Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Paula Fox writes novels for adults and young people. Her novels tend to be realistic, treating serious individual and social problems. She is best known for her novels for children and young adults. Her children’s works have received many awards, including the John Newbery Medal in 1974 for The Slave Dancer, given by the American Library Association for the best American book for children on the basis of its story. In 1978, she received the Hans Christian Andersen Award, given by the International Board on Books for Young People because of the contribution her works make to children’s literature. Her adult books tend to win few awards; however, Borrowed Finery was selected as one of The New York Times best books for 2001.
In interviews and in her memoir, Borrowed Finery, Fox discusses her strange childhood. She was born in New York City, the child of an American screenwriter and his Cuban wife, who abandoned her shortly after birth. She spent most of her first six years—according to Borrowed Finery, among her happiest years—living with Elwood Amos Corning, a Congregational minister to whom she was not related, and his arthritic mother. During this time, her parents rarely visited or contacted her.
Fox then lived for a while with her parents, mostly in California. Her father drank heavily, and both parents abused her emotionally. Beginning in 1931, she spent several years with her maternal grandmother, for a while in New York City and then in Cuba on a sugar plantation where her grandmother worked. She married, divorced, placed a child up for adoption, remarried, had children, and divorced...
(The entire section is 681 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Bassoff, Bruce. “Royalty in a Rainy Country: Two Novels of Paula Fox.” Critique 20 (1978): 33-47. Bassoff carefully reads Desperate Characters and The Widow’s Children, arriving at conclusions that have implications for all of Fox’s adult novels, especially the idea that one gives up one’s dreams and one’s sovereignty as one ages.
Rehak, Melanie. “The Life and Death and Life of Paula Fox.” The New York Times Magazine, March 4, 2001, 28-31. Rehak discusses the rediscovery in the 1990’s of Fox’s books for adults.
Rustin, Margaret, and Michael Rustin. Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children’s Fiction. Rev. ed. London: H. Karnac, 2001. Chapter 11 treats three of Fox’s children’s works in terms of their sociological setting and understanding of the psychology of her child characters.