Lorene Cary's Bio

Lorene Cary’s first Young Adult book, FREE!, is a collection of non-fiction Underground Railroad stories as compelling as the history they chronicle (Third World Press/New City Press). Cary says that she believes these twelve stories of ingenious and daring escapes 'allow our 21st-century minds to imagine actively the inner lives of enslaved people — and put ourselves in their places, not with shame, but compassion and respect.'

The Price of A Child, an adult novel of the UGRR, was selected the inaugural One Book One Philadelphia selection in 2003, and read by 40,000 Philadelphians. The New York Times called the writer “a powerful storyteller, frankly sensual, mortally funny, gifted with an ear for the pounce [of] real speech,” and praised the Underground Railroad novel as “a generous, sardonic, full-blooded work of fiction.”(Knopf, 1995; Vintage 1996) Cary’s first book, published by Knopf in 1991, was Black Ice, a memoir of her years first as a black female student, and then teacher, at St. Paul’s, an exclusive New England boarding school. Arnold Rampersad has dubbed it “...probably the most beautifully written and moving African-American autobiographical narrative since Maya Angelou’s celebrated I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” Black Ice was chosen as a Notable Book for 1992 by the American Library Association.

Pride, a novel, (Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday, 1998; Anchor 1999), moves among the voices of four friends, says The New York Times Book Review , and “between the staccato directness of black slang and the more formal cadences of standard English....”

Lorene Cary was graduated from St. Paul’s School in 1974 and received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. She won a Thouron Fellowship for British-U.S. student exchange and studied at Sussex University. She has received Doctorates in Humane Letters from Colby College in Maine, Keene State College in New Hampshire, Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., and Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa.

In 1998 Lorene Cary founded Art Sanctuary, a unique non-profit lecture and performance series that brings black thinkers and artists to speak and perform at the Church of the Advocate, a National Historic Landmark Building in North Philadelphia; a diverse audience of 10,000 participates each year.

Currently a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a 1998 recipient of the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, Cary has lectured throughout the U.S. She began writing as an apprentice at Time in 1980, then worked as an Associate Editor at TV Guide, served as Contributing Editor for Newsweek in 1993 and freelanced for such publications as Essence, O Magazine, and Mirabella.

In 2003, Cary received the Philadelphia Award, a Philadelphia Historical Society Founder’s Medal for History in Culture. She’s received writing fellowships from Pew Fellowship in the Arts Fellowship and the Leeway Foundation and residencies at Yaddo and Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy. She serves on the usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary and the Union Benevolent Association board. Cary is a member of PEN and the Author’s Guild. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Robert C. Smith, and daughters Laura and Zoë.

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