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Home Front Girl

Home Front Girl: The Diary of Joan Morrison


Thursday October 10, 2013
1:30 PM
Susan Morrison will speak about her new book, Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America, which is actually the diary of her mother, Joan Wehlen Morrison, a Morristown native and author in her own right. Joan Morrison kept the diary while she was a young girl, but it was not discovered until after her death by Susan and her siblings. The program is sponsored by the National Society of Arts and Letters.

This diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager provides a fascinating record of what an everyday American girl felt and thought during the Depression and the lead-up to World War II. Young Chicagoan Joan Wehlen describes her daily life growing up in the city and ruminates about the impending war, daily headlines, and major touchstones of the era — FDR’s radio addresses, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Citizen Kane, Churchill and Hitler, war work and Red Cross meetings. Joan’s original hand-drawn doodles of her latest dress or haircut infuse the pages with whimsy and period flavor. Home Front Girl is not only an entertaining and delightful read but an important primary source on the late 1930s and early 1940s — a vivid account of a real American girl’s lived experiences.

An entry from Joan Morrison’s diary:

Wednesday, December 10, 1941

“Hitler speaks to Reichstag tomorrow. We just heard the first casualty lists over the radio. Lots of boys from Michigan and Illinois. Oh my God! Life goes on though. We read our books in the library and eat lunch, bridge, etc. Phy Sci and Calculus. Darn Descartes. Reading Walt Whitman now.”

Bios

Susan Signe Morrison is a Professor of English literature at Texas State University — San Marcos, and the author of two books on the Middle Ages. Susan has a BA from Swarthmore College and her A.M./?Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Brown University. She has studied in Germany and taught in the former East Germany. Susan’s publications have also appeared in such journals as Medieval Feminist Forum, The Chaucer Review, The New York Times, Women In German Yearbook, Journal of Popular Culture, and many other publications. She lives in Austin, Texas, but grew up here in Morristown going to the Morristown & Morris Township Library!

Joan Wehlen Morrison (1922–2010) grew up in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago before moving to New York and, later, New Jersey. She was adjunct professor of history at the New School for Social Research. An oral historian, she published two books, one on American immigrants and the other on the 1960s. Of course, when Joan was writing her journal, she never imagined it would one day be published. In a way, this book is Joan’s own oral history, unearthed decades after having been composed.

Founded in 1944, The National Society of Arts and Letters is a non-profit organization that assists promising young artists through arts competitions, scholarships and other career opportunities. Stars such as Shirley MacLaine and Jessye Norman have been past NSAL award winners.


 


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