Highlights of a Life
“Mother accepted me and my word as she accepted James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, or Brancusi, or any serious artist. Because of her I knew that anyone who wrote, or anyone who painted, or anyone who composed music, had a special place in life.”
—Kay Boyle, in a letter dated August, 1931. (Part of the Philip Kaplan Expatriate Collection at Southern Illinois University.)
All through her long life, Kay Boyle had an unfailing instinct for being at the point of crucial social change. In the post-World War I era, she moved in influential circles of writers, first in New York and then in Paris. Always blending her devotion to art and social justice, she wrote about the compelling issues of the day. Her subjects were the war against fascism, the struggle against McCarthy, the fight for racial and sexual equality, and the war in Vietnam. For this, she suffered blacklisting and even jail, in the name of what she passionately believed was just.
Boyle managed to keep herself free from conventional social standards – somehow managing to bear six children – and published prolifically in fiction, journalism and poetry. She was so impressive in her art that she won popular and critical acclaim for her perfectly-crafted short stories which remain among the most widely admired and anthologized works of American fiction.