Barbara Beasley Murphy

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Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Barbara Beasley Murphy was born to Dr. William De Ford (a physician) and Henryetta (Kurtz) Beasley on February 4, 1933 in Springfield, Ohio. When Murphy was a child, her mother read children's books and recited poetry to her regularly. As Murphy grew up in Ohio, and then in North Carolina during World War II, many issues touched young Murphy—including cultural diversity, violence, and racism. In addition to her love of children's books, and reading and writing for children, Murphy believes that these early experiences began to set the stage for her future career as a writer.

As a young adult, Murphy attended Drake University from 1951-1953. She earned her bachelor of arts degree from the University of North Carolina in 1955. After graduation, Murphy pursued a career in junior high education as a teacher of English in Euclid, Ohio (1956-1957). She became a high school teacher of speech and drama in New York City (1957-1962). Her career also included an acting stint during the summer of 1957 at the Wilmington Summer Theatre in Ohio. The author later married Bill Murphy, a cartoonist and designer, in 1961, and raised their two children: Stephen and Jennifer.

Murphy told Contemporary Authors (1984): "I'm in love with the visual, with seeing. I'm not naturally good with words as many writers are. Words sometimes come slowly. But I can't draw or paint so I write."

The author continued, "When I write, the story comes to me in pictures. I try to describe them well enough for a reader to see what I see. After the sentences are down, I mess around with the words, smoothing them like adobe, or plumping them up like pillows. It seems egotistical writing down your images for a year or so then waiting impatiently for other people to read them. My only excuse is that I'm grateful for the other writers who do it. Their words have added such richness to my life, I forgive the vanity and appreciate their impulse to share."

The author believes that several things in her life helped her to get started writing books. As she experienced racial prejudices firsthand in the South during WWII, she grew concerned about this tension. It motivated her to write Home Free. Writing helped her to work through the problems she had with racism.

The author continued to write books about deep issues. She mitigated them with humor to present the issues kindly. Murphy wrote the book No Place to Run in response to the violence she heard about in New York news reports. This book tells how a New York City boy deals with his guilt, experiences self-forgiveness, and gains acceptance after he helps his friends spray paint a sleeping vagrant.

School board members in Calhoun County, Alabama, banned the book for "vulgar" language, and later placed the book on the restricted shelves of school libraries. Murphy, a deeply religious person and child advocate, fought the ban with the aid of the P.E.N. American Center with the belief that banning books "leads to the diminishment of human life."

At the same time Murphy wrote No Place to Run, Murphy helped build the Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan at Citicorp Center. For eight years, she served on the design and building committees and the church council. They tore down the old structure, had the new one designed, comforted the congregation during the move, maintained a ministry to the city, and watched the new church rise. Murphy believes that "a book is an interpretation of what life is." To her, building and writing are "very passionate things."

Murphy lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. To begin her day as a writer, she looks at the cascading view of mountains from her home. On a clear day, she can see Colorado one hundred twenty-five miles away as she "attends the dawn." Murphy then goes to her studio and writes her latest project. She takes time out to have "her dog walk her."

The author stays active in associations as a member of P.E.N., the Authors Guild, Phi Beta Kappa, and the New Mexico Book Association. She is a founding member of...

(The entire section is 1,485 words.)