~by Michaela Hayes
Scott Heim has had a varied and somewhat quiet career. He was born in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1966 and later attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence to earn a B.A. in English and Art History in 1989 and an M.A. in English Literature in 1991. After earning 3 degrees, Heim decided to go for one more at the M.F.A writing program at Columbia University.
It was while he was at Columbia that he published his first book, Mysterious Skin. Mysterious Skin set the tone for most of his fictional works since, with similar settings and themes. The book is set in Hutchinson, Kansas and centers around the divergent lifestyles of two young men who both experienced a similar trauma inflicted upon them by their little league baseball coach. The storyline follows the boys as they attempt to make sense of what happened to them, independent of one another at first and then together.
I read Mysterious Skin a few years back and I hold it close to my heart because it is such a beautifully crafted story, but also because I am also from Kansas and I recognize Heim’s settings as home. Some of the characters he describes could be characters from my own youth. Heim also touches on important topics that are not often talked about in rural Kansas — how difficult it is to grow up queer in a community that does not allow for it, and the disastrous impact that can have on one’s life.
Mysterious Skin is Heim’s most popular work, adapted both for stage and screen. He has also published two other novels, a book of poetry, and is currently the editor of a non-fiction series titled The First Time I Heard in which writers and musicians tell stories about the first time they heard certain notable bands and artists. Six books within this series have been published so far, but Heim is working on more. Heim’s third novel, We Disappear, won the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Fiction and is also set in rural Kansas.
After living for 11 years in New York, Heim now lives with his partner Michael in Boston.