Last week I learned that I will be receiving a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to write my next book, Reading Little Women: The History of an American Classic. The grant comes from the NEH’s new Public Scholar program, which generated some media attention, including this Washington Post article, in which I am quoted. I am thrilled to be able to begin work on a project that is very close to my heart.
I have been inspired by two recent books that can best be described as the “biography” of a book: Michael Gorra’s The Portrait of a Novel (about Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady) and Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch. They were both highly enjoyable accounts of how those classic novels were written and how they impacted the authors’ and others’ lives. As Little Women nears its 150th birthday in 2018, I felt that it deserves a similar treatment, especially because of the impact it has had on my own life.
So as my biography of Constance Fenimore Woolson nears publication, I will be starting work my next book, doing research and traveling to the sites associated with Louisa May Alcott and her writing of the book. I will also be collecting the experiences of readers of Little Women, young and old.
In an effort to reach out to those readers, I have restyled my newsletter and retitled it “The Woolson and Alcott Chronicles.” Fans of Little Women can follow me as I write the book and can learn about how they can help me collect information about people’s experiences reading the novel today. They can also learn something about Alcott’s contemporary, the equally fascinating Constance Fenimore Woolson, and other writers of their day. Unfortunately, most people know very little of the veritable explosion of women’s writing in the last forty years of the nineteenth century. These writers have been suppressed and forgotten for various reasons but most of all because women’s perspectives have been undervalued in our culture. They have much to say to us today, as Alcott and Woolson did.
To subscribe to my newsletter and keep abreast of my progress on the new book, you can sign up here. I will send something out about once a month (maybe less, but never more). I look forward to sharing my journey with you and learning from you as well!