Ivanka Trump’s deeply political tome

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Do the rules of success apply equally to all women?
Nick Lehr/The Conversation via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Ani Kokobobo, University of Kansas

By and large, critics have taken Ivanka Trump at her word about her new book, “Women Who Work.” The Conversation

She claims she wrote it before her father’s election, “from the perspective of an executive and an entrepreneur.” And though they criticize her for being trite, derivative, out of touch and racially tone-deaf, most readers have accepted the premise that this is a largely apolitical book.

Yet as every scholar of literature knows, each book contains what theorist Fredric Jameson has dubbed a “political unconscious.” In other words, through the sheer act of narrating, a book reinforces one particular point of view while policing others.

With this in mind, a close read of “Women at Work” reveals deeply political undertones. Throughout her narrative, Trump advances an ideology of individualism framed by unlimited choice, perfect health and no time constraints. While in many ways, it’s aligned with the principles of the Republican Party, most American working women would probably find her advice for tackling life’s challenges difficult to reconcile.

Time: The great equalizer?

The works of the major Russian writers I study rarely engage with political themes in overt ways. But in emphasizing everyday life, families and communities, writers from Leo Tolstoy to Ivan Turgenev reject the possibility of drastic societal upheaval. Written during a period of political transition and reform, these works are inadvertently conservative; they seem to rebuff the position of the left-wing revolutionaries who sought to destroy the status quo.

In the case of “Women Who Work,” Ivanka Trump’s underlying assumption – her political perspective – is that 21st-century women live a life driven by personal choice.

“You choose,” she writes at one point. These words are perhaps the motto of her book, which presents women’s lives as a series of choices: career, partner, friends and so on. This much is predictable enough.

As an heiress, Trump is perhaps hesitant to discuss finances. So her discussion of choice is instead framed by allocation of another currency: time.

This, she claims, is the great human equalizer.

“No matter your age, your background, your education, or your successes,” she points out, “we are all granted 168 hours in a week.”

According to Trump, we each have at our disposal a limited amount of time to distribute among daily tasks. Her empowerment of women rests on the premise that all it takes to juggle all work and family responsibilities is creative time management. If used in a proactive – rather than reactive – way, the currency of time allows human entrepreneurship to thrive.

But in truth, time is no great equalizer. Buried in this time calculus is the fact that Ivanka’s management skills are powered by her considerable wealth. On simple quantitative terms, someone who can’t afford a housekeeper or babysitter will surely have less time at their disposal than someone who can. If a college professor is able to work from home after hours, a waitress at a diner cannot. And never mind the waste of time and money that results from things we do not choose – like illnesses.

When illness is a choice

Indeed, you would also think, after reading Trump’s book, that 21st-century women don’t simply possess the power to choose how to allocate their time. They also possess perfect health.

Even as a harbinger of our mortality, time is no great equalizer because we have different levels of access to quality health care. Whereas more than half of American adults struggle with one or more chronic health conditions in their lifetime, Trump never betrays any vulnerability to illness and never discusses getting sick in “Women Who Work.” In fact, even though we know she’s given birth three times, after reading this book you would think that she’s never set foot in a hospital.

Throughout, Trump explains about how health conditions can be vanquished through mental balance.

“Proactive people are passionate and productive,” she writes, “they focus their energies on the things they can influence and improve: their families, their health, their work.” She spends considerable time noting how stress produces unhealthy eating habits and how she stocks her refrigerator with healthy snacks.

These comments, coupled with Trump’s apparent excellent health, seem to say that illness, too, is a matter of choice. And in this sense, her empowerment of women is founded on the same ideological underpinnings as the new GOP health care plan that just passed in the House of Representatives – a plan that emphasizes choice above all else, including compassion and access.

It’s a vision of life – and health – driven by market principles of efficiency and management (what academics like to call neoliberalism). In an op-ed he wrote advocating for an earlier incarnation of the bill, House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke shockingly little of health. Instead, he focuses on costs and health insurance markets.

Some Republicans have even stretched their choice doctrine to an absurd degree by suggesting, as Trump indirectly does, that perhaps we also choose our illnesses. As Republican Congressman Mo Brooks controversially declared, people who “lead good lives” won’t have to deal with preexisting conditions. This idea strikes me as Ivanka Trump’s female empowerment plan played to perfection: a life of self-actualization – to the point of the outright elimination of disease.

