Bette Greene was born Bette Evensky on June 28, 1934, in Memphis, Tennessee. A few years later, her family moved to Parkin, Arkansas, located just beyond the Tennessee-Arkansas border, where she attended elementary school. Her father, a merchant, operated a traditional country store in Parkin during World War II.
When Greene was thirteen years old her family returned to the Memphis area. She graduated from Memphis Central High School in 1952 and went to France, where she attended the Alliance Francaise in Paris. Later she attended several other universities in the United States: Memphis State University, the University of Alabama, Columbia, and Harvard. While at Memphis State, Greene worked for the school newspaper, as well as the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Hebrew Watchman. She became a full-time reporter for the Commercial Appeal from 1950 to 1952 and was affiliated with the Memphis bureau of the United Press from 1953 to 1954. Greene served as public information officer for the American Red Cross in Memphis from 1958 to 1959 and for the Boston State Psychiatric Hospital in Massachusetts from 1959 to 1961. She married Donald Sumner Greene, a physician, on June 14, 1959. They have two children, Carla and Jordan Joshua, and they live in Brookline, Massachusetts.
After publishing several short stories and newspaper and magazine articles, Greene turned to novel writing. Her first published novel, Summer of My German...
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