The Novels of Willa Cather, Master of American Literature

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Willa Cather (1873 – 1947) was born near Winchester, VA, where her family had lived and farmed for generations. The course of her life was altered when she was nine years old. Her father bought a ranch in Nebraska, uprooting the family and leaving behind the genteel, tranquil, and traditional life they had been accustomed to. The prairie was wild and free, yet more hazardous, with the struggle to tame the land and its attendant blizzards, droughts, and storms.

This new way of life made a deep impression on Cather, and would come to inspire some of her most iconic novels later in her life. After abandoning her initial ambition to study medicine, she embarked on a life of letters, first working as a journalist, critic, and editor. Her first published book was a collection of poems titled April Highlights (1903), remaining her only volume of poetry. Read More→

Fascinating Facts About Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960), was an African-American novelist, memoirist, and folklorist. Zora was a natural storyteller. As she grew up, she had listened to the stories of people she encountered. Her love of story would lead her not only to create her own, but to collect stories from the oral traditions of the African-American South and the Black cultures of the Caribbean.

With her determined intelligence and humor, she quickly became a big name in the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s. She had a dual career as a writer (producing novels, short stories, plays, and essays) and as an anthropologist. Read More→

My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather — Two Opposing Reviews

My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather

My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather is a novella by this eminent American author, published in 1926. Cather sketches a character study of a woman and a life not particularly well-lived. In this slim work, the story of an ill-considered marriage unfolds. My Mortal Enemy is considered a minor work by Cather, and there has been debate as to whether it has stood the test of time.

Unlike the nearly universal praise for her major works —My ÁntoniaDeath Comes for the Archbishop , and O Pioneers!  among others, My Mortal Enemy has been received with praise as well as met with disappointment. Read More→

10 Poems by Gabriela Mistral About Life, Love, and Death

Gabriela Mistral (April 7, 1889 – January 10, 1957, also known as Lucila Godoy Alcayaga) was a Chilean poet, educator, diplomat, and feminist. She’s best known for being the first Latina to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Mistral stopped formally attending school at the age of fifteen to care for her sick mother, but continued to write poetry. Just two years later, heart completely broke after the sad deaths of her lover, Romeo Ureta, and a close nephew.

This heartbreak gave her the inspiration to create some of her best works, including Sonetos de la muerte (1914). Much of her later poetry was focused on the theme of death, as you’ll read in some of her poems, following. Here are ten poems by Gabriela Mistral about life, love, and death, both in their original Spanish, and in English translation.

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8 Fascinating Facts About Gabriela Mistral, Latina Nobel Prize Winner

Gabriela Mistral, born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga (April 7, 1889 – January 10, 1957), was a Chilean poet, educator, diplomat, and feminist. She grew up living in poverty with her family in a small Andean village of Montegrande and developed her father’s gift for teaching despite having dropped out of school at age fifteen.

After multiple notable works including Sonetos de la muerte (1914) and Lagar (1954), Mistral received national recognition and praise as her was translated into various languages from her native Spanish. Though she is best known for being the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, she did so much more during her remarkable life. Here are some fascinating facts about Gabriela Mistral that may inspire you to learn more about her, and better yet, to read her work.

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Was Charlotte Brontë’s “Shirley” an Idealized Portrait of Her Sister Emily?

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Shirley, the second published novel by Charlotte Brontë, was published in 1849, still under the pseudonym Currer Bell.  Charlotte had already achieved fame and notoriety with the wildly successful Jane Eyre under her masculine nom de plume. The question we’ll be exploring here is how much of Shirley’s character did Charlotte draw from her sister Emily’s.

A more challenging novel to read than Jane Eyre, Shirley: A Tale is now considered a prime example of the mid-19th century “social novel.” The social novels that emerged from that period were works of fiction dealing with themes like labor injustice, abuse of and bias against women, and poverty. Read More→

Tasha Tudor and Her Beloved Corgis: “How could you resist a Corgi?”

Tasha Tudor and Corgis

Tasha Tudor  (August 28, 1915 – June 18, 2008) not only wrote and illustrated some two dozen of her own titles, but her exquisitely detailed watercolors and drawings grace scores of other books. Her writing and art have earned her a secure place in children’s literature, yet she became nearly as famous for her unconventional lifestyle.

Anyone who knows a bit about Tasha’s private life will know that she was a consummate Corgi lover. And if this is news to you, you’re in for a treat. Read More→

A Lost Lady by Willa Cather (1923)

A Lost Lady by Willa Cather

A Lost Lady (1923) is a shining example of Willa Cather’s gift for concise expression and talent for vivid character studies. Marian Forrester, a young woman of beauty and grace, brings an uncommon air of sophistication to the frontier town of Sweet Water. She wound up in this town, which lay along the Transcontinental Railroad, through her marriage to the much older Captain Daniel Forrester.

The novel is written from the viewpoint of Niel Herbert, a young man who has grown up in Sweet Water. He idealizes Mrs. Forrester, even as he witnesses her decline. As a contemporary edition of A Lost Lady concludes, “The recurrent conflict in Cather’s work, between frontier culture and an encroaching commercialism, is nowhere more powerfully articulated.” Read More→

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