Ken Krimstein’s first book, The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth, was a genre-breaking graphic biography of the famous 20th century philosopher who fled Nazi Germany and is remembered for her influential writings on the nature of power and evil as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. The book won the Bernard J. Bromel Award for Biography and Memoir and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.
Krimstein’s newest book, When I Grow Up – The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers, a stunning graphic narrative of newly discovered stories from Jewish teens on the cusp of World War II, was named a Best Book of 2021 by both NPR and The Washington Post and a Fall “Best Read” by the Chicago Tribune.
Krimstein teaches at DePaul University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Your cocktail-party description of When I Grow Up:
When hundreds of lost anonymous autobiographies by Yiddish-speaking teens on the verge of WWII were discovered hidden in an abandoned Vilnius church in 2017, I knew I’d discovered my next graphic biography. So I went to Lithuania, had a bunch of them translated, and wrote and drew them up as a historical testament to the spirit–and loss–of these kids.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author/illustrator?
Mrs. Gilot’s first grade class at Alan Shepherd school in Deerfield when I was the first kid who figured out how to draw Santa.
What was your first published work?
My first gag cartoon in a national magazine was in Good Housekeeping magazine–a rejection from The New Yorker, sometime around 1988 or so.
Author/illustrator you most admire, dead or alive:
I’ll go with Charles Addams.
Book you love the most:
Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger
Book you hate the most:
Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger — they are so damn good I wish I wrote them!!!
Book you think should be in every child’s library:
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Book you are reading now and want to recommend to others:
The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler
What you like most/least about living in Evanston:
Like most: The Lake, ample parking, easy tennis (I used to live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.)
Like least: Restaurants close way too early and open way too late.
Where have you lived besides Evanston/Chicago?
Hong Kong, New York
Where do you fantasize about retiring?
Three favorite local shops/restaurants (B&B is just assumed, so you can leave us out 😉)
What question should we have asked you but didn’t?
What podcast do you love? The Virtual Memories Show