Ron Koertge Biography

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ron Koertge was born on April 22, 1940 in Olmay, Illinois. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in 1962 and his master's degree from the University of Arizona in 1965. That same year, he began teaching English at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California, a position he still holds. Koertge says he "could always write a little . . . So I tried my hand at it, beginning with poetry and then trying adult novels before turning to Young Adult novels." His list of published work is impressive, including several volumes of poetry as well as a textbook, but he has gained the most notice for his young adult books, all of which have received excellent reviews from such journals as Kirkus and the Horn Book, and four of which have been named "ALA Best Books for Young Adults."

Koertge writes about growing up with an humorous honesty not often found in young adult novels, and he combines this engaging style with discussions of more serious issues such as homosexuality and AIDS, facing a parent's sexuality, and the complexities that face friendships as people grow from child to adult. As he "has been fifteen just about my whole life," finding the right narrative voice for his characters did not present many problems, and in a talk at Simmons College in 1991, about The Arizona Kid and writing in general, Koertge spoke of how he created his characters' reactions. As an example of how a good writer can put himself or herself into virtually any situation, Koertge related how when The Arizona Kid was first published, he received letters from the gay community congratulating him on his portrayal of Wes, Billy's gay uncle, at least until he informed some of the correspondents that he is not gay and has been married for many years. After that, he said, some letter writers became somewhat hostile, insisting that as a heterosexual man, Koertge had no right to describe the gay community in his book. Koertge's response was that he used his imagination, as any good author would do in order to create believable characters and situations.