bell hooks, Poet, Essayist, & Public Intellectual

Bell hooks, October 2014

In her lifetime of sixty-nine years, bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins, September 25, 1952 – December 15, 2021) became internationally recognized and highly acclaimed as a prolific writer, beloved poet, university professor, public intellectual, social activist, and cultural critic.

Her legacy of written work (which included forty books) and her contributions to the public discourse on the intersectionality of race, gender, love, feminism, and capitalism is inestimable.

Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale stated, “Her impact extended far beyond the United States; many women from all over the world owe her a great debt.” Read More→

Enigmatic Recluse or Sheltered Genius? A Tribute to Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

While scrolling through social media, it’s not usual for me to stop because a word or words grab my attention, but sometimes I simply had to go back and read the lines that had caught my eye. More often than not, it turned out to be one of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

They’re light in the sense that she tended to use simple, everyday words, often sparingly. Yet, vivid images spring out from them to capture one’s imagination. Or her deep concepts compressed into a few lines oblige one to delve deeper into her poems.

Her verses aren’t pretentious, though she was as well-read as any man of her era. Yet, it seems she didn’t choose grandiose words to impress anyone, especially as most of her poems went unpublished during her lifetime. Read More→

Analysis and plot summary of Persuasion by Jane Austen

Jane Austen Persuasion stamp 2013

Jane Austen by Sarah Fanny Malden (1889) offers a detailed 19th-century view of Jane Austen’s life and works. The following analysis and plot summary of Persuasion focuses on the novel that many have judged to be Austen’s most mature and accomplished work. 

Persuasion, the last novel Austen wrote, and Northanger Abbey, her first completed novel, were both published six months after her death in 1817.

Mrs. Malden said of her sources, “The writer wishes to express her obligations to Lord Brabourne and Mr. C. Austen Leigh for their kind permission to make use of the Memoir and Letters of their gifted relative, which have been her principal authorities for this work.” Read More→

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen—plot summary and analysis

northanger abbey by Jane Austen

The first novel intended for publication by Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey was originally titled Susan. Completed in 1803, it wasn’t published until 1817, the year of the author’s death. This  coming-of-age novel’s heroine, Catherine Morland, at first young and rather naïve, learns the ways of the world in the course of the narrative.

Set in Bath, England, the fashionable resort city where the Austens lived for a time, Jane Austen critiques young women who put too much stock in appearances, wealth, and social acceptance. Catherine values happiness but not at the cost of compromising one’s values and morals. Read More→

Did Little Women’s Jo March Become a Writer After All?

Jo March, the standout sister of Little Women (1868), was the idealized alter ego of her creator, Louisa May Alcottboth were tomboyish, with a bit of a temper. Like Louisa, Jo was completely dedicated to the pursuit of writing and the writer’s life. Or was she?  Certainly, that was her stated ambition in Little Women, in which we witness the birth of her first book. 

I can’t think of another fictional character who inspired generations of real-life aspiring female writers. It’s almost easier to find writers who weren’t at least a little influenced by Jo, than those who were. Because so, so many young wordsmiths wanted to grown up to be like Jo.

Though Jo longed to be a writer more than anything, she also sought a happy medium between achieving independence and finding love, something that was expected of women of her time. That’s why she felt she had to turn down Laurie’s proposal (much to the chagrin of millions of readers). Read More→

A 19th-Century Analysis and Plot Summary of Emma by Jane Austen

Jane Austen Emma stamp 2013

Jane Austen by Sarah Fanny Malden (1889) offers views of Jane Austen‘s life and work from a 19th-century perspective. The following analysis and plot summary of Emma (1815) focuses on what some readers and critics believe to be the author’s finest novel (some might beg to differ, of course).

Mrs. Malden said of her sources, “The writer wishes to express her obligations to Lord Brabourne and Mr. C. Austen Leigh for their kind permission to make use of the Memoir and Letters of their gifted relative, which have been her principal authorities for this work.”

The 1889 publication of Malden’s Jane Austen was part of an Eminent Women series published by W.H. Allen & Co., London. The following excerpt is in the public domain: Read More→

A Tribute to Claudia Emerson, Poet and Friend

Claudia Emerson (1957 – 2014) won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her book Late Wife in 2006.  I think she would have been eventually chosen as the United States Poet Laureate if her brilliant career hadn’t been cut short by cancer.

She not only published eight collections of verse, but she was also a gifted teacher and musician. I knew her because we were in the same class at Chatham Hall, an all-girls’ school in Pittsylvania, County, southside Virginia. We were the class of 1975.

Chatham Hall was founded in 1894, originally named Chatham Episcopal Institute, and our most famous graduate was Georgia O’Keeffe. The school’s motto is Esto perpetua – “Let it be perpetual.”     Read More→

The Matriarch by G.B. Stern (1924)

The Matriarch by G.B. Stern

British writer G.B. Stern (1890 – 1973) published a five-volume Jewish family saga collectively entitled, confusingly, both The Rakonitz Chronicles, the first three volumes published together in 1932, and The Matriarch Chronicles in their expanded 1936 form. 

This overview of The Matriarch, the first in a series and the best-known work by Stern is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

Born in London as Gladys Bertha Stern, she was later Gladys Bronwyn, and wrote mainly under her initials. She was a friend of Somerset Maugham, H.G. Wells, Rebecca West, and Noël Coward, she wrote over forty novels, as well as plays, short stories, criticism. Read More→