Barbara Guest was born Barbara Ann Pinson on September 6, 1920, in Wilmington, North Carolina, to James Harvey Pinson and Anna Mae Pinson. Her parents were in Wilmington a very brief time while her father looked for work. Guest had two brothers and two sisters. The family moved around a great deal, and the young Guest bounced between Charleston, West Virginia, where her grandparents lived, and small towns near Miami, Florida, where her parents were staying. The lack of a stable, consistent home and a secure place within her family created an anxiety-based tension in Guest that revealed itself later in her writings. Her work often reflected an undercurrent of impermanence and a sense of timelessness and lack of definitive parameters. Guest’s early education was completed in small, rural rustic schools, where she outdistanced her classmates, having learned to read at age three.
Because the young Guest showed high aptitude at a very early age, her West Virginia grandmother thought it wise to encourage her talent by exposing her to a good liberal education. She was therefore sent to live with an aunt and uncle who lived in Los Angeles. Guest graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1938. She then attended the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in English literature. She met her future husband, painter and sculptor John Dudley, during her freshman year. Dissatisfied with the poetry classes, she transferred to the University of California,...
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