Kenny Fries (born September 22, 1960) is an American memoirist and poet. He is the author of The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory (2007), Body, Remember: A Memoir (1997), and editor of Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out (1997). He received a 2009 Creative Capital grant in Innovative Literature, the 2007 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, the Gregory Kolovakos Award, a Creative Arts Fellowship from the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and the National Endowment, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Japan.
Early Childhood and Illness
Kenny Fries was born to a fainting mother and father, who ran through the hospital screaming, "My wife gave birth to a freak!" Fries entered the world with only three toes on each foot, and undersized, twisted legs that lacked the regular number of bones. At the time of his birth, there was no medical name for his condition so it was referred to as "... congenital deformities of the lower extremities." When he was an infant, doctors advised Fries' parents to amputate his legs, but his parents took the advice of a prominent doctor who was convinced that one day Kenny could walk. From the age of 6 months until he was in fifth grade, Fries underwent numerous surgeries in the attempt to correct his legs. For most of his childhood, Fries was able to ambulate freely, as well as participating in sports and other activities. Fries described his childhood experiences in his book Body Remember, in which he uses his surgical scars as a guide.
As an adult, Kenny Fries stands five feet tall. His right foot protrudes at a 90 degree angle, while his right leg is eleven inches shorter than his left. He wears orthopedic shoes molded to fit his feet. Since around 1990, Fries has been using a cane for support due to lower back pain caused by the disparity between the length of his legs.
Kenny Fries officially started writing in 1988, after he had begun attending Millay Colony for the Arts. The majority of Fries' books and poems were written due to his experiences as a disabled, gay, Jewish man. Some of the writings that Fries has written include: Body, Remember: A Memoir (2003), Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out, The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory (2007), Anesthesia: Poems by Kenny Fries (1996), Desert Walking: Poems (2000), The Healing Notebooks (1990) and Night After Night: Poems (1984). Some of the scholarly writings written by Fries include: "Songs of Whitman" (2003), "Comedy is Not a Crutch" (2001), and "Where Ecstasy Might Reside" (1995).
Awards and Accomplishments
Kenny Fries received the 2007 Outstanding Book Award, from the Gustavus Myers Center for the study of Bigotry and Human Rights. He was a Creative Arts Fellow of the Japan-US Friendship commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as being a Fulbright scholar to Japan. He teaches in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Goddard College. In 2009, Fries received residency in the artists' community in Yaddo. In 2010 he received Ledig House International writers Residency. Fries has also collaborated with composers Kumiko Takahashi and Yuka Takechi, and singer Mika Kimula on their new music work In the Gardens of Japan, which has been performed in Tokyo, Yokohama, and New York City. Fries is a known traveler; having been to Japan many times. Kenny Fries has also received a grant in Innovative Literature from the Creative Capitol Foundation, to complete one of his books.
Fries graduated in 1977 from high school and went on to pursue a degree in English and American Literature, at Brandeis University. He received a Masters Degree in Playwriting at Columbia University.
- The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory (2007)
- Body, Remember: A Memoir (1997)
- Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out (1997)
- Desert Walking: Poems (2000)
- Anesthesia: Poems (1996)
- Fulbright Scholar Stories: Kenny Fries
- Kenny Fries's Web Site
- The Disability History Association Newsletter
- Comedy is not a crutch
- Klein, Jeff. "The Starting Line: What Is Disability?: May 16, 2008", The New York Times, 2008-05-16. Retrieved on 2009-05-23.]
- Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath (2003). Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights, Greenwood Publishing Group.