Virginia Brackett (1950–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
(Virginia Roberts Meredith Brackett)
Born 1950, in Fort Riley, KS; divorced); (second marriage) Marcus A. Brackett (stepson). Education: University of Arkansas Medical Center, B.S.M.T. (medical technology), 1973; Missouri Southern State College, B.S. (marketing and management), 1989; Pittsburgh State University, M.A. (English), 1991; University of Kansas, Ph.D. (English), 1998. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, research on women writers, puzzles.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 620 South Elm St., Greensboro, NC 27406.
Medical technologist in Little Rock, AR, and Denver, CO, 1973–78; manager and co-owner of ophthalmology practice, Joplin, MO, 1978–89. Institute of Children's Literature, West Redding, CT, correspondence instructor, 1993–99; East Central University, Ada, OK, English instructor and professor, 1994–99; Triton College, River Grove, IL, English instructor, beginning 1999.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Modern Language Association, International Shakespeare Association, National Council of Teachers of English.
University of Kansas Merrill Research Award, 1994; included in catalog of recommended reading for teens, New York Public Library, 1996, for Elizabeth Cary: Writer of Conscience; East Central University research grants, 1997, 1998, for Early Women Writers: Voices from the Margins; Oklahoma Humanities Foundation research grant and East Central University grant, both 1999, both for "Angie Debo: American Indian Champion"; named an Illinois author, Illinois Library Association, 2004; recommended feminist books for youth, Amelia Bloomer Project/American Library Association Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table, and Tristate Series of Note designation, both 2005, both for Restless Genius; Tristate Book of Note designation, 2005, for A Home in the Heart.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Elizabeth Cary: Writer of Conscience (biography), Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 1996.
Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, Edcon Publishing, 1998.
Jeff Bezos (juvenile biography), Chelsea House (Philadelphia, PA), 2000.
John Brown: Abolitionist (juvenile biography), Chelsea House (Philadelphia, PA), 2001.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2001.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: Writer of the Jazz Age, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2002.
Menachem Begin, Chelsea House (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.
Steve Jobs: Computer Genius of Apple, Enslow Publishers (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 2003.
Restless Genius: The Story of Virginia Woolf, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2004.
A Home in the Heart: The Story of Sandra Cisneros, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2005.
Classic Love and Romance Literature: An Encyclopedia of Works, Characters, Authors, and Themes (nonfiction), ABC-Clio (Santa Barbara, CA), 1999.
The Contingent Self: One Reading Life (adult nonfiction), Purdue University Press (West Lafayette, IN), 2001.
Contributor to books, including Catholic Women Writers, Greenwood Publishing (Westport, CT), 2001; Absolutism and the Scientific Revolution 1600–1720, Greenwood Publishing, 2002; Encyclopedia of Catholic Culture, edited by Mary R. Reichardt, Greenwood Publishing, 2004; Facts on File Companion to British Literature: Beginnings through Nineteenth Centuries, Facts on File, 2005; and Facts on File Companion to British Poetry: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, 2007. Contributor of more than one hundred stories and articles, juvenile and adult, to periodicals, including Children's Writer, Byline, Write Now, Children's Digest, Turtle, Today's Family, and Today's Christian Woman. Contributor of articles to academic journals, including Notes & Queries, Mosaic, and Women and Language.
A teacher at the college level, Virginia Brackett also inspires younger students through her writing. She has published several biographies that relate the life stories of interesting individuals, including writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Sandra Cisneros, and Elizabeth Cary; former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin; notorious abolitionist John Brown; and entrepreneurs Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. Designed for students, each of her biographies includes photographs and other illustrations, as well as time lines that help put the subject's life into its historical context.
A Home in the Heart: The Story of Sandra Cisneros follows the Chicana writer through her Chicago childhood through her adult years in San Antonio, Texas, as she attempts to straddle both American culture and her Mexican heritage. Through her autobiographical works such as The House on Mango Street, Cisneros has added a strong Latina voice to the growing body of American literature. Noting that Cisneros is "a compelling contemporary figure with significant YA appeal," Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books reviewer Karen Coates wrote that A Home in the Heart will "provide a starting place for interested readers," while Booklist critic Hazel Rochman deemed Brackett's biography a "lively account" that covers both Cisneros's writing and her work as an activist.
