Paula Fox

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Paula Fox
Born(1923-04-22)April 22, 1923
New York City, U.S.
DiedMarch 1, 2017(2017-03-01) (aged 93)
New York City, U.S.
GenreChildren's literature; novels, memoirs
Notable works
Notable awardsNewbery Medal
Hans Christian Andersen Award
  • Howard Bird
    (m. 1940, divorced)
  • Richard Sigerson
    (m. 1948, divorced)
  • (m. 1962)
Children3; including Linda Carroll[a]
ParentsPaul Hervey Fox (father)

Paula Fox (April 22, 1923 - March 1, 2017) was an American author of novels for adults and children and of two memoirs. For her contributions as a children's writer she won the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1978, the highest international recognition for a creator of children's books.[1][2] She also won several awards for particular children's books including the 1974 Newbery Medal for her novel The Slave Dancer;[3][b] a 1983 National Book Award in category Children's Fiction (paperback) for A Place Apart;[4][c] and the 2008 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for A Portrait of Ivan (1969) in its German-language edition Ein Bild von Ivan.[5][d]

In 2011, she was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame.[6] The NYSW Hall of Fame is a project of the Empire State Center for the Book.[7] Her adult novels went out of print in 1992. In the mid nineties she enjoyed a revival as her adult fiction was championed by a new generation of American writers.[8]

Early life[edit]

Paula Fox was born in New York City on April 22, 1923. Her mother, Elsie De Sola, was Cuban and a screenwriter.[9] Her father, Paul Hervey Fox, wrote screenplays[9] and taught English. After he divorced Elsie, he had 3 sons and a daughter with his second wife, Mary.[citation needed]

Elsie De Sola Fox rejected her daughter Paula at birth and she and Paul left her in a foundling home. Her maternal grandmother, Candelaria de Sola, temporarily visiting New York City, rescued her and she was moved around Florida, Cuba and the US. Unable at the time to provide a home herself, Candelaria gave the infant to Reverend Elwood Corning and his bedridden mother in Balmville, New York.[10]

Corning treated Fox kindly and taught her important lessons. When she first visited her parents at age five, her mother openly scorned her. As she wrote in her memoir Borrowed Finery, the reunion was so traumatic that "I sensed that if she could have hidden the act she would have killed me."[11]

In 1944, Fox was living in the household of famed acting coach Stella Adler and became friendly with Marlon Brando, another of Adler's students who was living there.[12][13] She became pregnant and gave the child, Linda Carroll, up for adoption.[9][14] There have been persistent rumors that Brando was in fact Carroll's father,[15] although neither Brando nor Fox ever commented on the matter.[16][17] Carroll, who became an author and psychotherapist, is the mother of musician Courtney Love. Visual artist Frances Bean Cobain is Fox's great-granddaughter.[18]


Fox attended the Columbia University School of General Studies from 1955-58 and married Richard Sigerson, by whom she had two sons. She later married literary critic and translator Martin Greenberg, and worked for years as a teacher and tutor for troubled children. Only in her 40s did she begin her first novel, Poor George, about a cynical schoolteacher who finds purpose—and ruin—in mentoring a vagrant teenager.[19] The novel was received well (Bernard Bergonzi in the New York Review of Books calling it "the best novel I've read in a long time") but sold poorly, a pattern that all her adult novels would follow. Desperate Characters came next with Alfred Kazin calling it a "brilliant performance" and "quite devastating" while Lionel Trilling described it as "a reserved and beautifully realized novel". By 1992 all six of her novels were out of print.[11]

In 2011 she was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame.[20] The Writers Hall of Fame is a project of the Empire State Center for the Book.[7] She was championed by the author Jonathan Franzen, who saw that some of her books were re-issued.[9]

Fox died at age 93 in Brooklyn on March 1, 2017.[21]


