Becoming Emily The life of Emily Dickinson

Krystyna Poray Goddu

Book - 2019

"Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) wrote short, often-enigmatic poems that are widely anthologized, quoted, and read by students of every age. Yet, as widely known as her poetry is, Dickinson as a person is considered to have been an inscrutable recluse--a silent figure who wore only white, wrote in secret, never left her Amherst, Massachusetts, home, and had no interest in sharing her poetry with others. In Becoming Emily, young readers will learn how--while Dickinson did keep to her home for th...e last 20 or so years of her life--as a child, adolescent, and well into adulthood, she was a lively social being with a warm family life. Highly educated for a girl of her era, she was fully engaged in both the academic and social aspects of the schools she attended until she was nearly 18. Her family and friends were of the utmost importance to her, and she was a prolific, thoughtful, and witty correspondent who shared many poems with those closest to her. Including plentiful photos, full-length poems, letter excerpts, a time line, source notes, and a bibliography, this indispensable resource offers a full portrait of this singular American poet, making it perfect for any young person interested in poetry, literature, or biographies of remarkable people in American history"--

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Chicago, Illinois : Chicago Review Press [2019]
Physical Description
viii, 168 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 160-161) and index.
Main Author
Krystyna Poray Goddu (author)
  • Early childhood at the homestead
  • A beloved school, with beloved friends
  • Science, nature, and religion
  • Higher education
  • A merry life in Amherst
  • Emily at twenty
  • A budding poet
  • A second sister
  • Back to the homestead
  • The poet in full bloom
  • Shunning society, seeking seclusion
  • The final years: love, and much loss
  • Epilogue: discovering and publishing the poems.
Review by Booklist Review

Sprightly prose, short chapters, and a concentration on poet Emily Dickinson's early years helps make Goddu's charming biography of the Belle of Amherst a winner for middle-grade readers. Emily is firmly emphasized as a lively member of a close circle of family and friends, giving her an accessibility often overlooked in favor of the reputation as a reclusive spinster she gained in her middle age. Goddu stresses the student and letter writer who adored her friends, her garden, and her dog, and her tendency toward solitude is contextualized, if not dwelt upon. Black-and-white photographs of the people and places in her life add to the warmth, and biographical events, like her father's involvement in bringing a railroad line to Amherst, Massachusetts, are linked to her poems. Goddu clarifies how Emily's poems came to be published after her death, with two factions of family and friends feuding over her manuscripts. Back matter, including a time line and bibliography, anchor Emily's historical importance. An excellent companion for those reading or studying her poetry.--Karen Cruze Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this slim, vivifying biography of the poet Emily Dickinson, Goddu (A Girl Called Vincent) endeavors to "let the poet speak for herself" by interweaving numerous quotations. While the narrative spans Dickinson's life in Amherst, Mass.-from her birth in 1830 to her death in 1886-it concentrates on her childhood, her strong sibling relationships, and her early friendships, and it highlights her high level of education, unusual for a girl at the time, which included a stint at nearby Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College). In chronicling the poet's life, Goddu (a PW reviewer) succeeds in sketching the intellectual underpinnings that would emerge in her poetry-for example, science and religion were "not seen as conflicting; rather science was seen as proof of religion"-as well as the interests that fueled her art, such as her lifelong love of gardening ("I pull a flower from the woods"). Though the book's design feels somewhat institutional, an array of photographs, paintings, reproductions of envelopes on which the subject scribbled poems, and even a page from her "herbarium" enhance the biography. This is a lively and effective introduction to Dickinson's life and work. Ages 10-up. Agent: Jennifer Unter, the Unter Agency. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Kirkus Book Review

A normalizing portrait of one of Western literature's most enigmatic poets.Having previously examined the life of Jazz Age poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (A Girl Called Vincent, 2016), Goddu here turns the spotlight on an even larger American literary figure, Emily Dickinson. Known widely for her tight cryptic verses published primarily following her death, Dickinson is often viewed as a sort of "madwoman in the attic," biographers zeroing in on her particular manner of dress and preference, particularly later in life, for staying home and limiting her social interactions. Much of Goddu's account seeks to redeem that portrayal, focusing on exceptional forces throughout Dickinson's life that contributed to her artistry. She makes much of Dickinson's Puritan heritage and education; Dickinson was never at a want for money and, thanks to her father's prominence as a U.S. Congressman, was at the forefront of Amherst intellectual society. The author makes the compelling case that with Dickinson's unique talentsincluding learning to play piano at age 2frail health, and proclivity for intense relationships with kin and friends, she had little reason to leave the house. Through Dickinson's love for nature, science, and reading, worlds opened. Archival photographs enhance the telling.With select poems, revealing passages from letters, and a richly detailed narrative, this thorough study is sure to entice middle-grade readers to explore one of the 19th century's greatest poets. (timeline, notes, bibliography) (Biography. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.