Nobody understood unfulfilled dreams quite like Alice Adams did. Her work was often defined by everyday people whose lives did not turn out the way they had hoped or expected. Adams’ perspective was based on experience. She toiled in unfulfilling jobs and spent much of her early adulthood in an unhappy marriage. One of her best-beloved stories, “Beautiful Girl,” is a case in point: it focuses on a past-her-prime beauty queen who has lapsed into alcoholism. As “Beautiful Girl” attests, Adams was keenly aware of the struggles and disappointments of women. Her characters could be difficult to like, but they were based in the real-life dreams and real-world failures faced by many American women, including Adams herself.
- Though born in Virginia, Adams studied at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating at the end of the Second World War.
- Adams was widely recognized for her short stories and won the prestigious O. Henry Award 19 times.
- Her prolific output as a writer frequently puts her in the company of other authors with lengthy bibliographies, such as John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates.
- A divorcee raising a child on her own, Adams was over 40 years old before she found success (and permanent employment) as a writer.
- Adams’ stories were often drawn from her own life. Her experiences as a secretary formed the basis the novel Medicine Men.