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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