Inscribed first printing of Thompson's early autobiography as a Black woman with a college degree seeking work in Depression-era Chicago.
Very good plus in very good plus jacket.
"Usually an autobiography is written near the end of a long and distinguished career, but not taking any chances, I wrote mine first, then began to live." – Thompson, 1967
The autobiography of Era Bell Thompson's early life, from her childhood in Iowa and North Dakota to her hard-won position as a government interviewer for the Employment Service. By 1943, Thompson had judged herself a "failure as a paid writer," but enjoyed the pleasure of at last sitting on "the other side of the desk, on the giving side instead of the asking." Soon after the publication and success of AMERICAN DAUGHTER, Thompson would join EBONY magazine in 1947 and enjoy a long and illustrious career there as foreign correspondent and eventual co-managing editor.
Published the year before joining EBONY with the support of a Newberry Library Fellowship in Midwestern Studies and first conceived as a regional study of the Dakotas, AMERICAN DAUGHTER was packaged and presented to a broadly white readership as the exemplary self-portrait of a "simple" and "friendly" woman with "infectious humor" – though much of that humor is very dry indeed, and Thompson's success in telling some measure of truth while simultaneously pleasing her editors and funders was the result of a highly conscious effort and great satirical skill. As Thompson had occasion to write in a 1945 letter of complaint: "I am a respectable citizen, a member of the NAACP, the Board of Directors of the Chicago YWCA, and am on a fellowship writing a book — trying to write a story without malice and without bitterness. Sometimes the writing is very hard" (Hardison). Thompson's wit and iron restraint were not greatly appreciated by Ralph Ellison, who recognized and praised her intelligence but compared her work unfavorably to Richard Wright's: where BLACK BOY was "probing and serious," AMERICAN DAUGHTER was, for him, "humorous and superficial." This was not an ideological objection alone, but an aesthetic dismissal: of Thompson's light and subtle touch, of her technical control, and of those literary attributes which place her in a major tradition, often discounted, of women's regional and autobiographical writing.
Read more: Ayesha K. Hardison, Writing Through Jane Crow: Race and Gender Politics in African American Literature; Joanne Braxton, Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition; Eileen De Freece-Wilson, Era Bell Thompson: Chicago Renaissance Writer.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, (1946). 7.5'' x 5.25''. Original blue cloth. In original unclipped ($3.00) dust jacket, illustrated by Elmer Jacobs. Inscribed by Thompson to front free endpaper: "For ___ ___ / In appreciation / Era Bell Thompson." Spine sunned and bumped. Jacket sunned and lightly spotted at spine, with slight chipping to extremities.
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