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Dorothy West

所属教程:People in America 更新:05-11
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VOICE ONE:

I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember with the Special English Program, PEOPLE INAMERICA. Every week, we tell about a person who played an importantpart in the history and culture of the United States. Today, we tellabout the writer Dorothy West.

((THEME))

VOICE ONE:

Dorothy West's first long book was published when she was morethan forty years old. Her second book was published when she was inher late eighties.

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Yet African American poet LangstonHughes called her, "The Kid." This means a child. Dorothy West hadbeen one of the youngest members of the group of writers and artistsof the Harlem Renaissance. This was a creative period for AfricanAmericans during the Nineteen-Twenties and Nineteen-Thirties.

VOICE TWO:

During and after World War One, thousands of southern blacksmoved to northern cities in the United States. They were seekingjobs and better lives. Many settled in an area of New York Cityknown as Harlem. Many were musicians, writers, artists andperformers. Harlem became the largest African American community inthe United States.

The mass movement from south to north led African Americans toexamine their lives: Who were they? What were their rights asAmericans? The artistic expression of this collective examinationbecame known as the Harlem Renaissance. Renaissance means re-birth.The Harlem Renaissance represented a re-birth of black people as aneffective part of American life.

Dorothy West helped influence the direction and form of AfricanAmerican writing during this time.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))

VOICE ONE:

Dorothy West was born in Nineteen-Oh-Seven in the city of Boston,Massachusetts. Both her parents were born in the southern UnitedStates, and moved north. Her father was a former slave. He becamethe first African American to own a food-selling company in Boston.

The family became part of the black upper middle class socialgroup of Boston. Dorothy West had private teachers, dancing classes,and holidays on Martha's Vineyard -- an island off the coast ofMassachusetts. She studied at Boston University and the ColumbiaUniversity School of Journalism in New York. Later, she would useher own experiences and observations to write about social class inthe black community.

VOICE TWO:

Dorothy West started writing stories at age seven. When she wasfourteen, she published her first story in the "Boston Post." Afterthat, she wrote often for that newspaper. In Nineteen-Twenty-Six,she won second place in a short story contest by "Opportunity"magazine. Her story was called "The Typewriter." It describes anAfrican American man who hates his real life. He creates a betterlife for himself -- in his imagination -- in order to help hisdaughter improve her typing skills.

VOICE ONE:

Dorothy West won second place in the competition with Zora NealeHurston. Hurston was another famous writer of the HarlemRenaissance. West moved to Harlem, too. She was considered a littlesister by Hurston and other writers and poets such as LangstonHughes, Countee Cullen, and Wallace Thurman.

Members of the Harlem Renaissance group were very serious abouttheir art. West once told a reporter that they all thought they weregoing to be the greatest writers in the world.

VOICE TWO:

During this time, Dorothy West wrote a number of short stories.They were published in magazines in and around New York. One storywas called, "Funeral." Another was called, "The Black Dress."

She once said the writer whose work she liked most was theRussian Fyodor Dostoevsky. Experts say some of her work is similarto his. Like Dostoevsky, she wrote about the idea of being saved bysuffering. She wrote about unsatisfied people who feel trapped bytheir environment, or by racism, or because they are female or male.

VOICE ONE:

In Nineteen-Thirty-Two, Dorothy West went to Russia with a groupof black intellectuals and artists. They went to make a film aboutracism in the United States. The film, "Black and White," was nevercompleted. West remained in Russia for about a year. It appears shedid not stay for political reasons, however. She said she went toRussia with Langston Hughes and the others because she liked them.She returned to the United States when her father died.

VOICE TWO:

By the middle of the Nineteen-Thirties, the Harlem Renaissancewas dying out. Dorothy West wanted to re-capture the creativity ofthe period. So she created a magazine called, "Challenge."

She edited and published the works of new, young African Americanwriters. The magazine lasted only three years. West did not haveenough money to continue producing it. She also said she did notreceive enough writing of a high quality.

The magazine was criticized by a group of black writers. Theyincluded Richard Wright, author of the book Native Son, and MargaretWalker. They said the magazine was too concerned with artisticvalues. They felt it should deal with political issues.

VOICE ONE:

In Nineteen-Thirty-Seven, Dorothy West created another magazinecalled, "New Challenge." She asked Richard Wright to help her, eventhough he had criticized her earlier magazine.

The two writers disagreed on a number of issues, however. Also,West again had financial difficulties producing the magazine. So"New Challenge" was published only once. Yet that one publicationwas very important. It included a document by Wright called"Blueprint for Negro Writing." That was a statement about what hebelieved African Americans should write about. "New Challenge" wasthe first publication to bring together black art and politics.Other magazines would follow its example.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))

VOICE TWO:

In the late Nineteen-Forties, Dorothy West left New York. Shemoved to her family's holiday house on Martha's Vineyard island. Shelived there for the rest of her life.

In Nineteen-Forty-Eight, she published her first book, The LivingIs Easy. It is partly based on her life and on her mother. It isabout a light-skinned black woman named Cleo Johnson. She wishesthat her dark-skinned daughter were more like her. She treats herhusband badly because he is from a lower social class. The bookdescribes black middle class values in Boston. Many critics likedthe book and its message about racism against blacks and within theblack community.

VOICE ONE:

The Living is Easy was published again by the Feminist Press inNineteen-Eighty-Two. Critics at that time described the book asimportant because it showed the position of women in the family andin life. The book also is valued for its description of the complexrelationship between a mother and a daughter. The Living Is Easy isnow recognized as having an important influence on the writingtradition of African American women.

VOICE TWO:

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After her first novel, Dorothy West continued writing stories andshort pieces containing her ideas on different subjects. Her secondnovel was published forty-seven years later, inNineteen-Ninety-Five. It is called, "The Wedding."

The story takes place in the black community of Martha's Vineyardduring the Nineteen-Fifties. It is about a rich young black womanwho is to marry a white jazz musician. It deals with class and colorissues between blacks, and racial issues between blacks and whites.West believed that different races should not be separated from eachother. She also believed in love.

VOICE ONE:

She began the book in the Nineteen-Sixties. But she stoppedwriting it when the Black Power political movement grew strong. Shethought members of the group would denounce it. She was not activein the civil rights movement to guarantee fair treatment for blackAmericans.

In Nineteen-Ninety-Two, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis began to visitDorothy West to help her finish The Wedding. Missus Onassis wasmarried to American President John Kennedy when he was killed inNineteen-Sixty-Three. Later, she worked for a publishing company.She died just before The Wedding was published. Dorothy West notedthat the two women looked very different but had worked togetherperfectly.

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The book was so popular that its publishers produced another oneby Dorothy West. "The Richer, The Poorer" is a collection of storiesand other writings she made throughout her life.

VOICE TWO:

Dorothy West was the last living member of the HarlemRenaissance. She died in August Nineteen-Ninety-Eight. She wasninety-one years old. Not long before she died, she was honored at aspecial ceremony. Many different people praised her work. Theydescribed her influence on American culture over so many years. Onesaid, simply, that Dorothy West was a "national gift."

(THEME)

VOICE ONE:

This Special English program was written by Doreen Baingana. I'mShirley Griffith.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLEIN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

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