The information for each author includes biographical and contextual materials and activities.
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
The eldest of nine children, James Baldwin was born in Harlem. An excellent student who read and wrote from an early age, he developed his writing with the encouragement of his high school teacher, poet Countee Cullen. Influenced by his stepfather, a factory...
Saul Bellow (b. 1915)
Saul Bellow remains one of the most important post-World War II Jewish American writers. Like Roth, Malamud, and Paley, he offers a Jewish perspective on themes of alienation and "otherness" during an age of postwar fragmentation, materialism, and...
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
Born in Topeka, Kansas, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks grew up in Chicago. As a child she attended both all-white and all-black schools, as well as the integrated Englewood High School. This background helped create for her a rich perspective on race and...
Ralph Ellison (1914-1994)
Ralph Ellison grew up in Oklahoma City and attended college at the Tuskegee Institute, where he was a music major who admired both the classics of the European tradition and Kansas City jazz. After graduation he moved to...
Bernard Malamud (1914-1986)
In Saul Bellow's eulogy to Bernard Malamud, he writes that "a language is a spiritual mansion from which no one can evict us. Malamud in his novels and stories discovered a sort of communicative genius in the impoverished, harsh jargon of immigrant...
Paule Marshall (b. 1929)
Born Valenza Pauline Burke to parents who had emigrated from Barbados to New York, Paule Marshall explores the contrasts between her West Indian heritage-a heritage of slavery and colonial exploitation-and her Brooklyn background and confronts...
Arthur Miller (b. 1915)
Arthur Miller was born in Manhattan to a German Jewish family. His father, a successful clothing manufacturer, lost the business in the 1929 stock market crash, and the family was forced to move to Brooklyn. After working two years to earn tuition, Miller enrolled...
N. Scott Momaday (b. 1934)
Writer, teacher, artist, and storyteller, Navarre Scott Momaday has spent his life preserving the oral traditions and culture of Native American peoples. As the only child of Al Momaday (Kiowa) and Natchee Scott (part Cherokee), he grew up on Navajo and Apache...
Grace Paley (b. 1922)
Of her early writing, Paley notes, "I didn't yet realize that you have to have two ears. One ear is that literary ear," and the other is "the ear of the language of home . . . the language of your street and your people." Such an intuitive ear helped define her as one of the...
Philip Roth (b. 1933)
Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey. His father was a struggling businessman for most of Roth's young life, and financial setbacks were not unusual for the family. Roth attended the Newark branch of Rutgers University for several years, then...
Suggested Author Pairings
This tool builds multimedia presentations for classrooms or assignments.
An online collection of 3000 artifacts for classroom use.
Download the Instructor Guide PDF for this Unit.