Gene Stratton-Porter (born Geneva Grace Stratton, August 17, 1863 – December 6, 1924) was an American author, photographer, naturalist, artist, and filmmaker. Among her best known books are Freckles, Girl of the Limberlost, and The Harvester.
Many of her novels are ostensibly aimed at younger readers, but they can be enjoyed by “children of all ages,” much in the way that the Anne of Green Gables books (which were published in the same era) can be.
Born in Lagro, Indiana, into a family with eleven other siblings, Geneva, who was later referred to as Gene, spent most of her time roaming the fields and forests of her family’s farm, catching butterflies and moths, and observing birds and small animals. Read More→
Barbara Pym (1913 – 1980) was a British author whose novels explored manners and morals in village life. Yet even though most of the action, such as it is, is set in small town England locales, her stories convey universal truths about human foibles. She published thirteen novels in her lifetime, four published posthumously. The following selection of quotes from Excellent Women and other novels by Barbara Pym demonstrate her sense of irony and subtle, understated wit.
The novels published in her lifetime are considered the Pym canon, with many devotees citing Excellent Women as their entry-point or favorite. Pym was often compared to Jane Austen for her comedies of manner; she has been called Britain’s “other Jane Austen” or “new Jane Austen.” Read More→
Caroline Kirkland (full name, Caroline Mathilda Stansbury Kirkland; January 11, 1801 – April 6, 1864) was an American essayist, writer, and educator, best known for her books examining the frontier settlement. Her work as an editor demonstrated her strong commitment to realism in what she deemed acceptable for publication along with her critical skill in her reviews.
Caroline Stansbury was born into a middle-class family in New York City, the oldest of eleven siblings. Her mother was a writer of fictional stories and poetry, and her entire family had a love of reading. One of her greatest influences was her grandfather, Joseph Stansbury, who was an ardent Loyalist during the American Revolution. Read More→
Barbara Pym (Barbara Mary Crampton Pym; June 2, 1913 – January 11, 1980) was a British author whose novels explored manners and morals in village life with a subtle, understated wit. She published nine novels in her lifetime and four books were published posthumously.
Tweed skirts and peach halves, knitted socks and tea kettles, macaroni cheese and old books: Barbara Pym has become known for her novels about the small comforts of mid-twentieth-century Englishwomen’s daily lives.
Much as Belinda turns the conversation to lighter topics in Barbara Pym’s first published novel, Some Tame Gazelle (1950), to avoid argument and taking things too seriously, Pym’s fiction appears to focus on lighter matters. Read More→
Zora Neale Hurston’s third published short story, “Spunk” (1925), helped launch her career as a fiction writer. She had already established herself as an ethnographer and folklorist, having been the first Black student to study anthropology at Columbia University in New York City. The following year, “Spunk” was published in the prestigious Opportunity, A Journal of Negro Life, and her literary career was off and running.
“Spunk” won second place in Opportunity’s fiction writing contest that year. At the awards dinner on May 1, 1925, Zora also won second place in the drama category for her play, Color Struck, plus two honorable mentions. These early successes helped assure Zora’s place as a writer in the creative world of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. 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.
After decades out of print, HarperCollins reissued Jonah’s Gourd Vine in 2008. From the publisher’s description:
“Jonah’s Gourd Vine tells the story of John Buddy Pearson, ‘a living exultation’ of a young man who loves too many women for his own good. Lucy Potts, his long-suffering wife, is his true love, but there’s also Mehaley and Big ‘Oman, as well as the scheming Hattie, who conjures hoodoo spells to ensure his attentions. Read More→
Anaïs Nin (1903 – 1977) was best known for her multi-volume Diary of Anaïs Nin, which became an iconic series of writings in feminist literature. She was a splendid essayist as well. The sampling of quotes that follow reflect her passionate nature and deep commitment to the writing life.
Born in France in 1903, Nin spent her teens living in the U.S., becoming self-educated and working as a model and dancer before returning to Europe in the 1920s.
From the earliest of her diaries, written while still in her teens, to one of her last essays, published just a year before her death in 1977, it’s clear that writing was what shaped her life and gave it meaning. Read More→
Kay Boyle (February 19, 1902 – December 27, 1992) was an American author of novels and short stories, and later in life, a political activist. During her long and tumultuous life and prolific career, she produced almost forty volumes of work, including novels, short stories, essays, poems, plays, and children’s books.
Much of her writing was autobiographical, drawing on a rich and colorful personal life — she married three times, had six children and two stepchildren, lived in Paris, Austria and Germany, and, in later years, was imprisoned twice for her political activism and opposition to the Vietnam War. Read More→