Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Alice Dunbar-Nelson (July 19, 1875 – September 18, 1935) was an American poet, essayist, short story writer, journalist, activist, and teacher. Sometimes known as Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, she advocated for the rights of women and African-Americans and was considered one of the premier poets of the Harlem Renaissance era.

Born Alice Ruth Moore in New Orleans, she was of Creole heritage, blending African-American, Creole, European, and Native American roots. Her mixed ancestry would give her a broad perspective on race as she matured, while she personally struggled with the issue of belonging.

Her father, Joseph Moore, a freed slave, was a merchant marine, and her mother, Patrica Wright, was a seamstress. Her family was considered middle class, so she was able to benefit from growing up in a diverse city, fairly free from the constraints of Jim Crow laws. Read More→

How to Write a Romance by the editors of Avon Books

How to write a romance by the editors of Avon books

Are you in the mood for romance? Most of us are, at least some of the time. Are you in the mood to write a romance novel? Now, that’s a more specific desire, but if you’ve ever fancied giving it a try, the editors of Avon Books, one of the leading publishers of romance books, have produced How to Write a Romance: Or How to Write Witty Dialogue, Smoldering Love Scenes, and Happily Ever Afters (Morrow Gift, July 2019).

It’s a cleverly designed guided journal that just might get you going, and a perfect gift for the aspiring romance writer in your life.

Many of the most beloved novels of all time are incredibly romantic, and perhaps the literary predecessors of contemporary romances. Classic plot lines often feature a plucky heroine who wants to be her own person, while at the same time, yearns for the love of a brooding, mysterious man. Read More→

Quotes from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1928–2014) is a 1969 autobiography by the beloved writer and poet covering her upbringing and youth. The book is the first in a seven-volume series. It delves into Angelou’s journey, one in which she experiences and overcomes racism and trauma and develops  the strength of character and a love of literature.

The book starts with her as a three-year-old being sent to Stamos, Arkansas, to live with their grandmother along with her older brother. By the end of the book, Angelou is sixteen years old and becomes a mother. Throughout the course of the book, Maya overcomes racism and transforms into an unbreakable woman as she is able to effectively respond to the ignorance of prejudice.

Angelou created her autobiography as a way to explore identity, rape, literacy, and racism. She also gives readers a new perspective about the lives of women in a society that is male-dominated, earning her praise as “a symbolic character for every black girl growing up in America.” Read More→

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë (1849): A plot summary

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Shirley was the second published novel by Charlotte Brontë. Published in 1849 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, the author had already become famous with the success of Jane Eyre (1847). While Charlotte was at work on this book, her remaining siblings died. The first to go was her troubled brother Branwell, followed by sisters Emily and Anne, who would also come to be celebrated for their literary accomplishments.

The lengthy novel has two female protagonists — the eponymous Shirley Keeldar, as well as Caroline Helstone. Set in Charlotte’s native Yorkshire, it takes place against the background of the textile industry’s Luddite uprisings of 1811 and 1812.

Shirley: A Tale, as it was originally titled, is considered an example of the mid-19th century “social novel.” The social novels that emerged from that period were works of fiction dealing with themes like labor injustice, bias against women, and poverty. Read More→

Susan Glaspell

Susan Glaspell (July 1, 1876 – July 28, 1948) was an American playwright and fiction writer. Glaspell and her husband George Cram Cook founded the Provincetown Players, considered the first modern American theater company.

Susan Glaspell grew up on a farm near Davenport, Iowa. Her father was a hay farmer, her mother was a schoolteacher, and she had two brothers. As a child she had a natural affinity for animals, often rescuing strays. Her grandmother regaled her with real-life pioneer adventure stories that sparked her imagination. Read More→

How I Found America: The Collected Stories of Anzia Yezierska

How I found America by Anzia Yezierska

Anzia Yezierska (1880 – 1970) was a writer whose body of work spoke to the immigrant experience in America in the early 1900s. Born in an area that’s now Poland but which was part of the Russian Empire when she was was a child, her family arrived in New York City’s Lower East Side during the immigration wave of the late 1800s. Anzia, then ten years old, never shed the feeling of being an outsider looking in.

All of Yezierska’s short stories are collected in How I Found America: Collected Stories of Anzia Yezierska, 1991. In her introduction to the book, literary critic Vivian Gornick wrote:

“She was a misfit all her life. Throughout the years, she saw herself standing on the street with her nose pressed against the bakery window: hungry and shut out. No matter what happened, she felt marginal. Not belonging was her identity, and then her subject. After she began to write, it was her necessity.” Read More→

Plot summary of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre (1847) is Charlotte Brontë’s best known novel, the story of the title heroine’s love for the mysterious and reclusive Mr. Rochester and her quest for independence. Though it has been considered a feminist work, it also fits into the genre of the gothic novel due to that pesky little detail of Rochester’s mad wife locked away in an attic. Through the concise plot summary of Jane Eyre that follows, the reader will get an overview of the book that made Charlotte Brontë famous.

Jane, a young woman of unassuming background and appearance, searches for love and a sense of belonging while preserving her independence. The book sparked a fair amount of controversy when first published, which was fueled by critics and the public suspecting that “Currer Bell” (the author’s ambiguous pseudonym) was a woman. Still, the novel was an immediate success, securing for Charlotte a place in the literary world of her time and for generations to come. Read More→

Mary Hunter Austin

Mary Hunter Austin (September 9, 1868 – August 13, 1934) was an American novelist and essayist who focused her writing on cultural and social problems within the Native American community. In addition to spending seventeen years making a special study of Indian life in the Mojave Desert, Austin was also an early feminist and defended the rights of Native Americans and Spanish Americans. 

Austin was born in Carlinville, Illinois and was the fourth of six siblings whose parents were Savannah and George Hunter. In 1888, her family moved to Bakersfield, California, where they established a homestead in the San Joaquin Valley. That same year, Austin also graduated from Blackburn College.

Read More→

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