The Group by Mary McCarthy (1963)

The Group by Mary McCarthy2

The Group (1963), is arguably American author Mary McCarthy’s best-known work. Known for trenchant works of fiction and nonfiction, McCarthy likely would not have chosen this juicy, gossipy novel, with elements of autobiography, to be a great part of her lasting legacy, as we’ll see later.

The Group hit the New York Times Bestseller List several weeks after its publication and stayed there for nearly two years. Considered rather scandalous for its time, it touched on issues of contraception, abortion, mental illness, male chauvinism, and lesbian relationships, as experienced by young women in the 1930s.

The book was banned in several countries, but that didn’t deter it from being a huge international hit. The film version of The Group premiered in 1966, featuring a stellar cast (including a breakthrough role for Candice Bergen) and direction by Sidney Lumet. Read More→

In Her Own Words: Joan Didion Quotes on Life, Love, & Writing

Joan Didion in 1977

There are hugely influential writers who inspire others within their lifetimes, and Joan Didion ( 1934 – 2021 ) was certainly one of them. But it’s after her passing that everything she wrote seems to resonate even more, because we realize that there will be no further words of wisdom. This selection of quotes by Joan Didion highlights her unique talent at examining life — its joys, sorrows, and challenges.

In her tribute to Joan Didion upon her passing, Nancy Snyder wrote, “Joan Didion had her sublime sentences filled with a myriad of details to convey her personal and wholly authentic stories. She wrote about nearly every cultural and political upheaval that transformed the U.S. from the 1960s to the present day.”

Another, equally significant part of Didion’s writing is her observations on day-to-day things in a way that many of us already think about. But the manner in which she expressed them was anything but commonplace. She faced tragedies, like the loss of a beloved husband and a daughter, with words that cannot help but move. Read More→

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams turns 100

Velveteen Rabbit original 1922 cover

The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) by Margery Williams was published in 1922 and has been in print ever since. The best-known book by British-born author Margery Williams Bianco (1881 – 1944), it has been a children’s classic for generations. In 2022, we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of its publication.

The story is at its heart about the transformative power of love. The original edition was illustrated by William Nicholson, and has been through numerous editions, with artwork by various illustrators.

A 1924 review in The Detroit News observed,  How Toys Become Real is the inner story of The Velveteen Rabbit, but there’s no syrupy moral to it. It’s just that if a toy is loved enough, it finally, through the alchemy of love, becomes real.” Read More→

Sydney Taylor, Author of All-of-a-Kind Family

Sydney Taylor

Sydney Taylor (born Sarah Brenner; October 30, 1904 – February 12, 1978) was an American author best known for All-of-a-Kind Family. This series of autobiographical children’s novels portrays the life of an Eastern European Jewish immigrant family in New York City in the early twentieth century.

Though she wrote several other children’s novels, the five books in the All-of-a-Kind Family series proved to be her lasting legacy, earning a devoted audience for their warm and loving depiction of Jewish life in early twentieth-century America. Read More→

Anzia Yezierska, author of Bread Givers

Anzia Yezierska

Anzia Yezierska (October 29, 1880 – November 21, 1970) was a Polish-born Jewish-American writer who achieved renown for her fiction on the immigrant experience in the early twentieth century.

Her most notable novel has remained  Bread Givers (1925). She also achieved renown with her first short story collection, Hungry Hearts (1920), and her 1923 novel, Salome of the Tenements (1923). 

When her family immigrated to the U.S. in 1893, they were among the masses of Eastern European Jews who arrived between 1880 to 1924. Like many Jewish immigrants, they settled and lived in the immigrant neighborhood of the East side of Manhattan.  Read More→

Anzia Yezierska on Her Struggle to Write Bread Givers (1925)

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska 1925

Anzia Yezierska (1890 – 1870), a Polish-born, Jewish-American writer was in her early teens when her family immigrated into the United States during the mass Jewish immigration between 1880 to 1924. They settled and lived in the immigrant neighborhood of the East side of Manhattan.

Bread Givers (1925) remains her best-known novel among a body of work that reflected the Jewish immigrant experience in America of the early 1900s. To set this kind of story down with a female perspective was quite a rarity in her time, reflecting the author’s  unflagging determination. Read More→

Janet Flanner, Paris Correspondent for The New Yorker

Janet Flanner in 1940, National Portrait Gallery

Janet Flanner (March 13, 1892 – November 7, 1978) was an American writer and journalist who spent much of her career writing as Paris correspondent for The New Yorker. Under the pen name Gênet, she authored the magazine’s “Letter from Paris” for almost fifty years.

She was a prominent member of the expatriate community that settled in Paris between two World Wars, and made her home there until 1975, after which she returned to New York. Portrait at right, Janet Flanner in 1940 (National Portrait Gallery).

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The Daring Fiction of Maude Hutchins

Maude Phelps Hutchins

Maude Phelps McVeigh Hutchins (1899 –1991) was raised in an upper-class environment, born to wealthy parents in New York City. She was orphaned at a young age and brought up by her grandparents, prominent members Long Island society.

This introduction to Maude Hutchins’ creative life, first in the visual arts and then more predominantly as the author of fiction considered daring even by mid-twentieth-century standards, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel  by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

A 1935 article about Hutchins (in her then role as a sculptor in Chicago) makes it clear just how aristocratic her family was. “Mrs. Hutchins’ mother was a Phelps, of a New England family that made their advent in Massachusetts in 1632. It was her Phelps grandparents who brought her up after her parents died.” Read More→