Dorothy West - (1901 - 1998) West was active in the Harlem Renaissance movement as a teenager and was the last surviving member of the period. West, best known for her short stories, debuted with The Living Is Easy in 1948.
In 1926, shortly after she graduated from Girls' Latin School in Boston, West tied for second prize in a short story contest with Zora Neale Hurston. Her first novel, The Living Is Easy, about the black middle class in Boston, came out in 1948.
Hurston befriended West and brought her to New York, where she was adopted by the
more established writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Richard Wright and Langston Hughes.
“We didn't know it was the Harlem Renaissance, because we were all young and all poor,” West told The Associated Press in 1995. “We had no jobs to speak of, and we had rent parties to raise rent money.”
West published her second novel, The Wedding, at the age of 88, nearly 50 years after her first in 1926. It was so successful that Doubleday quickly brought out a collection of her short stories and reminiscences, The Richer, The Poorer.
West's Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color
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by Cherene Sherrard-Johnson
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Rutgers University Press (December 29, 2011)
Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6 x 9 inches
BCALA Literary Award Winning Book 2013
Dorothy West is best known as one of the youngest writers involved in the Harlem Renaissance. Subsequently, her work is read as a product of the urban aesthetics of this artistic movement. But West was also intimately rooted in a very different milieu—Oak Bluffs, an exclusive retreat for African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard. She played an integral role in the development and preservation of that community. In the years between publishing her two novels, 1948’s The Living is Easy and the 1995 bestseller The Wedding, she worked as a columnist for the Vineyard Gazette.
Dorothy West’s Paradise captures the scope of the author’s long life and career, reading it alongside the unique cultural geography of Oak Bluffs and its history as an elite African American enclave—a place that West envisioned both as a separatist refuge and as a space for interracial contact. An essential book for both fans of West’s fiction and students of race, class, and American women’s lives, Dorothy West’s Paradise offers an intimate biography of an important author and a privileged glimpse into the society that shaped her work.
Sisters: Dorothy West and Her Circle, A Biography of the Harlem Renaissance
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by Verner D. Mitchell and Cynthia Davis
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Rutgers University Press (November 2, 2011)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
Harlem Renaissance writer Dorothy West led a charmed life in many respects. Born into a distinguished Boston family, she appeared in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, then lived in the Soviet Union with a group that included Langston Hughes, to whom she proposed marriage. She later became friends with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who encouraged her to finish her second novel, The Wedding, which became the octogenarian author’s first bestseller.
Literary Sisters reveals a different side of West’s personal and professional lives—her struggles for recognition outside of the traditional literary establishment, and her collaborations with talented African American women writers, artists, and performers who faced these same problems. West and her “literary sisters”—women like Zora Neale Hurston and West’s cousin, poet Helene Johnson—created an emotional support network that also aided in promoting, publishing, and performing their respective works. Integrating rare photos, letters, and archival materials from West’s life, Literary Sisters is not only a groundbreaking biography of an increasingly important author but also a vivid portrait of a pivotal moment for African American women in the arts.
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Anchor (June 1, 1996)
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
On the heels of the bestseller success of her novel The Wedding, Dorothy West, the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, presents a collection of essays and stories that explore both the realism of everyday life, and the fantastical, extraordinary circumstances of one woman's life in a mythic time. Traversing the universal themes and conflicts between poverty and prosperity, men and women, and young and old, and compiling writing that spans almost seventy years, The Richer, The Poorer not only affords an unparalleled window into the African-American middle class, but also delves into the richness of experience of "one of the finest writers produced in this country during the Roaring Twenties" (Book Page).
