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Paul Zindel: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
Growing up in a dysfunctional home similar to many that he would later write about, Paul Zindel was one of the most prolific, as well as controversial, writers of young adult literature of the past century.

Who Was Paul Zindel?

Paul Zindel was a prolific author and teacher. While best known for his work The Pigman, which remains not only his most famous but also his most controversial work, Zindel made several other contributions to young adult literature. In this lesson we will look at this life, both before his writing career and afterwards, as well as a number of Zindel's most significant works.

Early Life

Zindel was born into a middle class family in New York City in 1936. Soon after his birth, however, Zindel's father left his family, leaving Zindel's mother to fend for him and his older sister. Paul's mother moved around a great deal, working a number of jobs to keep the family afloat. She was involved in several get-rich-quick schemes that often increased the family's instability. Nonetheless, Zindel found his way as a writer early, with an interest in writing from as early as high school. That said, his first professional passion was science. He studied chemistry and earned a master's degree in the field. However, the most enduring lessons that Zindel learned while in college came from playwright Edward Albee, his creative writing instructor. Still, Zindel was drawn to young adults, so he worked as a chemistry teacher after leaving college.

Life as a Writer

After a decade as a teacher, Zindel again returned to writing. His first play, the oddly named The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, was thought by many to be too difficult to fully comprehend. However, he did win a Pulitzer Prize for the work in 1971, and it was on and off Broadway for some time. Ultimately, Zindel would turn his attention towards writing books for young adults.

It was also about this time, in 1973, that Zindel married Bonnie Hilldebrand. The marriage would end in divorce more than twenty years later, but not before the union produced two children, both of whom entered the creative arts. His daughter is a novelist while his son is a screenwriter.

Not afraid to shy away from controversy, Zindel was proud of the criticism he received for The Pigman. While it was not the only one of his books to deal with themes that many parents may find objectionable, it is certainly among the most famous.

Zindel died in 2003 after a long struggle with cancer.

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