Paula Fox

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Paula Fox
Born (1923-04-22) April 22, 1923 (age 93)
New York City, US
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Period 1966–1999 (children's lit.)
Genre Children's literature; novels, memoirs
Notable works
Notable awards Newbery Medal
Hans Christian Andersen Award
Children 2 sons by Sigerson[a]

Paula Fox (born April 22, 1923) is an American writer 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 has 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 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. Her father, Paul Hervey Fox, wrote screenplays and taught English. After he divorced Elsie, he had 3 sons and a daughter with his second wife, Mary.

Elsie De Sola Fox rejected her daughter Paula at birth and 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.[9]

The Reverend treated Paula kindly and taught her important lessons. When she first visited her parents at age five, her mother treated her like a prisoner of war. 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."[10]

In 1944, Paula was living in the household of famed acting coach Stella Adler and became friendly with another of Adler's students who was living there, Marlon Brando. There have been persistent rumors that when Paula became pregnant during this time,[11] Brando fathered the child. Neither Fox nor Brando ever addressed the rumours and Fox never stated who was the child's father, although Brando later remarked that he "fathered several children" during said period.[12] Paula gave the child up for adoption. This daughter, Linda Carroll, became an author and psychotherapist and gave birth to musician Courtney Love. Visual artist Frances Bean Cobain is Fox's great-granddaughter.[13]


Fox later attended Columbia University and married Richard Sigerson, by whom she had 2 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.[14] 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, an acknowledged masterpiece, 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.[10]

In 2011 she was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame.[15] 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. She now lives in Brooklyn.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 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 Beside 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 2013-07-16.
  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 2013-07-23.
  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 2013-07-16.
  4. ^ "National Book Awards – 1983". National Book Foundation (NBF). Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  5. ^ (Paula Fox, all listings). Datenbanksuche (database search). Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (DJLP). Arbeitskreis für Jugendliteratur (Jugend literatur). Retrieved 2013-07-16. 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 2011-06-23. 
  9. ^ Staino, Rocco (May 12, 2011). "Paula Fox on a Roll". School Library Journal. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  10. ^ a b Acocella, Joan (May 16, 2011). "From Bad Beginnings". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  11. ^ "Kultur" [Culture], Dagbladet (Bok) (in Norwegian), NO, 2014-03-31 .
  12. ^ "Courtney loveless family tree remains in mystery as feud with Grandma sizzles", Observer, 2013-04-16 .
  13. ^
  14. ^ Italie, Hillel (May 5, 2011). "Paula Fox looks back on a wayward life". Retrieved 2012-03-06.  [clarification needed]
  15. ^ NYLA .

External links[edit]