Biography

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Margaret Craven was born on March 13, 1901, in Helena, Montana, and grew up in Sacramento, California. Aspiring to be a writer, she attended Stanford University and graduated in 1924 with honors. After a brief stint as a secretary for a San Jose newspaper, she showed enough skill to take on writing assignments. Shortly after this, Craven lost most of her eyesight in an accident and found herself unable to undertake the novel she had long planned to write. But she became a successful short story writer, publishing many of her works in such leading magazines as the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies' Home Journal.

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During the 1960s, Craven read an article about the plight of the Kwakiutl Native Americans of British Columbia. Inspired by the story, she wrote a short story called "Indian Outpost." Oddly enough, at this time her vision began to improve dramatically. Craven delved into her subject, researching the tribe and its way of life. At the age of sixtynine, she began work on her longdelayed novel, I Heard the Owl Call My Name.

In writing the book, she depicted many of the Native Americans and priests she had met while visiting the tribe and speaking to churchmen. Upon completing the novel, Craven was disturbed to find that no American publishers were interested in the subject. But the Canadian firm of Clark-Irwin published it in 1967, and the book was successful enough to persuade the American publisher Doubleday to release an American edition in 1973. The novel was a best seller at once. Critics admired it, and one of the Native Americans Craven had met called it "a masterpiece of our people."

In 1973 the book was made into a television movie starring the British actor Tom Courtenay. Craven then wrote a second novel, Walk Gently This Good Earth, and an autobiographical work, Again Calls the Owl, which tells a good deal about her success as an author. Craven died on July 19, 1980, in Sacramento, California, and a final book, The Home Front, composed of her earlier short fiction, was published a year later.

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Critical Essays