Nineteenth-century British writer Virginia Woolf led a complex personal life that haunted her until her suicide in middle age. Woolf's writing, while sometimes tackled in high school English classes, is sophisticated as well as autobiographical, and Brackett's Restless Genius: The Story of Virginia Woolf helps to make works such as Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse more approachable to teen readers. Praising Brackett's book as "short" and "well-organized," Carolyn Phelan added in Booklist that the work discusses Woolf's life, relationships, and work, combining these elements in "an involving story of an unusual woman" who, while little understood by her contemporaries, came to be considered one of the foremost writers of her day. Noting that Brackett also discusses the social and intellectual movements that influenced Woolf's work and life, School Library Journal reviewer Lori Matthews added that Restless Genius is an "accessible, engaging biography" that is both "a quick read and a good resource for reports."
Brackett once told SATA: "I did not begin writing for publication until I was almost forty years old. The article that jumpstarted my career featured my mother and my father, who was killed in Korea, and I over-came my hesitance to write through a creative writing course at a local university. Although I had enjoyed writing in high school (I wrote most of the scripts for our high school assemblies during my senior year), I ended up pursuing a career in medical technology, then business, and also helped to raise three children. I used all of these activities as an excuse not to write. Following a critical life change, I rediscovered the great nurturing effect of writing, and I returned to college in 1989 to obtain a graduate degree in English, believing that a serious study of literature would help my writing abilities. It certainly did that, but it also did more. Along the way, I discovered a love for teaching, which became my third vocation. I also decided that I wanted to mold what many readers might consider the 'esoteric' subject matter of academia for popular readers, including a young audience.
"My academic studies of early women writers (1500s–1800s) ignited a tremendous excitement over a group of courageous individuals about whom little was known. This led to the writing and publication of two of my books, Elizabeth Cary: Writer of Conscience and Early Women Writers: Voices from the Margins. All of the women discussed in these books wrote, and some even published, during an extremely difficult time for women to be heard. Their pursuit of creative goals I found astounding, and I wanted to share that with an audience [that seems] to most need that motivation and inspiration: young readers. No one can read of Elizabeth Cary, writing while separated from her children and rejected by her husband due to her religious beliefs, and fail to think 'Wow—if she can do it, so can I,' whatever that 'it' happens to be.
"I would say to aspiring writers that the particular date on which you begin writing remains unimportant. What is important is the fact that you may, indeed, incorporate your personal passions into your writing. You simply must share those things you love the best with others."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 1999, J.E. Sheets, review of Classic Love and Romance Literature, p. 301; September 15, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Restless Genius: The Story of Virginia Woolf, p. 229; December 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of A Home in the Heart: The Story of Sandra Cisneros, p. 645.
Book Notes, December, 2004, review of A Home in the Heart.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2004, Karen Coates, review of Restless Genius: The Story of Virginia Woolf; May, 2005, Karen Coates, review of A Home in the Heart.
Choice, January, 2000, review of Classic Love and Romance Literature, p. 894.
Library Journal, August, 1999, Peter A. Dollard, review of Classic Love and Romance Literature, p. 74.
School Library Journal, Maru H. Cole, review of Classic Love and Romance Literature, p. 77; May, 2002, Trisha Stevenson Medeiros, review of F. Scott Fitzgerald, p. 165; February, 2003, Jack Forman, review of Menachem Begin, p. 154; November, 2004, Lori Matthews, review of Restless Genius, p. 159; March, 2005, Joel Banglian, review of A Home in the Heart, p. 224.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2002, review of Jeff Bezos, p. 58; May, 2002, Patricia Ann Owens, review of John Brown: Abolitionist, p. 165; August, 2002, review of F. Scott Fitzgerald, p. 216.