teaching technical communication A Decade of Research: Assessing Change in the Technical Communication Classroom using Online Portfolios Betty Smith, author of the best selling novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, an example of American working class literatureThe Steel Bible: A Case Study of 20th Century Technical Communication
Biography of Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Publication of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the best selling novel by Betty Smith, published by Harper & Row in 1942 American literature
Literary context of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, within the context of working class American literature
Tomorrow Will Be Better, a novel by Betty Smith
Maggie Now, a novel by Betty Smith
Joy in the Morning, a novel by Betty Smith
Bibliography of the writing of Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Biography of Betty Smith, Author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Welcome to the life of Betty Smith. I have posted my research here on the internet so that everyone can have access to information about her life. In a way, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn itself is Betty Smith's biography. When reporters asked her, as they often did, whether the book was "true," she had a stock answer: she said it was "not as it was, but as it should have been." I never realized the significance of this until a high school student (J. Zeise) wrote to me and said that she looked up the word "true" in the dictionary and one of the definitions was "such as it should be." Smith couldn't tell the reporters that the book was true because she was being sued by relatives, so instead she found a different way to say it - Smith was very practical and probably went to the dictionary, found the definition, and had a good laugh every time she used that answer with reporters.

That is not to say that all of the details are true - she changed the ethnicity of her family from German to Irish (she published the book during WWII) and made other changes. But the details are a "slice of life" that accurately portray the sort of life that many American immigrants had during the early 20th century.

About this Dissertation

Betty Smith published the American novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in 1943. I wrote this dissertation for The City University of New York Graduate Center in carol siri johnson, CUNY graduate center1994. To do the research for the dissertation, I spent quite a bit of time at the Betty Smith archives of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That is where Betty Smith, who grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, moved as an adult, and that is where she wrote her best-selling novel. I also interviewed her daughter and others who knew her. Since I wrote this dissertation at a time when digital media was not widely used, I did not collect images while I was doing the research. However, since then some readers have sent me images and I will include three here that will give you a fairly good idea of what she was like:

on television


at Peter Luger's Steakhouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Smith playing bingo

The organization of this site is not chronological. I apologize for the poor organization - the biographical and publishing material are separated, so it cannot be read like a narrative. The part of this website that most people will be interested in is the Biography. That part of the site is split into the years of her life. Other than the biography, the main chapters of this dissertation are in-depth analyses of the publication of each of her books - he interactions with her publishers, etc. Those portions of this website are footnoted, the biography is not.

    • Publication of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in 1943: An account of Betty Smith's interaction with Elizabeth Lawrence at Harper & Brothers, describing how the novel was edited and changed.
    • Literary Context in American Literature: The place of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in the canon of American literature with critical dialogues regarding women's and working-class literature.
    • Tomorrow Will Be Better, Maggie Now, and Joy in the Morning: Smith's three novels discussions iron steel carol siri johnson peter meyerwritten after A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, none of which achieved critical acclaim (although Joy in the Morning was made into a movie).
    • Bibliography, citing works and sources.

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Contact: carol@ringwoodmanor.com