Upon first glance, Gary Paulsen bears strong resemblance to his oft-compared-to literary antecedent Ernest Hemingway. Ubiquitous with a grayed beard, worn denims, and a fishing cap, Paulsen appears to be a surviving vestige of one of his own stories. Born May 17, 1939, in Minneapolis to Oscar, a military officer, and Eunice, a factory worker in a munitions plant, Paulsen led a nomadic life in his early years as a self-proclaimed army brat.
The constant uprooting caused by his father’s military career placed stress on the Paulsen household. In fact, Paulsen claims not to have even met his father until he was seven when the family was stationed in the Philippines. Even then, Paulsen recalls spending most of his time wandering the streets of Manila alone looking for adventure because of his parents’ strained relationship. This tension in his family played havoc with the young Paulsen. He remembers his mother as a promiscuous, if not adulterous, wife who constantly abandoned her commitment to both her husband, who himself was struggling with alcoholism, and her son. Paulsen found security, though, in his early teens when he left his parents to live stateside with more stable relatives—his grandmother and various aunts.
It was during this transition period that Paulsen, somewhat serendipitously, fell into his future career as a writer. Though never a dedicated academic—he barely graduated high school and only completed parcels of time at...
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