Tuesday, October 19, 2010

83: The Self-Empowered Woman: Stacy Schiff

Dear Followers,

As you know, it's important to me to introduce readers to remarkable women-- regardless of how many of the 17 traits that appear in their lives.

The latest woman who has caught my attention is Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer Stacy Schiff. The recipient of an excellent education (Phillips Academy, and Williams College -- class of 1982), Schiff was a Senior Editor at Simon & Schuster until 1990.

In 2000 she won the Pulitzer Prize for her biography "Vera (Mrs. Vladimir)Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage, the wife of the man who wrote "Pale Fire" and "Lolita". Five years later she was a Pulitzer finalist for her biography of Antoine de Saint Exupery. In 2005, she wrote "A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America," which was published as "Doctor Franklin Goes to France" in the UK.

As if all that brilliant writing weren't enough, Schiff has won fellowships from John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the 2006 Arwen Taylor book prize, the Ambassador Award in American studies, the Institut Francais's Gilbert Chinaid prize, the 2006 George Washington Book prize, and 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Whew!

Now Schiff has a new biography out about Cleopatra, whom she fells has been misrepresented for years. When recently asked by the New York Times if Cleopatra had "slept her way to the top," Schiff answered "...it has always been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather than brains. We seem convinced that men strategize while women scheme. Men are authoritative while women are shrill."

Those of you who have heard me lecture about how my library trips as a young girl helped me identify the 17 traits of Self-Empowered Women, will find Schiff's comments of interest: "...I was nostalgic even as a child. I was happiest in my hometown library in Adams, Mass., where nothing seemed to change... I notice in retrospect that biographies for kids seemed to be about women who are famous for their disabilities, delusions or sensational deaths. The big three were Helen Keller, Joan of Arc and Isadora Duncan...I fear that sudden demises always help. Think Lady Di or Amelia Earhart or Sylvia Plath."

The undeniably brilliant Schiff has an unusual lifestyle. Her husband, Marc de la Bruyere, is a real-estate developer who spends large chunks of time in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, while she and their three children live mostly in New York City.

Schiff's articles, essays, and book reviews have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New York Times.

Looking forward to your comments...

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