Rosellen Brown Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Rosellen Brown is noted for her perceptive treatment of alienation, displacement, exile, and disaster in seemingly ordinary American families. Born in Philadelphia to Jewish parents, who moved frequently and much of the time lived in non-Jewish neighborhoods, Brown came to feel that she had no roots. She found, however, that she could escape her loneliness by writing, and by the time she was nine she had decided to become a writer.

After earning a B.A. from Barnard College in 1960 and an M.A. from Brandeis University in 1962, Brown began working at her craft. In 1963, she married Marvin Hoffman, an English teacher, and in 1965 the couple went to Mississippi to teach at Tougaloo College and to participate with their black students in the Civil Rights movement. After the birth of her first child, Adina, Brown wrote most of the poems in her first published volume, Some Deaths in the Delta, and Other Poems, which were inspired by her often frightening experiences in Mississippi.

After three years at Tougaloo, Brown and her husband moved to Brooklyn, New York, where their daughter Elena was born. In 1972, she collaborated on a lucrative nonfiction volume entitled The Whole Word Catalogue. Her real interest, however, was short fiction, and her stories were appearing in magazines and in anthologies, including in the annual publication O. Henry Prize Stories, 1972, 1973, and 1976. In 1974, her collection Street Games appeared, which contains stories drawn from her multiethnic Brooklyn neighborhood. Most of the stories involve problems with relationships, often within the family.

Grants and honors signaled Brown’s increasing status as a writer. In 1973-1974, Brown won a National Endowment for the Humanities creative writing grant. From 1973 to 1975, she was a Radcliffe Institute fellow. During the summer of 1974, she served as a member of the fiction staff at the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

By that time, the family...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Craig, Patricia. “Cripples.” New Statesman 98 (July 13, 1979): 62-63. This article presents a not entirely complimentary review of Tender Mercies. Craig believes that the author has gone a little too far and that the novel contains errors in form and taste. She sees the novel as contributing style, however, and she identifies rehabilitation as the major theme.

D’Erasmo, Stacey. “Home Fires.” The Nation, September 28, 1992. Provides an excellent overview of Brown’s work.

Epstein, Joseph. “Is Fiction Necessary?” The Hudson Review 29 (1976-1977): 593-594. This article contains a review of Brown’s The Autobiography of My Mother. Although Epstein thinks that the novel lacks the direction of a real story, he admits that the characters are remarkable, that the book is intelligent, and that Brown is a novelist worth reading.

Hulbert, Ann. “In Struggle.” The New Republic 190 (May 7, 1984): 37-40. Hulbert’s article contains an insightful and extensive review of Civil Wars and several cursory remarks about the first three Brown novels. Hulbert speaks of Brown’s “Keatsian” inclination and, interesting in relationship to Tender Mercies, defines the word “concentration,” a word that Brown uses often.

Mehren, Elizabeth. “Making Mayhem in Ordinary Lives.” Los Angeles Times, September 3, 1992. Brown reflects on her abiding sense of impending doom.

Rosenbert, Judith. “Rosellen Brown.” Publishers Weekly 239 (August 31, 1992): 54-55. This article contains a review of Before and After, brief mention of all of her publications, and a brief biographical sketch. It also focuses on the relationship between Brown as a parent and her fiction. In the article, Brown discusses the economic relationship between female writers and their spouses.

Thurman, Judith. “Rosellen Brown.” Ms. 13 (January, 1985): 82. In 1985, Ms. honored Brown for her willingness to confront major issues in her fiction. This article contains Brown’s comments about her fiction, about reader expectations, and about her home life, as well as a review of Civil Wars.