Harlem Renaissance Re-Examined

By Victor A. Kramer; Robert A. Russ | Go to book overview

CONVERSATIONS WITH DOROTHY WEST 1

DEBORAH E. MCDOWELL

Dorothy West was born in 1912 to Rachel Pease West and Isaac Christopher West in Boston, Massachusetts, where she attended Girls' Latin School and Boston University. Hers has been a long and varied writing career which spans over sixty years, beginning with a short story she wrote at age seven. When she was barely fifteen, she was selling short stories to Boston newspapers, and before she was eighteen, already living in New York City, she had become a prize-winning author and friend of such luminaries as Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, and Wallace Thurman.

In what many consider the waning days of the Renaissance, she founded Challenge, a literary quarterly, serving as its editor from 1934 to 1937 and co- editor with Marian Minus and Richard Wright after the magazine was re-named New Challenge in 1937. In the 1940s she published short stories in the New York Daily News, and in 1948, her most well-known work, The Living Is Easy.

For the past thirty-eight years she has lived on Martha's Vineyard, contributing since 1968 a generous sampling of occasional pieces and columns to its newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. She is currently at work on a number of projects, including a novel, titled "The Wedding."2

MCDOWELL: I have put together a set of questions that, taken together, form a rough chronology of your writing career, but we don't have to stick to this. Feel free to let your mind roam over whatever you choose. I thought we could start with the generic interview questions about your beginnings as a writer. When did you start to write? How old were you? What did you write? Who influenced you?

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