Rosa Guy

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Rosa Cuthbert Guy (September 1, 1922[1] – June 3, 2012) was a Trinidad-born American writer, acclaimed for her books of fiction for adults and young people. She died of cancer on Sunday, June 3, 2012.[2]


Born in Diego Martin,[1] on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, Rosa and her sister Ameze were left with relatives when their parents, Audrey and Henry Cuthbert, emigrated in 1927 to the United States. The children joined their parents in Harlem in 1932. However, the following year their mother became ill, and Rosa and her sister were sent to Brooklyn to live with a cousin, whose espousal of Garveyism and black nationalistic politics deeply affected Rosa.[3] On their mother's death in 1934 they returned to Harlem to live with their father, who remarried, but he too died in 1937. Subsequently Rosa and her sister lived in foster homes. Rosa left school at the age of 14 and took a job in a garment factory to support herself and her sister.[3]

In 1941, when she was 19, Rosa met and married Warner Guy. While her husband was serving in the Second World War she continued working in the factory, and a co-worker introduced her to the American Negro Theatre, where she studied acting; other graduates included Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. In 1942, her son Warren Guy, Jr, was born.[3]

After the war, Rosa Guy moved to Connecticut with her husband and son, but five years later, on the dissolution of her marriage, she returned to New York.[3]

In 1950, along with John Oliver Killens, Rosa Guy formed a workshop that was to become the Harlem Writers Guild (HWG), whose aim was "to develop and aid in the publication of works by writers of the African Diaspora".[4] Its members and participants included Willard Moore, Walter Christmas, Maya Angelou, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Paule Marshall, Audre Lorde, Alice Childress, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Douglas Turner Ward. More than half of all successful African-American writers were associated with the workshop between 1950 and 1971.[3] Guy also belonged to the Black nationalist literary organization On Guard for Freedom, founded by Calvin Hicks on the Lower East Side of New York City. Among On Guard's other members were LeRoi Jones, Sarah E. Wright and Harold Cruse.

Rosa Guy died in 2011, and her obituary was included in The Socialite who Killed a Nazi with Her Bare Hands: And 144 Other Fascinating People who Died this Year, a collection of New York Times obituaries published in 2012.[5]


Rosa Guy's work has received The New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year citation, and the American Library Association′s Best Book Award.


In 1954, Rosa Guy wrote and performed in her first play, Venetian Blinds, which was successfully produced Off-Broadway at the Tropical Theater.

Most of Guy's books are about the dependability of family members that care and love each other.

Her 1985 novel, My Love, My Love: Or, The Peasant Girl - commonly described as a Caribbean re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid",[6] but "with a dash of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet"[7] - was the basis for the Broadway musical Once on This Island, which ran for a year from 1990 to 1991.


  • Bird at My Window (London: Souvenir Press, 1966; Allison & Busby, 1985; Virago, 1989; Coffee House Press, 2001)
  • Children of Longing (essays, introduction by Julius Lester; Holt, Rinehart, 1971)
  • The Friends (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1973; Macmillan Educational, 1982; New York: Bantam Books, 1983; Perfection Learning, 1995; Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1996; Heinemann, 1996; Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2001)
  • Ruby (New York: Viking Press, 1976; London: Gollancz, 1981; Puffin Books, 1989)
  • Edith Jackson (New York: Viking Juvenile, 1978; London: Gollancz, 1978; Longman, 1989; Puffin, 1995)
  • The Disappearance (New York: Delacorte, 1979; Puffin, 1985)
  • Mirror of Her Own (New York: Delacorte, 1981)
  • Mother Crocodile: An Uncle Amadou Tale from Senegal (illustrated by John Steptoe - Coretta Scott King Award; New York: Delacorte, 1981; Doubleday, 1993)
  • A Measure of Time (New York: Henry Holt, 1983; London: Virago, 1983)
  • New Guys Around the Block (New York: Delacorte, 1983; London: Gollancz, 1983; Laurel Leaf, 1992: Puffin, 1995)
  • Paris, Pee Wee and Big Dog (London: Gollancz, 1984; New York: Delacorte, 1985; Puffin, 1986; Nelson Thornes Ltd, 1988)
  • My Love, My Love, or the Peasant Girl[8] (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1985; London: Virago, 2000; Coffee House Press, 2002)
  • And I Heard a Bird Sing (New York: Delacorte, 1987; London: Gollancz, 1987; Puffin, 1994)
  • The Ups and Downs of Carl Davis III (Delacorte, 1989; Gollancz, 1989; Collins Educational, 1994)
  • Billy the Great Child (London: Gollancz, 1991; New York: Delacorte, 1992)
  • The Music of Summer (New York: Delacorte, 1992)
  • The Sun, the Sea, A Touch of the Wind (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1995)


  1. ^ a b Margalit Fox, "Rosa Guy, 89, Author of Forthright Novels for Young People, Dies", New York Times, June 7, 2012.
  2. ^ "Rosa Guy obituary". African American Literature Book Club. 1925-09-01. Retrieved June 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Nagueyalti Warren. William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster & Trudier Harris, ed. "Rosa Guy". The Oxford Companion to African American Literature. pp. 331–32. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  4. ^ "The Harlem Writers Guild, History". Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The Modern Mermaid", Epinions.
  7. ^ James L. Seay, "A Review of Theatre in the Park's production of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Once on this Island", Pamphlet.
  8. ^ Gargeau, Angeline (1985-12-01). "Review of 'My Love, My Love: Or The Peasant Girl', The New York Times, December 1, 1985". Retrieved 2012-06-05. 

Further reading[edit]

J. Saunders Redding, review of Bird at My Window, Crisis 103.3 (April 1966), pp. 225–227.

External links[edit]