Book Reviews

Gertrude Stein has Arrived: The Homecoming of a Literary Legend

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) is actually Gertrude Stein‘s own memoir. Gertrude Stein Has Arrived by Roy Morris, Jr. chronicles the return of the delightfully perplexing literary figure to her American homeland in 1934.

With Alice in tow, Stein conducted an epic lecture tour to promote what would be her most commercially successful book.

Gertrude appropriated the supposed persona of her longtime companion, Alice B. Toklas, to tell her own tale. Famously, Alice is quoted as saying:

“About six weeks ago Gertrude Stein said, ‘It does not look to me as if you were ever going to write that autobiography. You know what I am going to do? I am going to write it for you. I am going to write it as simply as Defoe did the autobiography of Robinson Crusoe.’ And she has, and this is it.” Read More→

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Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (1942)

Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston’s 1942 autobiography, has confounded critics and scholars from the time of its publication, even as it has enthralled and entertained readers.

It was the most commercially successful book she published during her lifetime, though it has since been eclipsed by her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Zora (1891 – 1960) studied anthropology at Barnard College in the 1920s, becoming the first African-American student at the prestigious college. With her larger-than-life personality, she quickly became a big name in the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s. Read More→

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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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There is Confusion by Jessie Redmon Fauset (1924)

There is Confusion by Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882 – 1961) was the first novel by this American editor, poet, essayist, educator, and author associated closely with the Harlem Renaissance movement.

In addition to her own pursuits, Cornell-educated Fauset was known as one of the “literary midwives” of the movement, as someone who encouraged and supported other talents. 

Fauset’s poetic bent is reflected in the novel’s title, which comes from lines in “The Lotos-Eaters” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Read More→

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Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter: Revisiting the Eternal Optimist

The 1913 novel Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter (1868 – 1920)  is perhaps less familiar now than the lasting expression that grew from its sentimental story.

Most everyone knows what defines  a “Pollyanna” — someone who looks at the bright side of things no matter how dire, or who paints an overly optimistic picture of any situation. 

Pollyanna, subtitled “The Glad Book,” was incredibly successful from the start, and inspired many adaptations in other media. Though intended as a children’s novel, it appealed to all ages. Read More→

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