Rachel Carson: A Twentieth-Century Life



Levine, Ellen. Rachel Carson: A Twentieth-Century Life. 2007. Lexile 1060.

Rachel Carson's ground-breaking book, Silent Spring, was published 50 years ago, in September, 1962.  It had been serialized a few months earlier in The New Yorker and soon became a best-seller.  This biography, an entry in the "Twentieth-Century Life" series, skillfully blends Carson's personal and professional lives, building to Silent Spring and its impact.  Themes about the value of nature and the importance of persistence infuse the book. Carson, who was born in 1907, attended a women's college in Pittsburgh where she was torn between majoring in writing or science.  She chose science but much of her career entailed writing about science at the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and through the books and articles that made her famous.  She was known for combining lyrical writing with meticulous,
extensive research.  Many quotes from her voluminous correspondence and her books demonstrate why she gained such a wide audience.  In her personal life, Carson was reserved but had a wide group of close friends and a sense of adventure. Occasional black-and-white photos show her over the years.  Her story remains relevant because she sounded the alarm about pollution and other ecological problems we still face.  End notes, bibliography, websites, index.

Reading Std #2: Determine central ideas or themes and analyze their development; summarize key supporting details and ideas.  One theme to consider is how sexism affected Carson's career and other aspects of her life, which the author touches on repeatedly.   Her doctors knew Carson had breast cancer, which eventually killed her, but delayed telling her. According to the author, it was not uncommon to "protect" women from bad medical news and tell it to their husbands, but
since Carson was single, no one was told.