M. E. Kerr was born Marijane Agnes Meaker in 1927 in the small town of Auburn, New York. Her parents were Ida Meaker, a homemaker, and Ellis Meaker, a mayonnaise manufacturer, and Meaker had both an older and a younger brother.
Although Meaker did not consider her parents to be particularly intellectual, the Meaker home was full of books, and Marijane was an avid reader. She knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer and began submitting stories to various publications while still in school. Even then, she submitted her work under a variety of pseudonyms, many of which were male, in part because male writers were more socially accepted than female writers at that time and in part because Meaker found the idea of creating alternate personas fascinating.
Meaker’s teenage years were largely shaped by World War II, during which her older brother served in the armed forces, and many of her schoolmates also eventually went off to war. In one wartime incident, which Meaker chronicles in her memoir Me, Me, Me, Me, Me: Not a Novel (1983), Meaker and a boy she sometimes dated helped a female friend who was Christian elope with a young Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany on the night before the young man was to go off to war. Later, Meaker modeled an important character in If I Love You, Am I Trapped Forever? (1973) after this Jewish friend.
Perhaps because Meaker’s father feared that Meaker might do something similar herself, he was rather strict and did not allow his daughter to date soldiers, which made it somewhat difficult for her to maintain an active social life. Meaker therefore spent a great deal of her time in her room writing stories, which her mother found worrisome and unfeminine. Eventually, because she wanted to escape both her parents’ strictness and what she viewed as the limits of small-town life, Meaker convinced her parents to send her to boarding school at Stuart Hall in Staunton, Virginia. There, Meaker found herself to be something of a loner and troublemaker, and she was even expelled in her senior year, although her parents managed to have her reinstated in time to graduate with her class. Meaker then went on to study at Vermont Junior College and the University of Missouri, where she initially studied journalism but finished with a degree in English literature.
Her formal schooling complete, Meaker moved to New York City, where she...
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