Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Liz Heinecke's "Radiant"

Liz Heinecke has an undergraduate degree in art from Luther College, a master's degree in bacteriology from UW Madison and worked as an academic molecular biology researcher before starting her wildly successful online educational platform She has written seven books teaching kids (and their parents) how to perform simple science experiments at home, including two which pair science experiments with history lessons about scientists. Heinecke is a regular fixture on local TV morning shows including CBS and ABC, and frequently makes appearances for library programs, and at STEM, STEAM and tech festivals. Between experiments and writing, she paints, sings, and plays the banjo. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Heinecke applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Radiant: The Dancer, The Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Radiant- The Dancer, The Scientist and a Friendship Forged in Light drops in on a conversation between Nobel-winning scientist Marie Curie and her five-year-old daughter Irene, who would go on to win a Nobel prize of her own. Marie describes to Irene how a piece of scientific equipment called an electroscope works. To illustrate the concept, she asks Irene to touch her head and uses her hands to demonstrate how the metallic strips in an electroscope respond to electrical charge.

The page is an excellent representation of the book, which is a creative nonfiction narrative about Marie Curie and the dancer-inventor Loie Fuller. It refers to Marie’s traumatic childhood under the Russian occupation of Poland and to her first exposure to science— through her father’s cabinet of scientific equipment. In addition, it introduces a piece of equipment called an electrometer, which was instrumental in Marie’s monumental discovery of the element radium. The scene also hints to the reader that Marie was a loving mother and a wonderful teacher, whose love of science infused almost every moment of her life and ignited Irene’s love of physics.

Marie Curie met Loie Fuller when the famous dancer asked her for some radium to light her dancing costume. From the time I started writing, I imagined their story on a stage, with Loie spinning like a lily under a rainbow of light and Marie waltzing through her lab, surrounded by glowing tubes of radium. Creative non-fiction allowed me to animate scenes from their lives and invent dialogue based on facts I discovered in autobiographical documents, first person accounts such as Eve Curie’s biography of her mother, letters, personal journals, and newspaper articles. At times, especially in the case of Loie Fuller, who gave hundreds of interviews and kept extensive journals, I was able to incorporate Loie and Marie’s own words into the text.
Visit Liz Heinecke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue