Paul Zindel, writer of young adult and children's books, was born in Tottenville in 1936 and died in 2003 in Manhattan. Before becoming a full-time writer, he taught at Tottenville High School between 1959 and 1969. (When Tottenville High School was in Tottenville. The newer version is actually in Huguenot.)
Before that, he attended Wagner College on Staten Island where he took a creative writing course with the playwright Edward Albee! In his biography on the official Paul Zindel website (listed below) Zindel writes, "I went to Wagner College on Staten Island and majored in chemistry. But I found a mentor, playwright Edward Albee, who taught my creative writing course. He was one of my primary inspirations in writing plays. I felt very grateful because he took the time to help me. During my last year in college, I wrote my second original play."
Arguably his best work was the play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1971. It was made into a film in 1972, directed by Paul Newman, starring Joanne Woodward.
Zindel wrote many wonderful young adult novels using various locations on Staten Island, including The Pigman, and My Darling, My Hamburger. I graduated from high school in 1969, and joined the Navy later that year. My brother was then just starting high school, and he was the one who told me about Paul Zindel's novels. I think Mr. Zindel may have visited one of my brother's English classes at Port Richmond High School. Reading Zindel's books with their Staten Island scenes and Staten Island characters while steaming on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean made that 20 something year old Staten Island boy feel a little less homesick.
Some of Zindel's later novels took a different turn, including Rats, which probably would never win an award from Staten Island improvement groups, but it was fun nonetheless. (The plot: When mutant rats threaten to take over Staten Island, which has become a huge landfill, fourteen-year-old Sarah and her younger brother Mike try to figure out how to stop them.)
He also wrote a wonderful memoir, The Pigman and Me. Mr. Zindel regularly did readings at Staten Island libraries, but unfortunately I never got a chance to attend any of them.
Sadly, in my experience, his novels no longer really speak to current young adults. I guess that happens. However, I hope his books continue to stay in print as I always found them well-written and entertaining.
Here is more information on him from Biography Resource Center, available through NYPL databases: www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (Available through www.nypl.org)
And here is the official Paul Zindel website: www.paulzindel.com
Read one of his books; you'll like it!
Image from NYPL Digital Gallery-Paul Zindel on the right; the woman on the left or the particular situation is not identified.