PORTRAITS: The Artist as a Young Girl

Cover of The Yearling 1938 Original

It was Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' second published novel, The Yearling, that made her internationally famous and won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel (now called the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction). The best-selling novel in America in 1938, translated into a multitude of languages, turned into an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck, The Yearling gave Rawlings the freedom and stature to take her writing in whatever direction she wished. 

Her schoolmates and friends in Brookland probably weren’t surprised by her success, given the childhood essay contests she often won when she lived here.   But The Yearling and most of the rest of her works were set in rural Florida and don’t tell us much about her childhood in Brookland…except for one.

rawlingsbloodcover

In 1929 Rawlings submitted a manuscript for the Atlantic Prize. awarded to “the most interesting novel of any sort, kind, or description by a living author.” It was titled Blood of My Blood, and it was her very first book. It was rejected, perhaps because although it was written in the form of a novel with a third person narrator, it was clearly more autobiography than fiction. She submitted it nowhere else and put it away. Years later, she sent it to the daughter of her publisher, who had become a protégé.  It was finally published in 2002, nearly fifty years after Rawlings’ death.

LOCAL LORE: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' childhood home

rawlingsteen

I’ve been doing some research on the childhood of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953), the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who grew up here in Brookland. I’m still waiting for some materials to arrive before I can post that story, but I ran across something peculiar I thought might be of interest.

(Marjorie Kinnan as a teen. Courtesy University of Florida Digital Collections.)

When looking up the Kinnan family in the 1910 US census, I found a discrepancy. All local historians, including me, have thought the address of the Kinnan family was 1221 Newton Street NE. The house is still standing, and is quite nicely preserved. 

1221Newton

1221 Newton St. NE

But the census listed the Kinnans at 1215 Newton, not 1221. The house at 1215 Newton burned in the 1980s and was torn down. The house that’s there now is a recent construction. Then I looked in the old Evening Star and Washington Post for stories about the Kinnans that might give the address. I found a number of them and every one listed their address as 1215 Newton. 

I contacted Dan Vera, who along with Kim Roberts runs the DC Writers’ Homes website. They too have the Kinnan address listed as 1221 Newton. I told him about what I had found, and he was perplexed as well. He checked city directories from the era and found that they also listed the address as 1215 Newton. Had we all been wrong about which house the Kinnans occupied, or had there been a numbering change over the years?

© Robert Malesky 2017