Book descriptions

The Message of the City: Dawn Powell’s New York Novels 1925 – 1962

Dawn Powell (1896 – 1965) is considered a “writer’s writer,” though nearly all of her work was out of print by the time she died. Overcoming a hard-knock early life in the American midwest, she moved to New York City in 1918 and fell in love with it. Dawn Powell’s New York novels and stories are among the most enduring of her works.

Though she wrote prolifically throughout her life, producing novels, short stories, poetry, and plays, she didn’t gain much notoriety — for better or worse — during her lifetime. To the joy of devoted fans and new readers alike, many of her works have been rediscovered and rereleased. Read More→

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Passing by Nella Larsen (1929)

Passing by Nella Larsen (1929) is one of the most iconic novels of the Harlem Renaissance era of the 1920s, the New York City-centered movement that celebrated the ascendence of black writers, artists, and performers.

As the daughter of a white Danish immigrant mother and a mixed-race father from the Danish West Indies, the theme of Nella Larsen’s life, and in effect, her work, was a sense of never belonging — not to any community, nor even to an immediate family. 

Larsen was the first African-American woman to graduate from library school and to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship for creative writing.

Though her first novel, Quicksand (1928), contained more obviously autobiographical elements, Passing also reflected Larsen’s lifelong sense of alienation and search for identity. Read More→

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A New Orleans Author in Mark Twain’s Court : Letters from Grace King’s New England Sojourns

Grace King’s life (1852 – 1932) spanned two wars, various epidemics, disruptive politics, and fluctuating economics. Her literary career began in 1885 when two northern editors came to New Orleans to write up the south and find local writers at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition.

Richard Watson Gilder of Century Magazine challenged King to write her first short story, and Charles Dudley Warner placed it and then mentored her into the publishing world.

Over almost five decades, King wrote short stories and novellas, biographies and histories, genealogy, and a memoir. Her path reflected the shifting changes in taste. As with other women writers whose works disappeared from the literary canon, she is again receiving attention for her sensitivity and knowledge of a particular time and place. Read More→

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Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre by Glynnis Fawkes

Knowing how obsessed I am with all things Brontë, my brother thoughtfully gifted me with Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre, a graphic biography by Glynnis Fawkes.

Charmingly told and skillfully drawn, this book for readers of all ages focuses on the most famous of the brilliant literary sisters, Charlotte Brontë, from her early years to the moment she sends off the finished manuscript of Jane Eyre to a prospective publisher. Said she: “It’s sent. Now there’s nothing but forlorn hope.”

Of course, the legions of fans of Jane Eyre know how this turned out, though fewer readers know of the trials that beset the Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Emily, and Anne — from their childhoods to their premature deaths. Glynnis Fawkes captures their spirit and sorrows. Read More→

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Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell

If you or someone you love is both an Emily Dickinson aficionado and an avid gardener, Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell is a book to treasure. This 2019 publication (Timber Press, Portland, OR) is a full color, lushly illustrated homage to an enigmatic woman who was not only a brilliant poet, but a keen observer of the natural world around her.

Organized by season, this gorgeous book is revised from an edition first published in 2004, by an author whose expertise in gardens dovetails with an avid interest in classic women authors who cultivated them. From the publisher: Read More→

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