Kate Chopin, who reached her creative peak in the late nineteenth century, wrote about issues that wouldn' t take social focus until many years after her death. In her frank portrayals of female sexuality and female independence, Chopin raised such matters normally left to male writers—if any writers at all. In 1899, she published her highly controversial novel, The Awakening, which details one woman's adulterous affairs and, perhaps more shockingly, her intent to seize control of her own life. The Awakening is reputed to have been banned from Chopin's local libraries, to have led to her expulsion from literary society, and to have contributed to the virtual end of her writing career. However, even after its critical reception, Chopin continued to investigate similar themes in several short stories.
‘‘Désirée's Baby,’’ written in 1893, is the short story for which Chopin is most well known. When the story collection in which it was reprinted, Bayou Folk, was first published, reviewers particularly appreciated Chopin's remarkable evocation of Cajun Louisiana. Today, however, readers and critics find ''Désirée's Baby'' to be much more than an examination of a distinct cultural place. Though brief, the story raises important issues that still plagued Chopin's South, particularly the pervasive and destructive yet ambiguous nature of racism. The story also questions the potential fulfillment of woman's identity—a subject that fascinated the unconventional Chopin. In her portrayal of Désirée, a woman whose self-worth and self-exploration is intrinsically linked to that of her husband, Chopin opened the door to her lifelong query into a woman's struggle for a place where she could fully belong.