Smith, Betty

Betty Smith

Betty Smith (1896-1972), an American novelist and playwright, is best remembered for her evocative coming-of-age story, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She herself had a rough childhood, dropping out of school at age 14 and going to work to help support her family. Smith borrows everything from her own life to use in her novels, drawing from the various jobs she held, as well as her personal life.

After going to college and separating from her husband she was left with two children and found herself broke and in trouble, but this all changed after A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was published in 1943. Smith is known today as a cultural historian, as her stories are detailed records of life in the early 20th century. In 1951, she helped write and put together the musical version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In 1945, she helped write the film adaptation for it, as well as for Joy in the Morning in 1965.

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Betty Smith Quotes

betty smith“Suffering is also good, it makes a person rich in character.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“And always, there was the magic of learning things.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Books became her friends, and there was one for every mood.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first time or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” (Joy in the Morning, 1946)

“There are very few bad people. There are just a lot of people that are unlucky.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“I guess being needed is almost as good as being loved. Maybe better.”

“And that’s where the whole trouble is. We’re too much alike to understand each other because we don’t even understand our own selves.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“If she had not found this outlet in writing, she might have grown to to be a tremendous liar.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“I came to a clear conclusion, and it is a universal one: To live, to struggle, to be in love with life–in love with all life holds, joyful or sorrowful–is fulfillment. The fullness of life is open to all of us.”

“From that moment on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Oh magic hour, when a child first knows it can read printed words.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Forgiveness is a gift of high value. Yet it costs nothing.”

“There had to be dark and muddy waters so that the sun could have something to background its flashing glory.”

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”

“Sometimes I think it’s better to suffer bitter unhappiness and to fight and to scream out, and even to suffer that terrible pain, than to just be… safe. At least she knows she’s living.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“I know that’s what people say — you’ll get over it. I’d say it too. But I know it’s not true. Oh, you’ll be happy again, never fear. But you won’t forget. Every time you fall in love it will be because something in the man reminds you of him.”

“A lie was something you told because you were mean or a coward. A story was something you made up out of something that might have happened. Only you didn’t tell it like it was, you told it like you thought it should have been.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“If there was only one tree like that in the world, you would think it was beautiful…but because there are so many, you just can’t see how beautiful it really is.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life….And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.’” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Some people do crossword puzzles. I do books.” (Joy in the Morning, 1946)

“As she read, at peace with the world and happy as only a little girl could be with a fine book and a little bowl of candy, and all alone in the house, the leaf shadows shifted and the afternoon passed.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Well, some writers must have an ivory tower but I need trouble.”

“Let me be something of every minute of every hour in my life. Let me be ga; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere – be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time and so not one little piece of living is ever lost.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“They were all slender, frail creatures with wondering eyes and soft, fluttery voices. But they were made out of thin invisible steel.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“‘Sometimes I think it’s better to suffer bitter unhappiness and to fight and to scream out, and even to suffer that terrible pain, than just to be…safe.’ She waited until the next scream died away. ‘At least she knows she’s living.’ Miss Maggie had no answer.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“I hate all those flirty-birty games that women make up. Life’s too short. If you ever find a man you love, don’t waste time hanging your head and simpering. Go right up to him and say, ‘I love you. How about getting married?” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“Yes, when I get big and have my own home, no plush chairs and lace curtains for me. And no rubber plants. I’ll have a desk like this in my parlor and white walls and a clean green blotter every Saturday night and a row of shining yellow pencils always sharpened for writing and a golden-brown bowl with a flower or some leaves or berries always in it and books . . . books . . . books. . . .”

“It doesn’t take long to write things of which you know nothing. When you write of actual things, it takes longer, because you have to live them first.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“In the future, when something comes up, you tell exactly how it happened but write down for yourself the way you think it happened. Tell the truth and write the story.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

“As she read, at peace with the world and happy as only a little girl could be with a fine book and a little bowl of candy, and all alone in the house, the leaf shadows shifted and the afternoon passed.” (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 1943)

 

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