Operating with different currencies – but fueled by the same market-driven philosophy of individual management and investment – both the GOP health care plan and “Women Who Work” leave individuals to their own lonely devices, with the towering task of making the impossible possible through sheer force of will.

I’ve never met Ivanka Trump, so I have no clue what preexisting conditions she has. But after reading her book where she effortlessly handles raising three children, working two full-time jobs and going on eight-hour hikes in Patagonia, I strongly believe that she would be the perfect pitchwoman for the health care system advocated by the GOP health care plan. Both betray a shocking lack of empathy for those who lack choices.

By using time as a currency to insist on equality where there is none, Ivanka is not merely tone-deaf, but rather advancing the beloved GOP doctrine of free-market capitalism. With no external time constraints, Ivanka Trump suggests that we can all become happy, healthy and wealthy – just like her.

Ani Kokobobo, Assistant Professor of Russian Literature, University of Kansas

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Not My Review: How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison

The link below is to a book review of ‘How Does Sanctification Work?’ by David Powlison.

For more visit:

Friday essay: the feminist picture book revolution

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Sarah and Olive Kanake read one of the new breed of girl-power picture books.
Miriam Ackroyd from Life is Beautiful Photography

Sarah Kanake, University of the Sunshine Coast

A year and a half ago I gave birth to my first child. A girl named Olive. I’m a writer and a writing teacher so, naturally, our friends and family gave us books. The Conversation

One after another, we unwrapped picture books and added them to the slightly tattered collection salvaged from our own childhoods. In the early weeks of Olive’s life, I spent a lot of time looking through those pages and thinking about how I wanted to raise her and what ethics I felt strongly about passing on to her. Maybe because I was already asking myself these questions, I noticed something in those books.

Very few featured strong, empowering girl leads.

The same thing was noticed by the authors of a new book called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (2017) and captured in an accompanying video that has since gone viral.

The video opens with a mother and daughter in a bookshop. Together they remove books from the shelf based on their representation of female characters. First, they remove the books with “zero male characters”. (Three). Then, they remove the books with “zero female characters”. (Seventy six).

Then, they remove the books where “females don’t speak” (One hundred and forty one).

Next they ask, do these characters have dreams or aspirations? They remove all the books where female characters are waiting for a prince. No number is provided for these. No number is needed. The shelf that was still pretty full is now virtually empty.

The video ends with the young girl turning to a bookseller off camera and asking,

I’m interested in Mars … do you have any books about that?

Princesses and rebels

I’m a feminist. I’m not what I’d call an anti-princess feminist. I see no reason to pit myself against the princess as a person. Princess is, after all, a job like King or Prime Minister. I know there are feminist representations of princess characters in books for children (I discuss a few below) but overall, I, like many feminists, object to the princess as a fictional construct.


Because the princess common to children’s literature is virtually always seen through the lens of her desirability, her romantic contribution and subsequent morality. She works best when she makes the prince his best possible self. When she fixes him. Over time, this princess may grow, new stuff gets added in and old sexist stuff gets carted out, but she’s still locked to her male counterpart. She’s defined by her “love” story. This construction is used as a way to package girlhood (and womanhood too), and in that packaging, the princess creates limits for real girls.

But girls are interested in Mars. Where are the books on Mars?

Halfway through the Rebel Girls video we are introduced to the authors of Good-Night Stories for Rebel Girls, co-founders of Timbuktu Labs, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. They say they wrote the book as a response to bedtime stories where the female characters had no agency. Its 100 stories are about real women who did extraordinary things.

There aren’t any pretty pink princesses in this book, but queens are represented. We read about Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, Yaa Asaantewaa, and Elizabeth I. Inventors, olympians, activists, artists, spies, surgeons, scientists. There are women you would expect to see: Frida Khalo, Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou, and Rosa Parks.

There are women I’d never heard of like the Irish “pirate queen” Grace O’Malley, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai and the 19th Century physician and feminist Mary Edwards Walker. There are also contemporary girls and women like gymnast Simone Biles, sailor Jessica Watson and dancer Misty Copeland.

Simone Biles with the Obamas at the White House last year: she features in Good-Night Stories for Rebel Girls.
Yuri Gripas/Reuters

There are a few women missing. I wanted to see feminist Gloria Steinem or former President of Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri. I’d have liked an Australian woman included, like former Prime Minster, Julia Gillard, feminist writer Germaine Greer or author Miles Franklin.

