Dorothy West (June 2, 1907 – August 16, 1998) was an American author associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Boston, she started writing as a child, and began receiving accolades and awards while still in her teens.
In 1926 she traveled to New York City to accept an award for one of her short stories and never left. Finding community in the city, West became part of the Harlem Renaissance and was known by her contemporaries as “The Kid,” an affectionate nickname given to her by poet Langston Hughes. Her writing is admired for the details and examinations of the African-American community, in areas such as gender, class, and social matters.
Her first novel, The Living is Easy (1948), depicts the life of an upper class black family. It remained her only novel for decades. West spent most her time writing short stories and editing and publishing the magazine Challenge, the first to feature literature with realistic depictions of African-American life. Later she started New Challenge, which did not last very long.
Her second novel, The Wedding, was published in 1995to much acclaim when she was 85 years old . It was adapted into a television mini-series in 1998, produced by Oprah Winfrey.
- The Living is Easy
- The Wedding
- The Richer, The Poorer
- The Dorothy West Martha’s Vineyard
- Where The Wild Grape Grows: Selected Writings, 1930-1950
Biographies about Dorothy West
- Dorothy West’s Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color
by Cherene Sherrard-Johnson
- Literary Sisters: Dorothy West and her Circle, A Biography of the Harlem Renaissance by Verner Mitchell and Prof. Cynthia Davis
Articles, News, Etc.
- The Wedding (mini-series), 1998
Visit Dorothy West’s Home
- Dorothy West Home – Oak Bluffs, MA
- Papers of Dorothy West – Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Dorothy West Quotes
“Identity is not inherent. It is shaped by circumstance and sensitivity and resistance to self-pity.” (The Wedding, 1995)
“I’m a writer. I don’t cook and I don’t clean.”
“Beauty is but skin deep, ugly to the bone. And when beauty fades away, ugly claims its own.” (The Wedding, 1995)
“He had been taught that bread unshared is bread unblessed when someone else is hungry, whether man or beast, friend or stranger.” (The Wedding, 1995)
“When I was seven, I said to my mother, may I close my door? And she said, yes, but why do you want to close your door? And I said because I want to think. And when I was eleven, I said to my mother, may I lock my door? And she said yes, but why do you want to lock your door? And I said because I want to write.”
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