Letter by John Stanger and response by Gwendolyn Brooks, place not identified, between 1990 and 1992 : autograph manuscript signed.

Record ID: 
Accession number: 
MA 23730.4
Place not identified, 1990-1992
Purchased on the Drue Heinz Fund for Twentieth-Century Literature, 2020.
Curatorial Comments: 

The celebrated twentieth-century poet Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black writer to win a Pulitzer Prize in any category. Living most of her life on the south side of Chicago, Brooks began publishing poems at the age of 17 and brought out her first book, A Street in Bronzeville, in 1945. She is best known for her poem "We Real Cool" (1960), with its striking portrait of young men in a pool hall. Brooks was also a beloved teacher, leading courses on literature at several American universities during her career. She went above and beyond for her students, making sure they were exposed to many types of literature and purchasing them tickets to local poetry readings.
In the early 1990s a middle school teacher in Illinois named John Stanger sent a series of letters to famous writers, journalists, and public intellectuals asking them "what book(s) made the greatest difference in your life?" He compiled these responses to share with his students. One of the people he wrote was Gwendolyn Brooks, who offered an exuberant response written in her characteristic bold script. Penned directly upon the letter sent by Stanger, she circled the word "books" and wrote, "HUNDREDS! But certainly books of English and American poetry ... 'Caroling Dusk,' a book of the work of Black poets ... Emerson's Essays, Emily Dickinson's poems ... HUNDREDS of others." In a postscript, she adds, "If you're influencing children please advise them to read many kinds of books." Her passion for reading and education leaps off the page and must have been infectious for Stanger's students, as it clearly was for her own.

1 item (1 page) ; 27.8 x 21.6 cm

Letter written by John Stanger to Gwendolyn Brooks, with her response written at the bottom of the letter.
Part of a collection of letters from various individuals responding to an inquiry by an eighth-grade English teacher, John Stanger, about which books had been most influential in their lives.


(In Stanger's hand) requesting what book(s) have had the greatest impact on her; (in Brooks' hand) responding "Hundreds! But certainly books of English and American poetry," and adding Caroling dusk (an anthology of verse by Black poets, edited by Countee Cullen), Samuel Butler's The way of all flesh, Emerson's essays, and Emily Dickinson's poetry; encouraging Stanger's students to read all kind of books.

Purchased from Main Street Fine Books & Manuscripts, 2020.
Reprinted By Consent of Brooks Permissions