MY DIARY--MY WORLD by Elizabeth Yates


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From 1917, when she was twelve, until 1925, when she left her Buffalo home (or, as her mother put it, her ""station in life"") to launch a writing career in New York, Elizabeth Yates kept a diary; and that diary, amplified with material from her notebooks, has been transformed into a fully-explanatory narrative in diaryform. It could, as the publisher suggests, serve as a model for young diarykeepers of a literary bent. It has something to say about the discipline of writing. And it might be of interest to Yates' readers. As a story, however, it's fairly pallid. There are only two major occurrences, both involving Yates' older sister--who is first barred from accepting a college teaching post, then turned away from the man of her choice, in each case by parental pressure. Otherwise, we hear of city winters punctuated by schoolgirl-club meetings, visits to the theater, an occasional family spat; and of farm summers marked by Yates' increasing skill at horsemanship and successful money-earning projects. One summer she goes off to camp, and her horsemanship gains her a chance to teach tiding to the younger children--about which she has some definite ideas. After graduating from high school, she goes away to finishing school for a year (not wanting to go to college), and has the opportunity to study writing with an exacting, inspiring teacher in New York--a very old woman whose death Yates learns of from a notice on her door. Yates herself comes across as a strong personality directed inwardly toward writing: at twelve, she clings to her dollhouse because ""Here in this world, with this family, I can make everything go right. . . . The dollhouse and its family take on a life of their own, and I'm at the center of it."" Those revelations are very occasional, but they do give a suggestive substance to the chronicle.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1981
Publisher: Westminster