Chris Crutcher Biography

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Chris Crutcher Biography

Readers often disagree about Chris Crutcher's work. Although his youth-oriented novels have received numerous plaudits from the literary community, several of his titles have also been removed from libraries and banned from schools’ curricula. For some critics, Crutcher offers an unflinchingly honest portrayal of the many complexities and struggles of being a young person. Others find his content questionable and his blunt discussions of abuse, addiction, and sexuality to be troubling for young audiences. Despite the controversy, Crutcher has established a reputation for being an insightful writer about the pains, heartaches, and successes faced by young adults in America today.

Facts and Trivia

  • Along with literature, Crutcher studied psychology and sociology. Many critics have credited these studies with influencing his unique perspective as a writer.
  • Another part of Crutcher’s insight into the minds of young people can be attributed to his teaching at an alternative school for nearly ten years.
  • In addition to writing books and short stories, Crutcher has also worked as a columnist.
  • Crutcher is a life-long sports enthusiast, and many of his passions, particularly swimming, figure prominently in his novels.
  • One of Crutcher’s short stories was adapted into the 1995 feature film Angus, which starred James Van Der Beek, George C. Scott, and Kathy Bates.

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(Novels for Students)

Chris Crutcher, born in the small and isolated logging town of Cascade, Idaho, on July 17, 1946, graduated from the Eastern Washington State University in 1968 and, despite what he calls his unremarkable performance as a student, later excelled as a teacher for at-risk teens at the Kennewick Dropout School in Washington State. After spending the next ten years working with troubled youth, specifically as a mental-health therapist, Crutcher became reacquainted with old college friend and writer Terry Davis. After working with Davis on his novel Vision Quest, Crutcher embarked on a writing career of his own, publishing his first book, Running Loose, in 1983. The novel was named an ALA Best Book and led to a string of successful young adult novels, which earned Crutcher a reputation for telling stories that honestly portray the life struggles of adolescents and tackle tough issues.

Despite his lack of formal training in the art of writing, Crutcher would go on to pen six novels for young adults, as well as one adult novel, over the course of his career. While his writing eventually took precedence over his work as a therapist, Crutcher still works with the Child Protection Team in Spokane, which is an organization of mentalhealth professionals who handle the most difficult cases. Continuing his work with disadvantaged youth gives Crutcher material for his novels, and he draws upon real-life experiences for inspiration. In fact, his mother was an alcoholic for the duration of Crutcher’s adolescence, which he says gave him a real connection with troubled kids.

An avid sports enthusiast, Crutcher runs marathons, swims, and participates in triathlons, subjects that also find their way into his work. Because he undertakes difficult subject matter, Crutcher has, in the past, found himself the victim of censorship in some conservative school districts. Crutcher interprets the censorship as a desperate and shortsighted attempt to protect children from the truth, telling Betty Carter in School Library Journal Online, “When my books are banned, they’re banned because people are afraid for kids to know about something I wrote about. Now, how dumb is that?”

Crutcher, who never married, still lives in Spokane, and has written screenplays for two of his novels, Running Loose and The Crazy Horse Electric Game, while Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes has been optioned by Columbia Pictures. His short story “A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune” from Athletic Shorts was made into a major motion picture by Disney Pictures. In 2000, Crutcher received the Margaret A. Edwards Award...

(The entire section is 3,748 words.)