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Betty Smith Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)Description / Buy at Amazon
Tomorrow Will Be Better (1948)Description / Buy at Amazon
Maggie-Now (1950)Description / Buy at Amazon
Joy in the Morning (1963)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

Wednesdays and Other Stories (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon

Betty Smith was a published author.

She was born on December 15, 1896 in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents were both German-Americans, first-generation immigrants. Her mother was Katherine and her father was John C. Wehner. Betty was born Elisabeth Wehner and had two younger siblings, William and Regina.

The family moved to several residences. Ultimately they would live in a top floor tenement on 702 Grand Street, the location that would be the inspirational setting for her eventual novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. The family grew up poor. Betty was passionate about writing from an early age. She knew she would go on to write a book at some point. She was a frequent visitor of the public library close to her home. Two of her poems were published in a local school publication at age eleven. She attended different public schools until the eighth grade, when her mother requested she quit and work to help support their family.

At 18 years old she attended Girls’ High School located in Brooklyn while working her night job. She did this for two years but ended up quitting the school to work days for a Postal Service job. She was active in the Jackson Street Settlement House. She would take play writing and acting classes there. Here she met George H.E. Smith, who would become her first husband. He was also German-American and the coach of a debate team she belonged to there.

Betty moved to Queens for a period of time with her stepfather and mother. Then she moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. She studied law at the University of Michigan there and married George Smith on October 18, 1919. She would give birth to two children, both girls. When they were in school, she attempted to finish her education. She attended high school at Ann Arbor but could not graduate since George got a job in Belding, Michigan and then Detroit.

The couple then came back to Ann Arbor because he didn’t feel fulfilled in practicing law. Her husband studied political science and the university let Betty take special student classes without having to matriculate. Betty would start to take writing seriously and worked on her composition skills and sent recipes and articles to papers while writing plays.

Betty separated legally from her husband in 1933 and they were divorced officially in 1938. She would continue to use the Smith name although divorced. She would study play writing and journalism while auditing courses at University of Michigan’s campus. She wrote a few plays under the supervision of her professor Kenneth Thorpe Rowe. One, “Jonica Starrs”, was put on in 1930 in Ann Arbor and the Detroit Playhouse. She also won an Avery Hopwood Award for one of her plays and won a financial prize and public attention.

She was then given an invitation by Yale University to come there and study drama. She had a 2 year fellowship and wrote several plays during this time. She also met another playwright named Robert Finch who became a confidant. With money issues growing and her Yale studies concluding in 1934, she turned her focus to her children. She was unfortunately unable to earn a degree from Yale due to never finishing high school.

She would live in Queens with her mother and her children for a short period of time. Betty would get a job as play reader with the Federal Theater Project in 1935. In 1936 she went to Chapel Hill in North Carolina to do regional theater activities. There she found a home and began to write more even though money was still a concern. She attempted as well to evolve from writing plays to trying a novel. Finch encouraged her and her writing group did too. She wrote about what she knew, the Brooklyn streets and tenements.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn first came out in 1943. It was a best seller from the start and made her a famous author overnight. She also married her husband Joseph Jones that year. The novel would be adapted into a movie in 1945, a musical adaptation in 1951, and a television movie in 1974.

Her second novel Tomorrow Will Be Better was published in 1947. Her third novel came out in 1958 and was titled Maggie-Now. Her final and fourth novel was published in 1963 and is titled Joy in the Morning. It was turned into a movie that came out in 1965. She also wrote Gander Sauce, the play that would be adapted for television.

She divorced her second husband in 1951. Six years later, she got married to Robert Voris Finch. her long time friend. However, he passed away on February 4, 1959, so the marriage was not long lived. Smith herself passed away in Shelton, Connecticut of pneumonia on January 17, 1972. She is buried with Robert Finch in Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery in North Carolina.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is the first novel from author Betty Smith. In this story, readers meet the main character of Francie Nolan for the first time.

Francie is a big reader, a fan of penny candy, and a human nature observer. She lives in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. Her father is sweet but troubled, and her mother is realistic. Her aunt has male suitors and favors her brother.

Francie knows what it’s like to be hungry and what money is worth. But she’s also a romantic soul, much like her father. But like her mother, she’s also practical and constantly seeking truth. She’s doing all that she can to try and get through life and even thrive, just like the tree of heaven. Read this book and absorb what has proven to be a classic.

Tomorrow Will Be Better is Betty Smith’s second novel. It takes place in 1920s Brooklyn in its Bushwick and Williamsburg sections. It features main character Margy Shannon.

Margy is shy and also an optimist. She lives in poverty, and it is miserable, but she also wants something more from life. She’s striving to find something better than the painful life of hard work that is all that her parents have known.

This life has made them tired and worn her parents down. However, Margy has just gotten out of school and is still young. She thinks that a better life can happen. She has goals to fall in love and marry a husband, have children together, and live a nice life in a respectable home. There her children never have to go hungry or endure a tension filled environment.

Will a man named Frankie Malone be able to meet these dreams? Read this book and see!

Book Series In Order » Authors » Betty Smith

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