But there’s still time and, no doubt, another edition on the horizon.

As a first step, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls accomplishes what it sets out to do. It takes the frame of the bedtime princess story and populates it with champions, thinkers, artists and activists, but as a social artefact, the book represents so much more. It was funded through Kickstarter to the tune of one million dollars, breaking Kickstarter’s record. Favilli and Cavallo originally set out to raise $400,000 to print 100 books but interest soon swelled.

Since Olive was born, I’ve spent countless hours scouring feminist picture book lists online, stalking A Mighty Girl and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls on Facebook for book recommendations, asking friends, booksellers, googling, and, overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number and quality of newish picture books out there for the budding feminist.

Here are some of my favourites…

Feminist princess picture books

I worked as a bookseller for almost 20 years and if there was one thing I heard daily from mothers, it was that they wanted something other than passive Disney princesses to give their daughters. In Don’t Kiss the Frog (2013) by Fiona Waters, Rapunzel would really like to cut off her locks and dye what’s left blue. In The Princess and the Peas (2013) by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton, “princess” is a phase, a disease. Ordinary girl, Lily-Rose will not eat her peas and so is diagnosed with “Princess-itus”. She gets sent to a castle where she trains and works – day in and day out – at being a princess.

Meanwhile, in Ian Falconer’s Olivia and the Fairy Princesses (2012), the fashionable, eccentric, Chanelesque Olivia questions what a princess actually is and why she’s always dressed in pink, tiaras and fairy wings. Olivia also confronts the “whiteness” of this aesthetic by dressing in princess costumes from around the world and asking why the default for princess isn’t one from India, or China. In the end, Olivia decides she doesn’t want to be a princess. She’ll be a queen instead.

Lots of other girls in contemporary picture books come to a similar conclusion as Olivia. Some don’t even see the argument as relevant, or part of the story. These girls are often inventors or scientists.

Feminist science and inventor picture books

The original Rosie the Riveter.

Leading the charge here are Rosie Revere Engineer (2013) and Ada Twist, Scientist (2016) by Andrea Beaty (illustrated by David Roberts). In Beaty and Roberts’s series, Rosie Revere is an aspiring inventor and niece of the real Rosie the Riveter. Her classmate, Ada Twist, is a gifted if somewhat mess-making scientist. Another notable book in this category is The Magnificent Thing (2014) by Ashley Spires.

These books position science and inventing as central to the story. The lesson of Rosie Revere Engineer is not that girls should invent, but that you should never let mistakes or failures keep you from inventing. The lesson of Ada Twist, Scientist is not that girls should be scientists, but that parents should accept their children for who they are, no matter how messy it is.

These books don’t argue that girls should be inventors and scientists: they suppose they already are.

Feminist activist picture books

The next category arming young girls with heroes are stories (mostly non-fiction) about activist girls, such as the unstoppable Malala Yousafzai. There’s Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education (2017) by Raphaele Frier and illustrated by Aurelia Fronty, Malala Yousafzai: Warrior of Words (2014) by Karen Leggett Abouraya, illustrated by L.C Wheatley, and a bunch of others detailing her extraordinary story.

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, meeting Canadian president Justin Trudeau last month. Her story has inspired many books.
Chris Wattie/Reuters

Books about broader activism (such as conservation, segregation, the right to vote) featuring girls or women include One Plastic Bag; Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia (2015) by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunin and The Youngest Marcher; The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist (2017).

Feminist political picture books

There is power in the political picture book to reveal the marginalised stories of women in politics, but only space in this article to mention a few. So I’ll start (of course) with Hillary (2016) by Jonah Winter, a biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Winter has had a number of political picture books published, including one about the work of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and Hillary’s daughter Chelsea Clinton has also written a picture book called She Persisted. According to a recent tweet from Clinton, it is about “women who didn’t take no for an answer”.

Hillary Clinton.
Carlos Barria/Reuters

My favourite in this category is, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark (2016) by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. I Dissent uses the Notorious RBG to introduce ideas around working mothers, persistence, shared domestic responsibilities and stay-at-home dads. The book explores the language of dissent while showing the (completely lovable) liberal US Supreme Court justice in her real life, thereby positing the girl with a voice as something special, but nonetheless natural.

