Guide to the Gwendolyn M. Parker Papers, 1967-1998
The papers of Gwendolyn M. Parker, which primarily document her writing carreer, span the years 1967-1998 with the majority of the papers dating from 1986-1997. They consist primarily of diaries, correspondence, clippings, writings, and other miscellaneous printed and manuscript materials. Parker's writings are well documented by several manuscript versions of her 1994 novel, These Same Long Bones, and her 1997 memoir, Trespassing: My Sojourn in the Halls of Privilege. Parker's correspondence is chiefly professional and related to her efforts to publish for her work, but a small amount of personal correspondence is held in the collection. The clippings are primarily reviews of her books or published interviews. The personal observations, story ideas, and writing exercises recorded in Parker's diaries provide some documentation of her life and artistic career, chiefly after 1986.
- Collection Number
- Gwendolyn M. Parker papers
- Parker, Gwendolyn M.
- 4.5 Linear Feet, 750 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Access to the Collection
Selected diaries may be used only with Ms. Parker's permission.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Gwendolyn M. Parker Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
The diaries document Parker's life from 1983-1996,chiefly the years after 1986when she left American Express and devoted herself to writing full time. The documentation of Parker's life provided by her diaries is somewhat sporadic. The diaries consist of records of her day to day activities, personal reflections, story ideas, writing exercises, poetry fragments, and records of her thoughts about her work and her insecurities as a writer. Many of the entries are loose typescript or handwritten pages that appear to have been removed from notebooks. The series is arranged chronologically, though some overlap in the dating may occur where a diary covers more than one year. Parker produced annotations to the diaries in 1998in order to provide contextual information.
The Correspondence Series spans the years 1980-1998,chiefly 1994-1997,and documents Parker's personal relationships, efforts to publish her work, and her working relationships with her editor at Houghton Mifflin, Janet Silver, and her literary agent, Marie Brown. The earliest correspondence includes inter-office correspondence from American Express concerning Parker's promotion to senior strategic analyst in the Office of Corporate Planning. Also included in this series are her correspondence with friends and colleagues and rejection letters from publishers for early versions of These Same Long Bones. This novel is often referred to in the correspondence as Hallowed Ground, its working title prior to publication. The later correspondence, chiefly 1994-1997, includes letters of congratulations from friends and colleagues concerning the publication of These Same Long Bones, letters from children thanking her for presentations given at various schools, and letters from fans of her work. The collection is chiefly composed of letters to Parker, but it does include copies of several letters that Parker wrote to friends, publishers, and other writers. Some of Parker's later correspondence was written while she was living in southern Africa in 1996and includes references to her work on her memoir, Trespassing. This work is often referred to in her letters by its working title, Slim Brown Face at the Table. Parker annotated several of the letters and these notes serve to provide some context for the correspondence. The series is arranged chronologically.
The Clippings Series spans the years 1983-1998,chiefly 1994-1998,and provides documentation of the critical response to Parker's work, her involvement with the arts, and attendance at conferences and other events. The clippings consist chiefly of reviews of her work and profiles of Parker published in various newspapers and magazines. These items contribute a picture of the public's response to her work as well as furnishing a glimpse of her publishers promotional efforts made in support of both These Same Long Bones and Trespassing. Also included in the series are programs and advertisements that serve to document Parker's involvement with the writing profession through her attendance at writer's conferences and various public speaking engagements. The folders in this series are arranged alphabetically, thereunder chronologically.
The Writings Series is arranged into three subseries: Miscellaneous Writings, These Same Long Bones, and Trespassing.
The Miscellaneous Writings Subseries spans 1969-1995,chiefly 1969-1972and 1986,and documents Parker's academic work and her growth and development as a writer. The subseries includes a selection of Parker's poems, stories, and academic papers written while at Radcliffe, poetry and poetic fragments written while she was pursuing her career in tax law, and unpublished short stories and nonfiction pieces written ca. 1986.Also included in the subseries are the notes and drafts of both her early fiction and non-fiction writings, some of which were later reworked into her novel These Same Long Bones, and a book review written by Parker and published in the NYT Book Review in 1995 . The subseries is arranged chronologically, thereunder alphabetically when materials are from the same year. Several manuscripts include Parker's annotations which serve to provide context and date information for particular items. The folder titles and arrangement of those items originally foldered together by Parker have been maintained. Unidentified writings are foldered at the end of the subseries.
