The story of Ethel L. Payne (1911 – 1991), the American journalist and correspondent, is a portrait of persistence, passion, and determination. Award-winning author Lesa Cline-Ransome has told her story in an inspiring book for younger readers. We’ll get to that after a brief introduction to Ethel Payne’s life and work.
Ethel grew up in a working-class African-American family in Chicago. She was a diligent student and avid reader, and showed an early interest in writing.
Pursuing the dream of becoming a reporter was no small feat for a black woman of Ethel’s era. A trailblazer from the start, she set her own path, which began in Washington, D.C. during World War II and in post-war Japan. Her experiences in both places shaped her as a journalist and activist. Read More→
The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (1919 – 1999) was the prolific British author’s nineteenth novel. Following is a review and analysis from 1978, the year in which it was published.
The story of Charles Arrowby, a self-involved and egotistical retired theater director begins as he is setting about to write his memoir. To focus on this task, he secludes himself in a house, not surprisingly, near the sea. He muses: Read More→
Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen (1885 – 1962) is a masterful collection of short stories by the Danish author best known for Out of Africa (1937), a now-controversial memoir of her life as a coffee plantation owner in the colonized Kenya of the 1920s.
In 1931, the plantation’s fortunes collapsed, and she returned to her family home in Denmark from Kenya. Karen Christenze Dinesen was the author’s original name, and she was known as Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, or simply Karen Blixen, during her disastrous marriage.
Upon her return to her home country, she began writing in earnest. In 1934, Seven Gothic Tales, a collection of stories she had written in English, was published. Read More→
The last day of October marks Samhain, the end of harvest season and the beginning of winter. This Gaelic festival opens the door to the darker part of the year, and it’s also the anniversary of author Natalie Babbitt’s death in 2016. What better time to consider Babbitt’s remarkable novel about mortality, Tuck Everlasting (1975), a story that rewards young and adult readers alike.
When I first reread Tuck, I was in my thirties. It was never one of my school texts: when I was a girl, it hadn’t yet achieved its iconic status. But the timing for me to rediscover this story, about how “dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born” was perfect. Read More→
Jonah’s Gourd Vine was the first novel by Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960), published in 1934. The central character is John Buddy Pearson, a Black plantation worker who aspires to be a preacher. Once he achieves his goal, he gives powerful sermons on Sundays, and the rest of the week indulges in extramarital dallying with the women of his congregation.
While studying with the noted anthropologist Franz Boas, Zora was recognized for her talent for storytelling and abiding interest in black cultures of the American South and Caribbean.
Her background as an anthropologist and folklorist was one of her great gifts, and what made her work, both fiction and nonfiction, so unique. She was already established in the field when this novel came out, as well as having published a number of short stories and nonfiction works. Read More→