gay once told CA,
"and it was here I learned the real dangers of 'exclusiveness' and
isolation. Even at nine and ten years old I felt there was little opportunity for
growth in a closed community. What is good and right and productive in
life takes many forms, not just one. Each of us may come from a different
place and still arrive at the same goal or end." Such an upbringing
instilled in Gay a fervent belief in a pluralistic society and a respect for
individual difference, concerns reflected in many of her nonfiction titles.
Gay tackles controversial social issues in numerous other titles....[such as]
multiculturalism and cultural diversity. I Am Who I Am: Speaking out about Multiracial Identity earned a starred Booklist review from Stephanie Zvirin, who called it "positive, supporting, and informative," and won similar praise from Brenda Moses in Voice of Youth Advocates as "an excellent source for information."
Cultural Diversity, Conflicts and Challenges: The Ultimate Teen Guide
explains how Americans came to develop cultural ideals and discusses some
of the roots of bigotry and prejudice. The book includes personal
examples of prejudice and hatred as it has been experienced by actual teenagers
for a variety of reasons, and Gay attempts to point the way toward positive
solutions to the challenges she has identified. On a more specific topic,
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations: The History,
Customs, and Symbols Associated with Both Traditional and Contemporary Religious
and Secular Events Observed by Americans of African Descent...introduces more than one hundred
African American celebrations enjoyed by people of color throughout the
United States. She presents the events alphabetically, describing the
source, history, and custom of each event, but also identifying the locations and
dates of each observance, with contact information for further details.
Political issues and government are examined in some of Gay's titles.
The separation of government and religion is analyzed in Church and
State: Government and Religion in the United States, a book that evidences "Gay's
even-handedness," according to Dem Polacheck in Voice of Youth
Lighter in tone are sports books, such as They Don't Wash Their Socks!
Sports Superstitions, which Voice of Youth Advocates critic Sari Feldman,
referring to so-called high-interest, low-vocabulary titles, felt was a
"fine hilo title" about an "entertaining" topic. Amateur boxing is the
subject of Your Fight Has Just Begun, "an enthusiastic initiation to a
subject about which little has been written specifically for teens,"
according to a reviewer for Booklist. Richard Luzer, writing in School Library
Journal, also felt that Gay and her coauthor, Ben E. Barnes, "do an excellent job
of capturing a very special American subculture." Minor league baseball
takes center stage in The Not-so-minor Leagues, written with one of her
sons, Douglas Gay. Debbie Carton, reviewing the title in Booklist,
thought it would make an "excellent addition to basic baseball collections."
Gay displays her wide range of researching and writing abilities in many
other titles dealing with military history and wars in which Americans
have fought. Writing in the "Voices from the Past" series in
collaboration with her son Martin, Gay offers brief overviews of wars, including
causes, battles, outcomes, and ample quotations from people involved in the
conflicts, tracing the history of American warfare from the Revolutionary War to the
Persian Gulf War more than 200 years later.
In other titles, Gay continues to demonstrate her versatility. Science
in Ancient Greece explores at scientific achievements in that ancient
culture, while Body Marks: Tattooing, Piercing, and Scarification covers a
panorama of history as it relates to body decoration over the centuries, from
tattoos as symbols of status or slavery, to piercing and scarification as rites
of passage, to ornamentation intended to set some people apart or bring
others together. Gay also addresses the health risks associated with such
body decorations and the potential repercussions of alterations that
cannot be reversed. Leaving Cuba: From Operation Pedro Pan to Elian traces the
experiences of children who have fled Fidel Castro's Cuba. Reviewing the
latter title, Nell Beram, writing in Horn Book Guide, made special note
of Gay's "rich narrative." Voice of Youth Advocates critic Delia A.
Culberson likewise commented on this "well-documented book [that] looks at the
various aspects of the Cuban diaspora and its impact on Cubans and their American
hosts." Mao Zedong's China describes the travails of life under Mao, from
famine to repression, and discusses the post-Mao legacy of his regime.
Gay also offers biographical information on the leader and his family,
and concludes her attempt at a balanced account by describing his
contributions to the history of a vast and ancient land.
Among the author's popular and well-respected encyclopedias and reference
guides are The Encyclopedia of Women's Health Issues; Encyclopedia of
Political Anarchy; Heroes of Conscience; American Dissidents: An Encyclopedia of Activists, Subversives, and Prisoners of Conscience
"Through the written word," Gay once told CA, "I feel I have been able
to share with young people and adults some of the observations and
impressions I have had on what it means to be a person, a productive human being. So
many different conditions and factors shape each one of us as individuals
that I am often amazed we are able to understand one another at all.
Happily, though, there are many experiences in life that are common to all of us,
and a writer can draw on these in stories and articles to help readers
see, hear, feel with real or imaginary people."
One project under way for 2016 publication: Activism: the Ultimate Teen Guide