Becoming the Ex-Wife: The Unconventional Life and Forgotten Writings of Ursula Parrott (Hardcover)
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"Makes an excellent case for Parrott as an unjustly forgotten historical figure."—The New Yorker
"Remind[s] us of the brazenly talented women sidelined by convention."—New York Times
The riveting biography of Ursula Parrott—best-selling author, Hollywood screenwriter, and voice for the modern woman.
Credited with popularizing the label "ex-wife" in 1929, Ursula Parrott wrote provocatively about divorcées, career women, single mothers, work-life balance, and a host of new challenges facing modern women. Her best sellers, Hollywood film deals, marriages and divorces, and run-ins with the law made her a household name. Part biography, part cultural history, Becoming the Ex-Wife establishes Parrott's rightful place in twentieth-century American culture, uncovering her neglected work and keen insights into American women's lives during a period of immense social change.
Although she was frequently dismissed as a "woman's writer," reading Parrott's writing today makes it clear that she was a trenchant philosopher of modernity—her work was prescient, anticipating issues not widely raised until decades after her decline into obscurity. With elegant wit and a deft command of the archive, Marsha Gordon tells a timely story about the life of a woman on the front lines of a culture war that is still raging today.
About the Author
Marsha Gordon is Professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State University, a former Fellow at the National Humanities Center, and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar award. She is the author of numerous books and articles and codirector of several short documentaries.
"As Marsha Gordon argues in her engaging new biography, Becoming the Ex-Wife, the novel 'offers a strong case for the protections of marriage and the dangers of being an unattached woman.' . . . In her biography, Gordon makes an excellent case for Parrott as an unjustly forgotten historical figure: a sociological flash point, a beneficiary of feminism and victim of patriarchy who got her enemies mixed up."
— The New Yorker
“Why did a once-transfixed reading public turn away, and why is Parrott so often now eliminated from a pantheon of popular urban “working girl” writers that includes Helen Gurley Brown, Candace Bushnell, Nora Ephron, Dorothy Parker and, perhaps most comparably, Jacqueline Susann? . . . A reissue of Ursula Parrott’s racy novel “Ex-Wife,” and a new biography of its author, remind us of the brazenly talented women sidelined by convention. . . . [Gordon] surfaces plenty of colorful period detail: passport photos of everyone looking mussed and truculent in that Jazz Age way; correspondence from exasperated agents, editors and lovers; even an adorable 'mapback' version marked with key locations in 'Ex-Wife.'”
— The New York Times
"Parrott led a scandalous, glamorous, sometimes lonely life in the public eye, and Gordon, professor and director of the film studies program at North Carolina State University, has done the world a great service by bringing her back into the spotlight."
— Washington City Paper
"In Becoming the Ex-Wife, Marsha Gordon sheds welcome light on this remarkable and troubled writer, who knew too well how hard it was to be a modern woman who wanted sexual freedom and a career of her own choosing. In this well-researched and fascinating biography, Parrott emerges as a star who should be remembered alongside Jazz Age icons like Dorothy Parker and the Fitzgeralds.”
— Newcity Lit
"[O]ffers an in-depth look at Parrott’s complicated and sometimes scandalous life."
— Walter Magazine