Betty Smith wrote Joy in the Morning in 1963. She was the author of the very well known, A Tree Grow in Brooklyn. Joy in the Morning is about Annie Brown and her first year of marriage. Only eighteen, she moves from Brooklyn to marry Carl Brown who is a law student at a midwestern state university.
The book is semi-autobiographical. As a newlywed, Betty Smith moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan where her new husband was studying law at the University of Michigan.
I was interested in Joy because the book I am working on looks at the wives of students, both graduate and undergraduate. The University Of Michigan had a National Association of University Dames (NAUD) chapter well as a Faculty Women’s Club, which still exists.
Annie does not belong to any of these groups but Smith movingly conveys her sense of being an outsider. Annie, like Smith, wants to write and eventually audits a playwriting class.
The book is lovely and very sweet in a non-sentimental way. Smith depicts the struggles that Annie and her husband Carl have, dealing with money, adjusting to marriage, and the birth of their son, honestly, in an authentic voice.
Carl eventually gets a job as a night watchman at a nearby factory. He is able to get this job because the previous guard died. Annie feels badly about their good fortune resting on the death of someone so she decides to write about it.“
Annie spent the night writing the story. She wrote under great compulsion. She couldn’t stand it that a human being had lived and died and that there was no record that he had ever been. She felt that writing about him she was establishing the fact that he had lived and walked the earth and had once been a man.”1
The women I am writing about had families and people who knew and now remember them, yet this sentiment spoke to me because I want to give then back their identity and humanity.
- Betty Smith, Joy in the Morning, New York: Harper & Row, 216. [↩]