Eulalie Spence, Playwright of the Harlem Renaissance Era

Playwright Eulalie Spence in the 1920s

Eulalie Spence (June 11, 1894 – March 7, 1981) was an award-winning American playwright, stage director, actress, and educator. As a prolific Black writer in the first half of the twentieth century, Spence was most active during the Harlem Renaissance era.

She was so esteemed and  prolific in her heyday that her relative obscurity today is unfathomable. Like many of her contemporaries who blossomed during the Harlem Renaissance years, she was multitalented — a writer and playwright, as well as an actress and teacher. She authored some fourteen plays, five of which were preserved in print; nearly all were staged. 

An immigrant from the British West Indies, Spence went against the prevailing trend of her time among Black creatives, which was to use the arts in all forms to press for racial justice. She believed that plays were for entertainment and considered herself a “folk dramatist.”  Read More→

China Court by Rumer Godden (1961)

China Court by Rumer Godden1

At first glimpse, China Court by Rumer Godden, the prolific British author, seems fairly straightforward. But this 1961 novel is a book of subtlety and many layers. The grand house that is called China Court is almost a character in itself, developing alongside its human inhabitants. 

Though not as widely read as she was during her lifetime, Rumer Godden’s books still resonate with contemporary readers. Though there are some mixed reviews, overall, China Court ranks highly in this reader discussion on Goodreads.

Originally subtitled The Hours of a Country House, here it’s described by the publisher of the 2021 edition (Open Road Media): Read More→

10 Classic Women Authors and Their Cats

Colette and her cat

In this site’s overview of classic women authors and their dogs and cats, it seems like dogs have the clear edge as writers’ preferred furry friends. But digging deeper, I’m no longer so sure of that! As it turns out, women authors and their cats are just as companionable, which this roundup will amply demonstrate.

I got to thinking about this when I heard that my friend and colleague Bob Eckstein had produced The Complete Book of Cat Names (That Your Cat Won’t Answer to, Anyway). Bob is a New Yorker cartoonist and a wonderful watercolorist. You may also enjoy this excerpt from his book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores. Read More→

“Wilder, Eve” – Else Lasker–Schüler’s Vision of Woman in Eden

Else Lasker-Schuler

Along with Nelly Sachs and Paul Celan, Else Lasker-Schüler (1869 – 1945) was one of the most important German-Jewish poets of the twentieth century. And along with August Stramm and Georg Trakl, she was one of the most important early German expressionist poets.

This look at one of her best-known works is adapted from the forthcoming Wilder, Eve, Some Early Poems of Else Lasker-Schüler, translated by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission.

Born Elizabeth Schüler into a middle-class banking family in what is now Wuppertal, Germany in 1869, she began writing poetry very early, imagining herself as a child living in the Orient, a fantasy that persisted throughout her life. Read More→

Marguerite Duras, author of The Lover

Marguerite Duras (April 4, 1914 – March 3, 1996), born Marguerite Germaine Marie Donnadieu, was a French novelist, screenwriter, playwright, filmmaker, and essayist.

Her work was largely shaped by her childhood in present-day Vietnam and received several awards, including the Prix Goncourt for her novel The Lover, and an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay of Hiroshima Mon Amour.

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Books by Rachel Carson: Before and After Silent Spring

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson-1962

Through the gracefully written books by Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964), the noted American marine biologist, conservationist, the public was gifted with a view of the natural world. Undoubtedly, her research and writings shaped the environmental movement.

She wrote eloquently in her nonfiction works, conveying how every living entity interacts with the broader web of life. Though Rachel Carson is known more as a scientist and environmentalist than as a writer, there’s no question that her passion for literature fueled her impassioned writings.

Silent Spring (1962) was her best known work, boldly opening awareness of the harmful use of pesticides. She also wrote three volumes about the oceans, which became known as the “Sea Trilogy” and a book that encouraged families to discover the wonders of nature together. Read More→

The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson (1955)

The edge of the sea by Rachel Carson

The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson (1955), was the last book of what became known as her “Sea Trilogy,” preceded by Under the Sea Wind (1942) and The Sea Around Us (1951). Her meticulously researched nonfiction writing was known for its graceful and poetic style.

Carson (1907 – 1964) was a noted American marine biologist, conservationist, and writer whose research and graceful writing about the natural world shaped today’s environmental movement. 

Her best-known book, Silent Spring (1962), raised awareness about the use of pesticides and contributed to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Read More→

The Six Brilliant Novels of Jane Austen (plus Sanditon)

Jane austen Mary and Henry Crawford stamp 1975

It’s a testament to an author when a relatively small body of work endures through the ages. The six brilliant novels of Jane Austen have not only stood the test of time, but have continued to be adapted for film and television (not to mention fanfiction by other authors, a list far too vast to enumerate).

With six exquisite novels displaying compassion, humor, and insight into the travails of the sexes and social classes, Jane Austen’s place in literary history is forever secured.

Despite the popular portrayal of her as all charm and modesty, she was a writer and observer of human nature with full mastery of her gifts. She cared deeply about getting published and being read, despite myths to the contrary.  Read More→