We can’t talk about political picture books without also mentioning Madam President (2008) by Lane Smith. This book follows a little girl (in a flared pantsuit!) as she imagines how she would preside over her country and develops the qualities she will need for the job. Qualities like calmness and wisdom, diplomacy and humility.

Feminist non-fiction/history/biography books

One of my favourite picture books in this category is Amazing Babes (2013) by Eliza Sarlos, illustrated by Grace Lee. Each page introduces us to a famous woman from history with a line such as, “I want the vision of Miles Franklin” or the “compassion and commitment of Mama Shirl”. It also includes unusual women such as fashion blogger, Tavi Gevinson.

If you want to know more about any of the women in the book you can look them up in the index pages (Hedy Lamarr, I discovered, was an inventor!) This book speaks to a long history of women, and its framing device allows for a clear and deep reading of why each woman is important, and what modern girls can take from their lives. It only has one line per page/per illustration and uses repetition throughout, so it’s great for younger readers.

Another recent series Little People, Big Dreams, brings together a writer and illustrator to tell the story of a famous woman. There are six books in the collection – about Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Coco Chanel, Agatha Christie, Maya Angelou, and Amelia Earhart – with three more to be published later this year.

A few months ago, meanwhile, I stumbled across a list that introduced me to a treasure trove of recent biography picture books that amplified, uncovered or exposed the stories of women whose work had changed the world.

These include books about scientists like, Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer (2016) by Fiona Robinson, Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clarke (2016) by Heather Lang, illustrated by Jordi Solano and Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World (2014) by Laurie Lawlor, illustrated by Laura Beingessnerr. There are also several great collection books for older readers, such as Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (2016) by Rachel Ignotofsky, and Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World (2016) by Kate Pankhurst, a descendant of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

How does Australia fare?

Australia doesn’t have the same number of overt feminist picture books as, say, the US but that doesn’t mean we don’t have empowering books for girls, about girl characters.

My favourite 2017 CBCA shortlisted book The Patchwork Bike (2016) by Maxine Beneba Clarke and illustrated by Van T. Rudd is a glorious picture book about a girl (and some other kids) living on the edge of the no-go desert. Together the kids build a bike from scraps, while Clarke and Rudd build a story about freedom and creativity and inventiveness.

Another favourite of mine is Molly and Mae (2016) by Freya Blackwood and Danny Parker. This is a story about two very different little girls who meet, become friends, and fall out during a long train ride. It’s a sincere and very realistic look at the often complex relationships and power dynamics between girls, set against a magnificent (moving) Australian backdrop.

My absolutely favourite girl picture book hero is Aaron Blabey’s Sunday Chutney. Stylish, outgoing, funny, resilient and creative, Sunday sometimes feels out of place, and struggles when she has to move and go to a new school. But Sunday has a powerful weapon in her confidence and wry sense of humour.

Finding your own rebel girl

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is not just a book. It’s a protest. We wanted it, we funded it, we saw the gap and refused to leave it alone. But the best part of the book, and what really sets it apart from the others I have mentioned, is the last two pages before the acknowledgements. One says “Write Your Story”, the other, “Draw Your Portrait”.

The book invites girls to write themselves into history. To be visible. To be seen. To have their wisdom heard.

I look forward to reading the story my daughter will write in this book one day, and seeing how she will represent herself. I won’t know what kind of rebel Olive will want to be for a few years yet, but until that day I’ll read her these stories, and urge every mother to do the same.

Sleep well, girls.

Sarah Kanake, Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of the Sunshine Coast

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Scrounging for money: how the world’s great writers made a living

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William Faulkner’s typewriter in Mississippi. The writing life may sound idyllic, but it was often a furious battle to make ends meet.
Visit Mississippi/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Camilla Nelson, University of Notre Dame Australia

It’s a lean time for writers, as arts funding shrinks on all sides, journalists are laid off in droves, broadcasting budgets are slashed, and book publishing remains in a state of seemingly unceasing upheaval. The Conversation

It often seems as if the age of living by the pen may be brought to a close by an increasingly rapacious approach to human affairs, interested only in hard numbers and bottom lines. Australian writers Frank Moorhouse and Ben Eltham have recently proposed several schemes to give writers a living wage to support their work.

