Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
John Richard Hersey is considered by some to be the most gifted American writer of the contemporary history novel, or “new journalism,” as it came to be called. He was born in Tianjin, China, to the American missionaries Roscoe Monroe and Grace Baird Hersey. In 1924 the family returned to the United States, where Hersey attended public schools and Hotchkiss preparatory high school before earning a B.A. from Yale University in 1936. During 1936 to 1937 he studied eighteenth century English literature at the University of Cambridge and spent the summer of 1937 as a private secretary, driver, and factotum for the novelist Sinclair Lewis.
In 1937 Hersey began a career as a journalist. He worked as a war correspondent for Time and Life magazines during World War II, reporting from both the Asian and European theaters. After 1945 Hersey employed his journalistic talents intermittently as a writer for Life, The New Yorker, and a variety of other magazines. Hersey maintained a lifelong interest in education. He not only served on the faculties of several major universities and as writer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome (1970-1971) but was also an active member of local school boards and several national committees or councils of education, including the National Citizens’ Council for the Public Schools (1956-1958) and the National Committee for the Support of the Public Schools (1962-1968). In 1940 Hersey...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
John Richard Hersey was born in Tianjin, China, on June 17, 1914, to Roscoe and Grace Baird Hersey. His father, a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) secretary, and his mother, a missionary, took him on a trip around the world when he was three years old, but most of the first decade of his life was spent in the missionary compound, where, although isolated to an extent from the community, he learned to speak Chinese before he spoke English. From the time he learned to read and write, he amused himself by playing reporter and writing his family news and daily events at the British grammar school and the American school in Tianjin. Despite his early life abroad, Hersey considered his life there “no more exciting than the average child’s.”
In 1924, Hersey, who knew of the United States only from secondhand accounts and what could be gleaned from books and magazines, was enrolled in the Briarcliff Manor public schools in New York. Three years later, he entered the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, and graduated in 1932. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree from Yale in 1936, he went on to study eighteenth century English literature on a Mellon Scholarship at Clare College, Cambridge. During this time, he became determined to be a reporter for Time, because it seemed “the liveliest enterprise of its type.” While waiting for an opening, he became the secretary and driver of Sinclair Lewis in the summer of 1937, the...
(The entire section is 1532 words.)