Carolyn See

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Carolyn See
BornCaroline Laws[1]
(1934-01-13)January 13, 1934
Pasadena, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 13, 2016(2016-07-13) (aged 82)
Santa Monica, California[2]
OccupationNovelist, Professor, Critic
SpousesRichard See, Tom Sturak
ChildrenLisa See, Clara Sturak

Carolyn See (born Caroline Laws;[3] January 13, 1934 – July 13, 2016) was a professor emerita of English at the University of California, Los Angeles,[4] and the author of ten books, including the memoir, Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America, an advice book on writing, Making a Literary Life, and the novels There Will Never Be Another You, Golden Days, and The Handyman. See was also a book critic for the Washington Post for 27 years.

Early life[edit]

See was born in Pasadena, California to Kate Louise Sullivan Daly and George Laws in 1934 .[5][6][7] See's father was a would-be novelist and sometimes journalist who told her to read the Horatio Hornblower books when she was eight so that she wouldn't later get stuck in the nautical details of Moby Dick.[5] She spent her early years in Eagle Rock, California.[7] Her father left when she was eleven and she was raised by her mother whom See described as a mean alcoholic.[5][7] Carolyn had a younger sister Maureen who was 15 years younger who struggled with addiction and eventually died from the use of heroin.[7]

At the age of 16, Carolyn went to live with her father and his new wife in Los Angeles.[7]


See earned her associate degree from Los Angeles City College. During her second year at City college she married Richard See and moved with him to Newfoundland where he was mustered for the Korean War.[5] When they returned to L.A., See attended and earned her M.A. from California State University, Los Angeles and gave birth to her first daughter, Lisa See.[3][5][6] See won the Samuel Goldwyn Creative Writing Contest in 1958 for her unpublished novel The Waiting Game and used the two hundred and fifty dollar prize money to pay for her divorce from Richard See.[5] After her divorce, See married Tom Sturak and had her second daughter Clara Sturak.[5] See later finished her doctorate at UCLA and her dissertation was on the Hollywood novel.[6]

In the late 1960s See began writing articles for the Los Angeles Times and celebrity profiles for TV Guide.[5] At this time See worked out her writing habit—one thousand words a day on white unlined paper in felt pens.[5] While writing non-fiction articles and reviews, See was approached by Little, Brown editor Harry Sions who encouraged her to write a novel which became The Rest is Done with Mirrors.[5]

See's first teaching job was as a professor of English at Loyola Marymount University from 1970 until 1985.[3][5][6] This was followed by a period as a visiting professor of English at her alma mater, UCLA, from 1986 to 1989, where she would later become an adjunct professor.[3] See also earned money by testifying for the defense in pornography trials, leading to the successful book Blue Money: Pornography and the Pornographers.[8]

Besides writing, See also contributed to the literary world through reviews, and sat on review boards for awards. See was a frequent book reviewer for The Washington Post[7] having previously been a book reviewer for the Los Angeles Times and Newsday.[3] See retired from the Washington Post in 2014 after 27 years.[9] See has been on the boards of the National Book Critics Circle and PENWest International.[7]

She lived in Pacific Palisades, California.

See also wrote books under the pen name Monica Highland, a name she shared with two others, her daughter Lisa See and her longtime companion, John Espey, who died in 2000.

See was known for writing novels set in Los Angeles and co-edited books that revolved around the city, including a book of short stories, LA Shorts, and the pictorial books Santa Monica Bay: Paradise by the Sea : A Pictorial History of Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Rey, Ocean Park, Pacific Palisades, Topanga & Malibu, and The California Pop-Up Book, which celebrates the city's unique architecture.

Writing life[edit]

See described her ideal day is to "write two hours, work in the yard for two hours, and write ten pieces of mail, that's all I want to do. It never works out that--or not often."[10]

Personal life[edit]

Carolyn See was married twice—first to Richard See and then Tom Sturak.[5] She was then with long-time companion John Espey from 1974 until his death in 2000. See had two daughters, novelist Lisa See and Clara Sturak.

Philosophical and/or political views[edit]

See was a feminist, and said of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, "I was one of the persons whose lives that book changed."[5] After the publication of Rhine Maidens See announced that she wasn't interested in writing women's novel anymore.[6] See was vocal that Blue Money was the only book of hers that men ever read.[6]

Published works[edit]


  • The Rest Is Done with Mirrors. New York, Little Brown, 1970.
  • Mothers, Daughters. New York, Coward McCann Geoghegan, 1977.
  • Rhine Maidens. New York, Coward McCann Geoghegan, 1980; Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin, 1981.
  • Golden Days. New York, McGraw Hill, 1986; London, Century, 1987.
  • Making History. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
  • The Handyman. New York, Random House, 1999.
  • There Will Never Be Another You. New York, Random House, 2006.


  • Blue Money: Pornography and the Pornographers. New York, Rawson, 1973.
  • Two Schools of Thought, with John Espey. Santa Barbara, California, Daniel, 1991.
  • Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America. New York, Random House, 1995.
  • Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers New York, Random House, 2002.

Novels as Monica Highland (with Lisa See and John Espey)[edit]

  • Lotus Land. New York, McGraw Hill, 1983.
  • 110 Shanghai Road. New York, McGraw Hill, 1986.
  • Greetings from Southern California. New York, McGraw Hill, 1988.


See won both the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Getty Center fellowship.[7] She was also awarded the Robert Kirsch Award by the Los Angeles Times in 1993, an honor bestowed upon an author who writes about or lives in the West.[6]


  1. ^ "Caroline Laws, Born 01/13/1934 in California -". Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  2. ^ Rourke, Mary (14 July 2016). "Carolyn See, award-winning Southern California writer, dies at 82". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Carolyn See Biography - Carolyn See comments:". Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  4. ^ "About Carolyn See -". Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m See, Carolyn (1995). "Carolyn See" (PDF). Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. 22. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Kirsch, Jonathan (31 October 1993). "Carolyn See, the Poet Laureate of Topanga Canyon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Davis, Patti (2009). The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us: Prominent Women Discuss the Complex, Humorous, and Ultimately Loving Relationships They Have with Their Mothers. United States of America: Hay House, Inc. pp. 11–18. ISBN 9781401921620.
  8. ^ Carolyn See, The Scholars and the Pornographer," The Rumpus October 13, 2009
  9. ^ Charles, Ron (5 August 2014). "Carolyn See retires from Book World". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  10. ^ Pearlman, Mickey (1990). Inter/View: Talks with America's Writing Women. University Press of Kentucky. p. 114. ISBN 9780813159683.

External links[edit]