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Author biography

Foregrounding Women in History


With the increased emphasis on composition in schooling, it is important to recognize that the reading-writing connection might be encouraged through having students see how authors and illustrators talk about the relationships between their lives and their work in autobiographies. In reading about the coming of age of a favorite author, potential writers may begin to see connections and possibilities for their own work. Biographies, as well as autobiographies, provide insights into a creator's work; and, where both are available, it could be informative to compare the two. A parallel writing activity for young people might be to interview each other about a specific incident in each student's own life and then compare the subject's own written autobiographical account with that of his or her student biographer.

The works listed below should prove helpful in exploring a variety of standpoints on the writing of biography and autobiography. Young people may find biography/autobiography of great interest if it is presented with enthusiasm and honesty. Some may find the foregrounding of women in history to be another approach to understanding biography.

Autobiography is not the story of a life; it is the recreation or the discovery of one. In writing of experience, we discover what it was, and in the writing create the pattern we seem to have lived. Often, of course, autobiography is merely a collection of well-rehearsed anecdotes; but, intelligently written, it is the revelation, to the reader and the writer, of the writer's conception of the life he or she has lived. Simply put, autobiography is a reckoning. Biography is another matter. A two-person dialogue, biography is the imposition of the biographer's perception upon the life of the subject. There is no truth; there are, indeed, remarkably few facts. Biographers differ in their objectivity, but those who consider themselves most objective are probably those who fail to see their own biases and assumptions. I, as the biographer of a feminist, begin from the desire to write the life of a woman who became, simultaneously, the epitome of female beauty and the quintessence of female revolution. I see as valiant her questioning of the powerful on behalf of the dispossessed; others might see it as deleterious. That is why there need to be many biographies of a complex subject-at least one every generation-if an individual life is to hold meaning for readers born in a different time and place from the subject, if a life is to be usefully interpreted for an ever-changing audience. (Heilbrun, The Education of a Woman, pp. xvii-xviii)

Alpern, Sara, Joyce Antler, Elisabeth I. Perry, and Ingrid W. Scobie, Eds. The Challenge of Feminist Biography: Writing the Lives of Modern American Women. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

Anderson, Linda. Remembering Futures: Women and Autobiography in the Twentieth Century. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Andrews, William L., Ed. African American Autobiography: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993.

Bak, Hans, et al. Writing Lives: American Biography and Autobiography. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1999.

Bell, Susan Groag and Marilyn Yalom, Eds. Revealing Lives: Autobiography, Biography, and Gender. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1990.

Braxton, Joanne M. Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1989.

Brodzki, Bella and Celeste Schenck, Eds. Life/Lines: Theorizing Women's Autobiography. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988.

Christianson, Gale E. Writing Lives Is the Devil: Essays of a Biographer at Work. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1993.

Coleman, Linda, Ed. Womenís Life-Writing: Finding Voice Building Community. Bowling Green, KY: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997.

Collins, Carol Jones. "African-American Young Adult Biography: In Search of Self," in African-American Voices in Young Adult Literature. ed. by Karen Patricia Smith. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1994, pp. 1-29.

Ellerby, Janet. Intimate Reading: The Contemporary Womenís Memoir.  Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2001.

Fay, Mary Ann, Ed. Autobiography and the Construction of Identity and Community in the Middle East.  New York: Palgrave, 2002.

Freadman, Richard. Threads of Life: Autobiography and the Will. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Gallagher, Ann-Marie; Lubelska, Cathy; and Ryan, Louise, Eds. Re-presenting the Past: Women and History. New York: Longman, 2001.

Gilmore, Leigh. Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Women's Self-Representation. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Gittelson, Brenda. Biography. New York: Knopf, 1991.

Heilbrun, Carolyn G. Writing a Woman's Life. New York: Norton, 1988.

Honan, Paul. Authors' Lives. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Iles, Teresa, Ed. All Sides of the Subject: Women and Biography. New York: Teachers College Press, 1992.

Jacobson, Marcia. Being a Boy Again: Autobiography and the American Boy Book. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1995.

Krupat, Arnold. For Those Who Come After: A Study of Native American Autobiography. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985.

Law, Joe and Hughes, Land. Biographical Passages: Essays on Victorian and Modernist Biography.  Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2000.

Lionnet, Francoise. Autobiographical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.

Mallin, Jo. The Voice of the Mother: Embedded Maternal Narratives in Twentieth-Century Womenís Autobiographies.

Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.

Maxwell, Rhoda. Writing our Lives. Old Tappan, NJ: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.

McBride, Dwight. Witnesses: Truth, Abolition, and Slave Testimony.  New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Morton, Patricia. Disfigured Images: The Historical Assault on Afro-American Women. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1991.

Olney, James, Ed. Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

Perkins, Margo. Autobiography as Activism: Three Black Women of the Sixties. Oxford, MS: University of Mississippi, 2000.

Perreault, Jeanne. Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autography. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

Polkey, Pauline. Womenís Lives into Print: The Theory, Practice and Writing of Feminist Autobiography. New York: St. Martinís Press, 1999.

Polkey, Pauline. Representing Lives: Women and Autobiography.  New York: St. Martinís Press, 2000.

Stull, James N. Literary Selves: Autobiography and Contemporary American Nonfiction. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. Telling Women's Lives: The New Biography. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994.

Wink, Amy. He Left Nothing in Particular: The Autobiographical Legacy of Nineteenth-Century Womenís Diaries. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 2001.

Wong, Hertha Dawn. Sending My Heart Back Across the Years: Tradition and Innovation in Native American Autobiography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Young-Breuhl, Elisabeth. Subject to Biography: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and Writing Womenís Lives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Created January 28, 1996 and is continuously revised
SCILS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey