Jean Guttery Fritz, the only child of American missionaries, was born on November 16, 1915, in Hankow, China. The family lived in China until the mid- 1920s, when revolution made it too dangerous for foreigners to remain. Fritz kept a childhood journal in which she copied her favorite passages from books and poems and recorded her thoughts about life in China. This journal became an important source for Homesick, the autobiographical story of her years in China.
Fritz decided early in life to pursue a writing career. She studied English literature at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. After graduation, hoping to find an outlet for her writing skills, she enrolled in an advertising course at Columbia University in New York City. But she disliked the advertising business because it seemed dishonest, and in 1939 she went to work for the Silver Burdett Company, textbook publishers.
Her career in publishing ended in 1941, when she married Michael Fritz and moved with him to San Francisco, where he had been recalled to military service after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. She gave birth to a son in 1943 and a daughter in 1947, wrote book reviews and teacher's manuals, and served as a ghostwriter. In 1953 the family moved to Dobbs Ferry, New York, and Fritz volunteered to work in the public library. She established a children's department and traded her volunteer job for a paid library position.
In the mid-1950s Fritz...
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