Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1903 – January 14, 1977) embodied the practice of writing as a grand passion and a path to delving deeply into the self. In this sense, she foreshadowed the immediacy of today’s world of self-revelatory memoir. She was a splendid and prolific essayist as well.
Best known for her multi-volume series, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, she wrote these journals over the span of more than thirty years (not including her Early Diaries series).
Born in France, her full original name was Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell. Her father, Joaquin Nin, a composer, deserted the family when Anaïs was about 11 years old. He and her mother, Rosa Culmell y Vigaraud, were of Cuban descent with traces of French, Spanish, and Danish ancestry. Read More→
Virginia Stephen first met Leonard Woolf while visiting her brother Thoby at Trinity College at Cambridge in 1900. She wore a white dress and carried a parasol, looking like “the most Victorian of Victorian young ladies,” as Leonard described her. Leonard and Virginia Woolf, as she would later be known, were destined to be together, though it took considerable persistence and many proposals on his part before she agreed to marry him.
According to The American Reader, “Virginia and her elder sister, Vanessa, were described by Leonard Woolf as ‘young women of astonishing beauty …. It was almost impossible for a man not to fall in love with them.’” Brilliant as well as exquisitely beautiful, Virginia attracted many admirers, both male and female. Read More→
Eudora Welty (April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001) was an American author whose work spanned several genres — novels, short stories, and memoir. Much of her writing focused on realistic human relationships — conflict, community, interaction, and influence. As a Southern writer, a sense of place was an important theme running though her work.
Welty grew up in a close-knit, contented family in Jackson, Mississippi. Her parents instilled a love of education, curiosity, and reading to her and to her brothers, with whom she was close. She was always a star student, from early grades through college. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.
She did her graduate work at Columbia University School of Business, heeding her father’s suggestion to study advertising. But since she finished her degree just as the depression was worsening, she struggled to find work. Read More→
The following essay by Marita Golden is adapted from Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, an anthology edited by Glory Edim:
I saw myself, found myself, and remade myself over and over learning and discovering Zora Neale Hurston. She became and has become a continuing source of possibility and pride for me.
When I think of Zora—and we call her Zora, using her first name only because we want to claim her as sister, mother, friend—I always remember that the Black people chronicled in her novels, folklore, journalism, anthropology, and plays offer to the world a people who are a symphony, not some trembling minor key. Read More→
This concise analysis of the poetry of Anne Bradstreet is excerpted from Who Lived Here? A Baker’s Dozen of Historic New England Houses and Their Occupants by Marc Antony DeWolfe Howe, an eminent editor and writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672) was the first writer in the American colonies to be published.
She rejected the prevailing notions of women’s inferiority. That opened her to criticism, not for her work itself, but that she dared to write and make her work public. It was considered unacceptable for women of her time to have a voice. She not only used hers effectively but pushed back at her critics. Read More→
Anne Bradstreet (March 20, 1612 – September 16, 1672) was one of the most prominent early American poets, and the first writer in the American colonies to be published. It was considered unacceptable for women of her time to write, but Anne rejected the prevailing notions of women’s inferiority. She was roundly criticized, not for the work itself, but for daring to make her work public.
Young Anne Dudley didn’t attend school, though she received a solid education from her book-loving father, Thomas Dudley. During his year a steward at the estate of the Earl of Lincoln, she had access to the library, and read widely, especially from the classics: Plutarch, Pliny, Virgil, Suetonius, Homer, Ovid, Seneca, and others. She was also steeped in philosophy and Biblical studies. Read More→
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867 – 1957) has a permanent place in the American imagination for her Little House series of books for young readers. Born in a log cabin on the edge of an area called “Big Woods” in Pepin, Wisconsin, her life was the inspiration for her semi-autobiographical novels.
Laura’s publishing career began at the ripe age of sixty-five and consisted of the 8-volume set of Little House books (9, if you count Farmer Boy) and a small number of autobiographical volumes. The first installment, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1931; the best known of the series, Little House on the Prairie, was published soon after. Read More→
Laura Ingalls Wilder (February 7, 1867 – February 10, 1957) gained renown for her autobiographical writings about growing up as an American pioneer. Particularly beloved are her Little House series of books for young readers. Born in a log cabin on the edge of an area called “Big Woods” in Pepin, Wisconsin, her life was the inspiration for her novels and richly informed her memoirs.
The Ingalls family traveled by covered wagon through Kansas and Minnesota with all that they owned, until finally settling in De Smet, Dakota Territory. The family loved the open spaces of the prairie, where they farmed and raised animals.
The Ingalls moved around quite a bit, and though it wasn’t an easy life, it gave Laura a rich trove of memories and experiences to draw upon when she began writing. It may be comforting to aspiring writers of all ages that her first book wasn’t published until she was sixty-five! Read More→