Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Katherine Shonk  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult; Young Adult;

Born: 1968 in Chicago, Illinois

-- Website --
-- Katherine Shonk on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Katherine was born in Chicago and raised in Evanston. She currently lives in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Shonk attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There, she studied psychology and began writing short stories. After graduating, she worked as a secretary and an editor in the Chicago area for several years. In late 1995, she moved to Moscow for a year. After returning to the United States, Shonk entered the M.A. program in creative writing at the University of Texas. After returning to Evanston in 1999, she worked long-distance as an editor and researcher for Harvard Business School.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Red Passport: Stories
ISBN: 0374248478

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2003

A beguiling debut collection set in the "New Russia" about love, dislocation, and the struggle to get a foothold in a changing world

The eight unpredictable, poignant, and often comic stories that make up Katherine Shonk's The Red Passport portray the tumult, hopes, and disappointments of Russians and visiting Americans alike in post-Communist Russia. Many of the Russians in these stories are strangers in their own country, learning to navigate a new landscape of Dunkin Donuts franchises that flourish where consumer culture had so recently been anathema where the fall of the Soviet Union has not in fact brought about peace or prosperity and where people still find a way to reach out and for love, despite often disastrous results. "My Mother's Garden" reads like a parable of broken promises--an old woman living near Chernobyl does not understand why she can't eat those robust, lovely, enormous onions, better than any she'd grown for decades. "Our American" is set in Moscow and tells the story of a thirteen year old boy who watches with fascination and dread as his older brother, a veteran of the Chechen war, pursues the nave American girl next door. "The Young People of Moscow" describes an extraordinary day in the life of an aging Russian couple selling Soviet poetry in an underground bazaar. In her elegantly crafted stories Shonk delves deeply into these people, finding both the nub of their disappointment and the truth of their good intentions. Describing a place that is at once exotic and disconcertingly familiar, The Red Passport is a moving and startling book that doles out amazement and delight in equal measure.

You Can't Enlarge The Pie The Psychology Of Ineffective Government
ISBN: 0465006310

Basic Books. 2001

everybody knows are foolish? It's not because they're stupid or corrupt, say the authors, but because our leaders, like the rest of us, are trapped in foolish and unproductive habits of thinking. "You Can't Enlarge the Pie" analyzes the unspoken assumptions that lead to bad policy, wasted resources, and lost lives, and shows exactly why they're wrong. With fascinating case studies and clear, compelling analysis, they dissect six beliefs that serve as psychological barriers to effective government:1. Do no harm2. Their gain is our loss3. Competition is always good4. Support our group5. Live for the moment6. No pain for us, no gain for themBy freeing ourselves from the narrow way we evaluate our government leaders, say the authors, we can learn to judge their performance just as we judge that of business leaders: by the overall health of their organizations.

Happy Now?: A Novel
ISBN: 0374281432

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2010


After many lonely years and alarming Internet dates, Claire Kessler, an artist and self-proclaimed homebody, believed she had found the perfect man. Jay was earnest, romantic, and gainfully employed, and within a year they were married.

Less than two years later, Jay had killed himself.

On Valentine’s Day.

Happy Now? follows Claire’s chaotic and often tragicomic journey through the weeks that follow her husband’s suicide. Nomie, Claire’s pregnant younger sister, welcomes Claire into her guesthouse and abandons her own husband in solidarity. Claire’s father turns into a concerned stalker, trailing her every movement. Encounters with well-meaning therapists go horribly awry, and Jay’s abandoned cat goes on a hunger strike. All the while, Jay’s suicide note lurks on the coffee table, waiting for Claire to gather the courage to read it. As she struggles to confront the truth about her marriage, Claire also struggles to negotiate life as a young widow—the well-intentioned remarks, the sympathy bouquets, and the terrifying prospect of dating (and loving) again.

With wit and compassion, Katherine Shonk explores both the possibilities and the limitations of human relationships. Happy Now? is an uncommonly honest portrait of love, loss, and letting go.


The Red Passport

  • Society of Midland Authors Book Award, Honorable Mention for Adult Fiction, 2004
  • Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

    Shonk is available for readings and book club meetings in the Chicago area. Please send questions or requests to