Gary James Paulsen (born May 17, 1939) is an American writer of young adult literature, best known for coming of age stories about the wilderness. He is the author of more than 200 books, more than 200 magazine articles and short stories, and several plays, all primarily for teenagers. He won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 1997 for his lifetime contribution in writing for teens.
Gary Paulsen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where his extended family resided, to Oscar and Eunice H. (née Moen), Paulsen has two siblings: a full sister, Paulette, and a half brother Bill who was born to his father from a previous marriage. His father was a career Army officer, on Patton's staff, who spent most of World War II overseas. Gary did not meet his father until he was 9 years old. He spent time throughout his childhood with his grandmother, aunts and various other relatives. When he was seven he and his mother joined his father in the Philippines where he lived for two years. He then returned to Minnesota. At the age of 14, Gary ran away and joined a carnival.
Paulsen has written some fragmented autobiographical works, such as Eastern Sun, Winter Moon: An Autobiographical Odyssey. The book, which is written in first person, begins when Paulsen was seven, living in Chicago with his mother. Paulsen described several traumatic occurrences that transpired during the three years that are chronicled by the book. For example, one day while his mother was napping, Gary sneaked outside to play. There a vagrant snatched him and apparently attempted to molest him, but his mother suddenly appeared on the scene and beat the man to death. Paulsen reported his mother's many adulterous affairs in Eastern Sun, suggesting that the man he called "father" was not really his biologic father. He also discussed his mother's alcoholism. He told how she would bring him to a bar and had him sing for his supper, even though she had an income from her work in an ammunitions factory, and he felt there was no need for this. When World War II ended, Gary's father sent for him and his mother to come join him in the Philippines, where he was stationed. A great part of the book is dedicated to the voyage by naval vessel to the Philippines. During the trip, Gary witnessed a plane crash. He, his mother, and the people who were also being transported on this ship, looked on as many of the airplane’s passengers were killed or maimed by the sharks who would follow the ship consuming waste. His mother, the only woman aboard, helped the corpsman care for the surviving victims. After arriving in Hawaii, according to Paulsen, his mother began an affair with the ship's corpsman...
Quotes by Gary Paulsen
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