Roger Dean Kiser: Biography, Books & Short Stories

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Roger Dean Kiser writes from a place of hurt, helping others to understand the pain of abandonment and child abuse. In this lesson, you'll learn more about Kiser's life and his writing.

From Personal Experience

Have you ever been able to guide someone or offer advice from personal experience in your own life? Maybe it was something as simple as recommending a restaurant in a town you've traveled to numerous times. Or maybe it was something more complicated, like how to navigate life after a death, a divorce or some other type of trauma.

That type of writing is synonymous with American author Roger Dean Kiser. Kiser's background is the reason he writes books like The White House Boys and Orphan: A True Story of Abandonment, Abuse and Redemption as well as short stories such as Blank Space and The Funeral.

Let's get into the life and writing of the man who has been quoted as saying he wants, ''Child abuse lasts a lifetime'' engraved on his tombstone.

Meet Roger Dean Kiser

Roger Dean Kiser doesn't have the typical story we associate with other authors. He was born in Hayward, California. By the time he reached four years of age, he had been abandoned not only by his parents, but his grandparents as well. His life, from the age of three to 14, would play out in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage.

Kiser was subjected to cruel and abusive conditions when he was at the orphanage in the 1950s and was eventually sent to a reform school. That education did not last long, as Kiser himself has said his education ended two weeks into his seventh grade year. He would later work as a nurse and an EMT. Kiser also served as a medic in the U.S. Army.

Writing Career

He started writing in 1998, determined to write only truthful and realistic non-fiction books based on his experiences as an orphan. It was quite a feat for a man who, as a child, was not permitted to either read nor write in the orphanage.

In an interview, Kiser said he chose to write for one simple reason: ''I write because I want the entire world to know what it feels like to live everyday of your life hurting inside, because of what people have done to one another in the past.'' For Kiser, writing was a way to release the pain inside and help others understand his past.

This pain is saddening and gruesome. In several of his written pieces, he details the physical, emotional and sexual abuse endured by many of the boys at the orphanage, and chronicles the deaths of boys who would frequently disappear in the night, never to be seen again. Through historical records and research from the University of South Florida, experts were able to place the number of deaths at the orphanage at nearly 100; more than 50 sets of remains have since been uncovered on the once-pristine grounds of the orphanage.

Today, Kiser lives in Brunswick, Georgia with his wife and continues writing. His stories are a mix of childhood reminiscences and tales from his current life. At one time, he incorporated many of his pieces in a website he called, ''The American Orphan Web Site,'' which boasted millions of readers until its dismantling.

Kiser's Short Stories

Kiser described his favorite and most difficult short stories as No Shoes and The Bully, respectively. Many of his short stories, which number close to 1,000, have been published in the book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul.

1. The Bully: Made into a short film by Hollywood actor and director Edward Asner, this story details how a victim of bullying runs into his oppressor years later, only to discover him confined to a wheelchair. The pair have a conversation about the past and the bully is repentant, asking for his victim's forgiveness.

2. Remembering The Feeling: Kiser recounts the story of a young man who lost his legs in a farming accident. He would enter a shoe store to remember the feeling he used to have when his parents would buy him a new pair of shoes. By the end of the story, the young man purchases a pair of hiking boots for a homeless man.

3. The Funeral: Returning to Florida to attend the funeral of ''the only woman on the face of this earth who had ever shown me any kindness as a child,'' Kiser explains the day's events and how he felt out of place - like an orphan - amid the deceased woman's family and friends.

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