May 15, 1936- March 27, 2003
It was all very preposterous, exciting, and corrupt--and fun and damning and useful.
The above quote was Paul Zindel's take on life after the Pulitzer, which he won for Best American Play/Drama in 1971. The play was "The effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds", first produced in Houston, Texas in 1965, and eventually on Broadway in 1971. The play revolved around a tormented family, much as his own might have been.
Born and raised in New York City, and abandoned by his father, Zindel's family was constantly on the move. His mother raised Paul and his sister by herself on an incredible assortment and quantity of jobs besides being a registered nurse who at times attended to a series of dying patients in her home. Like the main character in "Marigolds", Paul leads a seemingly idyllic life, if only in his own fantasies; "I felt worthless as a child and dared to speak and act my true feelings only in fantasy and secret." While a junior in high school, Zindel developed tuberculosis and spent over a year in a sanatorium. Again , his imagination working overtime, he was the "only young person in a world of adults."
Somewhere along the line, he developed an interest in chemistry, either from the sanitorium or his mother's nursing practice, and eventually earned a B.S. and an M.S. in chemistry at Wagner College. And them comes that strange and somehow inspired event, never suspected, that changes one's life. While at Wagner, he took a creative writing course and one of his instructors turns out to be the playwright Edward Albee. So for the next ten years, while teaching high school chemistry, he somehow found time to write "Marigolds." And when an editor, Charlotte Zolotow, saw "Marigolds" on television, one of the many adaptations, she urged Zindel to do more writing, especially for children. And so he did.
Zindel has written for both teens and younger and his books have won many of the American Library's Association Awards for the Best Books for Young adults Category. Many of his scenarios were culled from his experiences as a school teacher and while praised for their "candor, sensitivity and humor", they've also been characterized as "cruelly truthful about the human condition. Zindel confesses, however, to being his own main character reference,"Confessions of a Teenage Baboon is a story so close to me that I almost had a nervous breakdown writing it. I pushed myself too close to the inner demons which drive me."
Before Paul Zindel left us, he confessed to "liking all fattening foods, especially Hunan cuisine and ice cream, and....teenagers who desperately need someone to confide in.
A list of popular chidren's books by the author: