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Gordimer, Nadine  

Stephen Clingman

South African novelist, short story writer, essayist, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was born on 20 November 1923 in the small gold mining town of Springs east of Johannesburg Both her parents were Jewish immigrants her father Isidore was a watchmaker and jeweler from the Lithuanian Latvian border her mother Nan came from England Her father with his foreign accent and ways was disparaged in the family he also absorbed the dominant racial models of the time while her mother took more readily to anglicized colonial mores Gordimer grew up in a nonreligious environment though she attended a convent school for the sake of its superior education Early on she was a dancer and sometimes a truant exploring the physical possibilities of veld and mine dumps with innate energy and relish At the age of eleven however her mother withdrew her from school on the putative ...

Article

Mahfouz, Naguib  

Kurt J. Werthmuller

renowned Egyptian author and Nobel laureate for literature in 1988, was born on 11 December 1911 to a middle-class, conservative Muslim family in the Gamiliyya quarter of Old Cairo. He was named for the pioneering Coptic obstetrician Naguib Mikhail Mahfouz, who conducted his mother’s difficult delivery; and he spent the first twelve years of his life with his parents and six siblings in al-Gamiliyya, a traditional hara neighborhood alley in which rich poor and middle class alike resided and rubbed shoulders on a daily basis Among his family Mahfouz s father was stern but gentle natured and while his mother fulfilled her conservative roles she also led a relatively free daily life and often toted along the young Mahfouz on excursions to explore historical sites around Cairo It was their traditional neighborhood which provided the setting and template and colorful characters for many of his most famous and ...

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Morrison, Toni  

Lisa Clayton Robinson

I'm interested in how men are educated, how women relate to each other, how we are able to love, how we balance political and personal forces, who survives in certain situations and who doesn't and, specifically, how these and other universal issues relate to African Americans. The search for love and identity runs through most everything I write.

In this comment from a 1992 interview Toni Morrison gives one description of the complex range of issues she explores in her work Morrison is widely recognized as one of the most influential American writers and her novels are taught in literature history women s studies and African American studies courses across the United States and around the world She has received numerous honorary degrees prizes and awards including the Nobel Prize in Literature Above all Morrison is known for her rich lyrical prose which fuses the rhythms and imagery of ...

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Morrison, Toni  

Carolyn C. Denard

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio a steel mill town on the shore of Lake Erie Morrison was the second of four children Her father was a welder in the steel mills and her mother was a homemaker Morrison s parents and maternal grandparents migrated to Lorain from the South in the early 1900s Her maternal grandparents were sharecroppers in Greenville Alabama who had lost their land in the late 1890s and were never able to get out of debt Her father s family had been sharecroppers in Cartersville Georgia and his painful memoirs of racial strife left him with a bitter attitude toward whites Morrison was thus brought up with a strong distrust of whites and an understanding that the only tangible or emotional aid on which she could depend would come from her own community Group loyalty was among the earliest values she was taught as ...

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Morrison, Toni  

Valerie Smith

novelist and Nobel laureate, was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, a poor, ethnically diverse steel town. She was the second of four children of George Wofford, who worked, variously, as a welder in a steel mill and as a road construction and shipyard worker, and Ella Ramah Willis. Both of Morrison's parents had migrated north, seeking better opportunities and to escape racial and economic oppression in the South. Her maternal grandparents had come to Ohio from Alabama and Kentucky; her father was originally from Georgia. Like many African American migrants, her family eventually realized that the North was not free of racism and poverty. Yet Morrison's childhood in Lorain taught her to value a community in which people shared the limited resources available to them. She also learned to appreciate the value of storytelling at an early age.

Morrison converted to Catholicism when she was ...

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Morrison, Toni  

Kimberly Burnett

writer and editor. Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, Toni Morrison grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and had an older sister and two younger brothers. Her parents, George and Ramah Wofford, who had migrated to the steel-mill town from the South, provided Morrison with a background in African American folklore as well as an understanding of the importance of maintaining black community. After graduating from high school, Morrison left Lorain in 1949 to attend Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C.; during her time as an undergraduate, Morrison had the opportunity to travel throughout the South with the Howard University Players. After changing her first name to Toni, Morrison graduated from Howard in 1953 with a BA in English and a minor in classics. By 1955 Morrison had completed her MA degree at Cornell University and begun teaching at Texas Southern University Two years ...

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Morrison, Toni  

Furaha D. Norton

In her bestselling novels as well as her nonfiction Toni Morrison has created a sweeping panorama of the diasporic black experience in America In novels whose settings range from the American rural South and the industrial and urban North to the western frontier and which cover historical periods from the colonial era through the contemporary period she has used African American history myth and folklore as well as sharp insight into human behavior and motivation to create stories and characters that establish the black experience in America as one of tremendous nuance and complexity In her often fragmented nonlinear narratives the specters of slavery and ongoing racial oppression and inequality are ever present along with astonishing resilience and humanity Morrison s work has inspired an entire generation of students and scholars and has changed how readers understand race and history in literature the postmodern novel and how writers use folklore ...

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Parks, Suzan-Lori  

Shelle Sumners

Suzan-Lori Parks is one of a small handful of African American women, among them Lorraine Hansberry and Ntozake Shange, who have achieved professional success as playwrights in American theater. She was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, but because her father was a colonel in the U.S. Army, she lived in several states and attended junior high school in Germany. Parks began writing at an early age, with little thought to becoming a playwright. During her undergraduate studies at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Parks took a creative writing class taught by African American novelist James Baldwin She read her character laden stories aloud in his class with a theatricality that prompted Baldwin to suggest that she try writing for the theater In describing her creative potential he called Parks an utterly astounding and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of ...

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Parks, Suzan-Lori  

Hilary Mac Austin

Parks was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, one of only a handful of black women playwrights to make it to the Broadway stage, and one of the only African American avant-garde playwrights in history. Her plays were nonlinear, nonrealistic, poetic, challenging, and often controversial.

Born in Fort Knox, Kentucky Parks began writing stories almost as soon as she could hold a pencil An army brat whose father was a colonel in the U S Army she had lived in six different states by the time she was a teenager When the family was posted to Germany Parks experienced for the first time life outside of America s prism of race In Germany she was regarded as an American a foreigner first and a black person second Because her parents decided to place their daughter in the local German school rather than in ...

Article

Parks, Suzan-Lori  

Harry Elam

playwright, was born at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to Francis McMillan, an educator, and Donald Parks, an army officer and, later, professor. From her parents Parks gained cultural exposure, a love for literature, and an understanding of the value in education. Her ability as a writer surfaced early on, and she began writing stories at age five. With her father in the army, Parks spent her childhood years in a variety of different locales, including six American states and West Germany. Rather than the traditional American schools attended by the children of most servicemen, Parks attended a German high school.

Parks then entered Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, graduating cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1985 with a BA in English and German. While at Mount Holyoke, she studied creative writing with the celebrated writer James Baldwin Impressed with her ability as well as ...

Article

Soyinka, Wole  

Biodun Jeyifo

Nigerian writer and the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka on 13 July 1934 in Abeokuta Nigeria One of the most prominent writers and public intellectuals in the world his international fame rests as much on his writings as on his widely admired fearless advocacy of human rights and social justice both in his native Nigeria and in other countries in Africa Primarily a playwright and dramatist Soyinka has written in virtually all of the literary genres and he has written rather prodigiously his corpus comprising more than forty five works of drama fiction poetry translation and nonfictional criticism memoirs and philosophical reflection Now in the eighth decade of his life he has spent six of those decades in a sustained unbroken work of social activism that stands as a necessary complement to the primacy of his life and career as ...