Women's History
Karen Cushman

Karen Cushman
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.06

     challenging words:    bonesetter, clerk-administrator, determined, eighth-grade, multicultural, pageantry, rabbinical, onward, completion, coordinating, horrific, embroidery, luxury, bullying, kennedy, authority
     content words:    Karen Cushman, Jingle Bagels, Santa Claus, Stanford University, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, Philip Cushman, Human Behavior, United States International University, Museum Studies

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Karen Cushman
By Jamie Kee

1     Karen Cushman, American historical fiction writer, began her career later in life. She always had a real interest in history, even in her childhood, but she didn't consider becoming a writer at the time. Cushman vigorously researches her topics before beginning her books so that her stories are historically accurate as well as entertaining.
2     Cushman was born on October 4, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents, Arthur and Loretta, moved the family to California when she was eleven. From a very young age, the library was an important place for young Karen. She would try to read every book as she went down the shelves alphabetically. Books were an important part of her life. Cushman enjoyed reading fiction, but she also ventured into a variety of nonfiction topics. She liked books about history and liked learning about the lives of ordinary people. When she got interested in a subject, she would study it relentlessly.
3     Cushman attended private schools, but she quickly discovered that her imagination was far greater than what the schools had to offer. To keep her imagination alive, Cushman became interested in plays. In her neighborhood, she would hold plays in which she would be the director and a performer. Jingle Bagels, a multicultural Christmas story, was one of Cushman's first attempts at writing a play. The play told the story of Santa Claus and a mistake he made when he went down the wrong chimney and ended up in a Jewish home during Hanukkah. Cushman never considered becoming a professional writer, however. As a child, she didn't even know writing could be a job. She thought about becoming such things as a librarian or a movie star.
4     Once Cushman graduated from high school, she attended Stanford University on a scholarship. After earning a degree in English and Greek in 1963, Cushman had hopes of traveling to Greece to dig for ancient ruins. She ended up, however, getting a job at a telephone company. Eventually she quit that job and went on to other jobs that she held for a while and then quit them as well. While working as an assistant clerk-administrator at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, she met a rabbinical student, Philip Cushman. They fell in love and later married in 1969. The couple moved to Oregon where Philip worked at a small college. A daughter soon followed, and the Cushmans moved back to California two years later. Both husband and wife decided to return to school in order to earn their master's degrees. Cushman received her master's degree in Human Behavior from the United States International University in 1977 and then later went on to earn a second master's degree in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University in 1986. Upon completion of her degree, Cushman taught museum classes and material culture at John F. Kennedy University as well as coordinating the master's project program. She also edited the Museum Studies Journal.

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