The These Same Long Bones Subseries, 1988-1998,documents the writing, revision, and publication process for this novel. The subseries includes Parker's 1998chronology of the writing of the novel, several early versions of the novel under its original title Hallowed Ground, and notes and research related to the novel. It also includes drafts with revisions by both Parker and her editor at Houghton Mifflin, Janet Silver, page proofs with revisions by Parker and her copy editor at Houghton Mifflin, final page and cover design proofs, and promotional materials for both the hardback and paperback versions of the novel. Also included are the manuscripts for two unpublished short stories, "In The Flesh" and "Bittersweet," that were later developed into These Same Long Bones. Several of the working drafts of the novel are accompanied by Silver's cover letters offering suggestions, explanations for her revisions, and encouragement. The early working copies of this novel offer a vivid picture of Parker's creative process, and the revisions by her editors at Houghton Mifflin provide documentation of the editing process that helped to mold the manuscript into its final published form. This subseries also includes publicity materials used in the promotion of this book and two versions of Parker's unproduced screenplay based this novel. The subseries begins with Parker's chronology of the writing of this novel, and is arranged chronologically, thereunder alphabetically.
The Trespassing Subseries spans the years 1995-1998and includes items which serve to document the writing, revision, and publication process for Parker's memoir Trespassing: My Sojourn in the Halls of Privilege. The memoir focuses on her youth, college education, brief career as a tax lawyer with a Wall Street firm, and career with American Express. Included in this subseries is a 1998chronology of the writing of Trespassing, several early drafts of the memoir under its working title Slim Brown Face at the Table, promotional photos and other materials, and manuscripts with notes and revisions by both Parker and her editors at Houghton Mifflin. Also included is a substantial amount of notes and research, chiefly clippings, related to work. Following the 1998chronology, the subseries is arranged chronologically with the undated research files gathered at the end of the subseries.
The Miscellaneous Series includes photographic, manuscript, and printed materials that serve to document Parker's personal and professional life. The photographic materials include photos of her family as well as photographs documenting her appearances readings and other events promoting her work. Also included is a photograph of Parker at approximately age 10, a photocollage of several generations of her family, and a photo of Parker at the 183rd Anniversary Party for Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft. The printed material imcludes a copy of the book The Story of the Descendants of Benjamin Spaulding, by Louis D. Mitchell and John A. Spaulding. The manuscript materials included with this series include a guest book from the publication party for her novel These Same Long Bones and transcriptions of unpublished interviews. The series is arranged alphabetically by folder title with oversize materials being housed separately.
Born Durham, North Carolina
Moved from Durham NC to Connecticut
Attended Law School at NYU
Worked for Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft law firm
Worked for American Express
These Same Long Bones published
Traveled to southern Africa (Zimbabwe and South Africa)
Trespassing: My Sojourn in the Halls of Privilege published
Gwendolyn M. Parker is an author and memoirist whose work has chronicled the experience of the black middle class in America. She was born in Durham and lived in the Hay-Ti section of Durham until 1960 when she moved with her family to Connecticut. She attended the Kent School, a private boarding school, in Connecticut, through high school and later attended Radcliffe. After graduating from Radcliffe in 1972, Parker studied tax law at New York University, graduating in 1975. She then joined the Wall Street law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft, leaving two years later to become a tax lawyer with American Express. While at American Express she advanced to the position of senior strategic analyst in the Office of Corporate Planning.
Parker left American Express in 1986 to devote herself to writing full-time. Her first novel, These Same Long Bones, was published in 1994. It is set in the segregated Hay-Ti section of Durham, North Carolina in the 1940s. Her memoir Trespassing: My Sojourn in the Halls of Privilege was published in 1997 and chronicles her youth, college years, brief career with a Wall Street law firm, and her tenure with American Express. The book focuses on her struggles to earn a place in a corporate culture dominated by white males and her attempts to understand her position as a successful African American member of the middle class in the United States.
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Collection purchased from Hwendolyn M. Parker March, 1998.
Processed by Don Sechler
Completed July 12, 1998
Encoded by Don Sechler