“West writes like a social historian, capturing significant moments that seem to alter lives forever or change nothing at all.” —Los Angeles Times
“Unforced perfection . . . beautifully cadenced. West has shown the power of what is left unspoken.” —Chicago Tribune
“Dorothy West is an epic storyteller.” —Quarterly Black Review of Books
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (January 1, 1996)
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
In her first novel in forty-seven years, Dorothy West, the last surviving
member of the Harlem Renaissance, offers an intimate glimpse into African
American middle class. Set on bucolic Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s, The
Wedding tells the story of life in the Oval, a proud, insular community made
up of the best and brightest of the East Coast's black bourgeoisie. Within
this inner circle of "blue-vein society," we witness the prominent Coles
family gather for the wedding of the loveliest daughter, Shelby, who could
have chosen from "a whole area of eligible men of the right colors and the
right professions." Instead, she has fallen in love with and is about to be
married to Meade Wyler, a white jazz musician from New York. A shock wave
breaks over the Oval as its longtime members grapple with the changing face
of its community.
On the island of Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s there exists a proud, insular, nearly unassailable community known as the Oval, made up of the best and brightest of New York's and Boston's black bourgeoisie. Dr. Clark Coles and his wife Corinne, pillars of this community, are mortified that their youngest daughter Shelby is set on marrying Meade Wyler, a white jazz musician from New York. Equally alarmed is Lute McNeil, a successful black furniture maker from Boston who is new to Oak Bluffs and desperate for social acceptance. Lute has fallen in love with Shelby Coles, or at least the way of life she represents, and he will stop at nothing to pull her away from Meade. As the day of the wedding approaches, the tension surrounding Shelby, Lute, and Meade builds, climaxing in a single tragic act that will forever change the lives of three American families. The Wedding is a wise and heartfelt novel about the shackles of race and class we all wear and the price we pay to break them. It is also an unforgettable history of the rise of the black middle class, written by a woman who lived it. This wise, heartfelt tale marks Dorothy West's first novel in over four decades.
With elegant, luminous prose, Dorothy West crowns her literary career by illustrating one family's struggle to break the shackles of race and class.
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY; 1ST edition (July 1, 1995)
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
One of only a handful of novels published by black women during the
forties, the story of ambitious Cleo Judson is a long-time cult classic. The
Living Is Easy is delightfully wry and ironic humor, even bitchiness, of the
novel coexists with a challenging moral and social complexity.
"Long beloved for its wry and ironic humor, this novel continues to delight and challenge readers."—Feminist Bookstore News
Dorothy West Marthas Vineyard: Stories, Essays and Reminiscences by Dorothy
West Writing in the Vineyard Gazette
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Paperback: 154 pages
Publisher: Mcfarland & Co Inc Pub (January 2001)
Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.1 inches
This book is a compilation of selected stories, essays, and reminiscences that Dorothy West wrote for the Vineyard Gazette from the 1960s to the early 1990s. In these entries, West retraces life on the island as she experienced it from 1908, when she was an infant, to 1993 when she wrote her final column. Born in 1907 in Boston, Dorothy West went on to develop into a prize-winning author by the time she was in her teens. The 1926 award she received in New York, and the lure of the city itself, inspired West to leave Boston and join what was then a fledgling literary movement that would evolve into the Harlem Renaissance.
She circulated among what in essence was the black literary "royalty" of her times, of which she was a signal member. By the mid-1940s West had returned to Massachusetts, to Martha's Vineyard. She began to write a column for the local paper about the comings and goings of island residents and visitors. It was her column in the Gazette that drew the attention of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who, on one of her island visits, met the author and expressed her admiration. Onassis, at the time, just happened to be an editor at Doubleday. When Onassis learned of a decades-old manuscript that had been laid aside, she urged West to pick up the work again. West later dedicated this book "To the memory of my editor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Though there was never such a mismatched pair in appearance, we were perfect partners." The authors selected from the Gazette columns that West wrote over the three decades, those on people, events, and nature that seemed to have the greatest historic, artistic, or philosophical import.
A tribute by E.
(An Excerpt Below}
"Novelist, short story writer, editor, and journalist Dorothy West died August 16, 1998, at the age of 91. Her death was mourned by many as the passing of the last living member of the Harlem Renaissance, but that extraordinary outburst of African-American artistry only marked the beginning of her career. West continued to write for another seven decades, and her essays and fiction attest to the fact that she was a writer who traveled the distance, exploring with dignity, insight, and elegance the important issues of race, color, and class within the African-American community. "