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The Lake on Fire by Rosellen Brown

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About the Author

Rosellen Brown author credit3

Rosellen Brown has published eleven books, including novels, short stories, poetry, and essays.  Her first book, a poetry collection called Some Deaths in the Delta, was published in 1970.  Her 1992 novel Before and After may be her best known work and was made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson. Prior to the 2018 publication of The Lake on Fire, Ms. Brown’s most recent work was the novel, Half a Heart, published in 2000.

Ms. Brown has published widely in magazines, and her stories have appeared frequently in O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prizes. Her story, How to Win, is included in the best-seller, Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Bunting Institute, the Howard Foundation, and twice from the National Endowment for the Arts. She has received the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame's Fuller Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Janet Kafka Prize for Best Novel by an American Woman, the National Council on the Arts Prize, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. In 1984, she was selected as one of Ms. Magazine's "12 Women of the Year."

Ms. Brown was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to an American-born father and a Russian immigrant mother. After earning her bachelor of arts degree from Barnard College in 1960, she attended Brandeis University as a Woodrow Wilson fellow, and met her future husband, Marvin Hoffman. The couple joined the Civil Rights movement, working at Tougaloo College near Jackson, Mississippi. While Mr. Hoffman continued a career in education, founding the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School in Chicago, Ms. Brown turned to writing full-time.

Ms. Brown has taught creative writing at Goddard College, Boston University, and the University of Houston and has been writer-in-residence at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University. She led the Spoleto Writers’ Workshop in Italy for more than a dozen summers and now teaches in the M.F.A. in Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  

Over the years, Ms. Brown has lived in a variety of places, including New York, Boston, San Francisco, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Texas. According to her website, she has "one husband, two daughters, one grand-daughter, one cat, and too many books (read and unread) on her sagging shelves." She currently lives in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, overlooking Lake Michigan.

More about Rosellen Brown

Rosellen Brown's website

Rosellen Brown (Poetry Foundation)

The World's Fair Reviver (Chicago Magazine, September 24, 2018)

Rosellen Brown ( Jewish Women's Archive Encyclopedia, March 2009)

About Rosellen Brown: A Profile (Ploughshares, Fall 1994)

Interviews with Rosellen Brown

A Tale of Two Cities: Rosellen Brown Discusses “The Lake on Fire” (NewCity Lit, November 8, 2018)

Rosellen Brown Spins Epic Tale of Gilded Age Chicago in ‘Lake on Fire’ - video (Chicago Tonight, WTTW, November 28, 2018)

Ten Questions for Rosellen Brown (Poets & Writers, October 16, 2018)

Figuring It Out: A Conversation with Rosellen Brown (The Rumpus, October 15, 2018)

Rosellen Brown: Interview (TriQuarterly, April 27, 2010)

An Interview with Rosellen Brown (Missouri Review, March 1, 1994)

Works by Rosellen Brown


The Lake On Fire (2018)

Half a Heart (2000)

Before and After (1992)

Civil Wars (1984)

The Autobiography of My Mother (1976)

Tender Mercies (1978)

Short Stories

Street Games: Stories (1974)


Cora Fry's Pillow Book (1994)

Cora Fry (1977)

Some Deaths in the Delta (1970)

Poetry and Prose

A Rosellen Brown Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose (1992)


 Selection of Essays



Funding for One Book, Everybody Reads is made possible by Friends of the Wilmette Public Library.


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