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Alice Adams Portrait of a Writer

Alice Adams Portrait of a Writer

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The first full-scale biography of prolific writer Alice Adams, whose celebrated stories and bestselling novels traced women’s lives and illuminated “an era characterized both by drastic cultural changes and by the persistence of old expectations, conventions, and biases” (The New Yorker).

“Nobody writes better about falling in love than Alice Adams,” a New York Times critic said of the prolific writer. Born in 1926, Alice Adams grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, during the Great Depression and came of age during World War II. After college at Radcliffe and a year in Paris, she moved to San Francisco. Always a rebel in good-girl’s clothing, Adams used her education, sexual and emotional curiosity, and uncompromising artistic ambition to break the strictures that bound women in midcentury America. Divorced with a child to raise, she worked at secretarial jobs for two decades before she could earn a living as a writer. One of only four winners of the O. Henry Special Award for Continuing Achievement, Adams wove her life into her fiction and used her writing to understand the changing tides of the 20th century. Her work portrays vibrant characters both young and old who live on the edge of their emotions, absorbed by love affairs yet always determined to be independent and to fulfill their personal destinies.

Carol Sklenicka interweaves Adams’s deeply felt, elegantly fierce life with a cascade of events—the civil rights and women’s rights movements, the sixties counterculture, and sexual freedom. Her biography’s revealing analyses of Adams’s stories and novels from Careless Love to Superior Women to The Last Lovely City, and her extensive interviews with Adams’s family and friends, among them Mary Gaitskill, Diane Johnson, Anne Lamott, and Alison Lurie, give us the definitive story of a writer often dubbed “America’s Colette.” Alice Adams: Portrait of a Writer captures not just a beloved woman’s life in full, but a crucial span of American history.