And so it’s timely to reflect on some of the strange, desperate and occasionally dangerous ways in which writers have historically lived, if not always by their pens, then at least on their wits. Here’s twelve ways in which classics of western literature were written.

1) Advertising

Unlike other activities, advertising continues to pay very well (though many writers fear they may be required to sell their soul).

English crime writer Dorothy Sayers had a top floor office at Benson’s advertising, where she invented the Mustard Club, a fictional mustard-loving entity with half a million real life subscribers in the UK, and also devised “Just think what Toucan do” for Guinness.

Dorothy Sayers, apart from her contribution to crime fiction, gave the world Guinness’ toucan campaign.
Ben Sutherland/Flickr, CC BY

Peter Carey devised roof-tiling company Monier’s well-known jingle, “Top Cat in Roof Tiles”. Salman Rushdie spent many happy years at Ogilvy & Mather where he came up with “Look into the Mirror tomorrow – you’ll like what you see” for the Daily Mirror. Don Delillo was also employed at Ogilvy & Mather’s New York office, but doesn’t talk about it much.

Even F. Scott Fitzgerald did time at Barron Collier’s. Not only did he give us The Great Gatsby, he also produced – for the Muscatine Steam laundry in Muscatine, Iowa – “We keep you clean in Muscatine”.

2) Postal clerks

The postal service has provided a safe haven for many a writer. Anthony Trollope wrote his novels for three hours every morning before going off to his day job at the post office, which he kept for 33 years. Charles Bukowski also worked for the postal service, and kept his job for ten years. (His first novel was called Post Office and its protagonist was a postal clerk.)

William Faulkner was also a postmaster in Mississippi, but rather less good at holding his job. His resignation letter famously read,

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

Faulkner went on to work as a night manager in a power plant where he penned As I Lay Dying in six or eight weeks, writing between the hours of midnight and 4 am.

3) Janitors and pest exterminators

Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was inspired by CIA-backed mind control experiments.

Ken Kesey was a night cleaner in a mental hospital. He also volunteered to be an experimental guinea pig in a CIA-backed mind control study conducted under the auspices of a front organisation at the Menlo Park facility. This experience gave us One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Stephen King also did time as a janitor in a high school. William S. Burroughs worked as a pest exterminator in Chicago. Jack Kerouac’s resume includes stints as a cotton picker, a dishwasher, a night guard, and gas station attendant.

4) Music transcription

Desperate writers, it seems, will do just about anything. Rousseau, with his books banned, and patrons running scared, transcribed an estimated 9,000 pages of music at six sols per page between 1770 and his death in 1778.

5) Poaching

Jack London, oyster pirate, 1914.

Jack London was famously an oyster poacher, though he preferred to call himself an “oyster pirate”. There’s also an apocryphal tale that Shakespeare was forced to flee Stratford when he was nabbed for poaching deer on the nearby Lucy estate, leading to a life-long feud with the local lord.

There’s no doubt that Shakespeare was adept at turning a guinea where he could. The Earl of Rutland paid no less than four pounds and eight shillings to Shakespeare and his lead actor Richard Burbage (who also moonlighted as a painter) to create a shield and write a motto so that Rutland could appear well dressed at a tournament.

Shakespeare sent his money home to his very clever wife in Stratford, who slowly bought up lots of farmland and cornered much of the local grain trade.

6) Academic

Many writers teach, but few do it for a career. David Lodge was Professor of English, back in the day when academics didn’t worry too much about things like Excellence in Research evaluation, or applying for research council grants. JRR Tolkien was Professor of Anglo Saxon at Oxford, producing definitive editions of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Beowulf as well as his novels.

Robert Frost taught at Amherst and Vladimir Nabokov was Professor of Russian Literature at Cornell. But not everybody agreed this was a good idea. When Nabokov was up for a chair in literature at Harvard, the distinguished linguist Roman Jakobson protested, “What’s next? Shall we appoint elephants to teach zoology?”

7) Butterfly curator

Nabokov’s first job on arrival in the United States was as the curator of Lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard. He stayed there for six years.

Butterflies collected by Vladimir Nabakov.