A Portuguese Feature Film[22] Coitado do Jorge[23] based on Poor George was directed by Jorge Silva Melo in 1993. Desperate Characters was made into a movie starring Shirley MacLaine in 1971.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fox is also the birth mother of Linda Carroll (b. 1944), who was adopted by an Italian Catholic family. In turn, Carroll is the mother of Courtney Love.
    "MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS: Courtney Love's mom, Linda Carroll, reflects on her daughter and her own birth mother", Neva Chronin, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, February 5, 2006. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  2. ^ a b Beside winning the Newbery Medal for The Slave Dancer in 1974, Fox was a runner-up for One-Eyed Cat in 1985. Runner-up books are termed Newbery Honor Books and may display a silver seal.[3]
  3. ^ a b c Before winning the 1983 children's paperback fiction award for A Place Apart, Fox was a finalist for the overall National Book Award, Children's Literature with Blowfish Live in the Sea in 1971 and The Little Swineherd in 1979.
    "National Book Awards – 1970". NBF. Retrieved 2012-02-08. (Select 1971 and 1979 from the top left menu.)
  4. ^ a b c Besides winning the overall Children's Book prize in 2008 (Ein Bild von Ivan; A Portrait of Ivan, 1969), Fox made the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis Youth Book shortlist in 1988 (Der Schattentänzer; The Slave Dancer, 1974) and Children's Book shortlist in 2002 (Paul ohne Jacob; Radiance Descending, 1997, featuring a brother's Downs syndrome). For the latter and another book by Fox (Jenseits der Lügen; The Eagle Kite, 1995, featuring a father's homosexuality and AIDS) Cornelia Krutz-Arnold won a special prize for translation in 2002.
    (Paula Fox, all listings). DJLP.


  1. ^ "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  2. ^ "Paula Fox" (pp. 58–59, by Eva Glistrup).
    The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  4. ^ "National Book Awards – 1983". National Book Foundation (NBF). Retrieved February 27, 2012.
  5. ^ (Paula Fox, all listings). Datenbanksuche (database search). Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (DJLP). Arbeitskreis für Jugendliteratur (Jugend literatur). Retrieved July 16, 2013. For general information select "Infos zum Preis" or "English key facts".
  6. ^ NYLA
  7. ^ a b NYLA.
  8. ^ Edemariam, Aida (June 21, 2003). "A qualified optimist". The Guardian. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d "Author Paula Fox, Newbery Medal winner and grandmother of Courtney Love, dies at 93". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. March 3, 2017. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  10. ^ Staino, Rocco (May 12, 2011). "Paula Fox on a Roll". School Library Journal. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Acocella, Joan (May 16, 2011). "From Bad Beginnings". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 1, 2012.
  12. ^ "Kultur" [Culture], Dagbladet (Bok) (in Norwegian), NO, March 31, 2014.
  13. ^ "Courtney loveless family tree remains in mystery as feud with Grandma sizzles", Observer, April 16, 2013.
  14. ^ Selvin, Joel (May 11, 1995). "Courtney and Dad -- No Love Lost". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  15. ^ Novak, Theresa (November 3, 2014). "Love and fame provide themes for Corvallis author". Corvallis Gazette-Times.
  16. ^ Freeman, Nate (April 16, 2013). "Courtney Loveless: Family Tree Remains Mystery as Feud with Grandma Sizzles". Observer.
  17. ^ "Is It Fact or Is It Schmact?". Archived from the original on November 30, 2014.
  18. ^ "Courtney Love: damage limitation". April 2010. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  19. ^ Italie, Hillel (May 5, 2011). "Paula Fox looks back on a wayward life". Retrieved March 6, 2012.[clarification needed]
  20. ^ NYLA.
  21. ^ Fox, Margalit (March 3, 2017). "Paula Fox, Novelist Who Chronicled Dislocation, Dies at 93". The New York Times.
  22. ^ "Coitado do Jorge" excerpt on Youtube, archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  23. ^ "Coitado do Jorge"(1993) at IMDB, July 13, 2009.

External links[edit]