8) Propagandist

It’s surprising how many writers have ended up on the murky side of politics. John Buchan, perhaps most famously, earned 1,000 pounds a year as the Director of the Ministry of Information, closely aligned to the War Propaganda Bureau where H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.B. Priestly, and Ford Maddox Ford penned paid and unpaid articles, pamphlets and leaflets including Doyle’s To Arms! (1914) and Ford’s When Blood is Their Argument (1915). Arnold Bennett was head of British propaganda in France. Wells became Head of Enemy Propaganda until a strange series of events led to his spectacular resignation.

Orwell’s 1984 was inspired by his work as a propagandist.

George Orwell, who spent much of his life scraping money from wherever he could, was employed in the service of the Imperial Police in Burma, an institution he despised. On returning to London, he worked as a paid propagandist at the BBC, broadcasting to India. It was the psychic pain of the arch enemy of mindless patriotism serving as a wartime propagandist that gave us 1984.

9) Doctors, lawyers and clergymen

Some writers have known from the start that there are better ways to make a living. Henry Fielding was a Magistrate, but by “refusing to take a shilling from a man who would undoubtedly not have had another one left” halved his portion of what he called “the dirtiest money on earth”.

Jonathan Swift was the vicar of Laracor – his congregation of just 15 leaving him plenty of time to write, which he did, for the most part, in the glittering clubs of London.

Anton Chekov, Somerset Maugham and Williams Carlos Williams were doctors. So too was Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle set up a not very successful medical practice in Portsmouth and famously penned A Study in Scarlet during the interminable wait times between patients. He later set up an ophthalmologist in Upper Wimpole St, London, but claims that he never secured so much as a single patient.

10) Cinema impressario

James Joyce scraped a living by teaching English in Trieste, while dreaming up wild moneymaking schemes. With the help of Italian friends he opened the Cinematograph Volta in Dublin, on Mary St, but couldn’t stick to it for more than seven months. He then planned to import Irish tweed to Trieste.

Ulysses would never have been written without the support of feminist publisher Harriet Shaw Weaver, who, in February 1917, shortly after she published Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in book form, gave Joyce an income of £200 a year to support his work. Later Weaver created a trust fund, the interest from which gave Joyce an income for life.

11) Airline ticketing clerk

Harper Lee worked as a reservation clerk for Eastern Air Lines and BOAC for more than eight years. This only changed in in 1956, when the Broadway composer Michael Brown and his wife Joy gave Lee a Christmas gift with a card that said, “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please.” Lee produced the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird within 12 months.

Harper Lee being presented with a medal of freedom by President George W Bush in 2007.

12) Patronage

It’s hard to believe, but writers made nothing from their books until the invention of copyright in the 18th century. Instead, they relied on wealthy patrons to make a living.

This uneasy relationship led a frustrated Samuel Johnson to insert in 1755 a double-edged definition in his Dictionary. After the words, “Patron: One who countenances, supports and protects,” he added, “Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence and is paid with flattery.”

Shakespeare is said to have received an astonishing £1,000 for his flowery dedications to the Earl of Southampton (though it was more probably a still wildly generous £100). Hence he wrote, “The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety.”

But choosing a patron could be dangerous. The Earl of Southampton was later imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I for his role in the Earl of Essex’s 1601 rebellion against the queen. Southampton had organised a special performance of Richard II. While there is no evidence Shakespeare was directly punished, he had good reason to be worried, with other writers tortured and even murdered in Elizabethan England.

Living by the pen

Of course, the preferred method of earning an income for writers has inevitably been journalism. Once patronage was replaced by the rise of the commercial press, writers were able to turn to the business of writing about real people. Samuel Richardson was a printer. Samuel Taylor Coleridge edited The Watchman and The Friend. Charles Dickens was a parliamentary reporter and then editor and publisher of Household Words.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s work as a journalist allowed her to write, and support her entire family.

Indeed, writing for periodicals was what allowed many women in the 19th century to secure an independent income. Jane Austen calculated that the life-long return on her novels was a mere 84 pounds and 13 shillings (works that made millions in the centuries that followed).

But Harriet Beecher Stowe was able to become the sole income earner for her family, penning not just Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but periodicals, gift books, textbooks and popular annuals. Margaret Fuller became the first female editor of the New York Tribune, and their first female foreign correspondent covering the Italian revolutions.

Today, the problem is that not only writers but also perhaps journalists could use an arts council grant.

Camilla Nelson, Associate Professor of Writing, University of Notre Dame Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Not My Review: The Trials of Apollo (Book 2) – The Dark Prophecy, Rick Riordan