From the March 12, 1948 edition of the Gazette:

Dorothy West will soon have the once in a life time thrill of seeing her first novel come out in print. The book was written in Oak Bluffs where Miss West occupies a cottage with her mother, and is to be published this spring by Houghton Mifflin. Its title, The Living Is Easy, came to her as she was describing the story to a friend of hers. At least from a first impression, the same phrase might be used to depict the personality of the author herself.

She is a youthful, vivacious and attractive young woman who has been spending summers at the Bluffs ever since early childhood. Although she has lived in Boston, New York, London and Moscow, Miss West considers the Vineyard to be her home.

“Here I have spent the greatest part of my life, and the happiest,” she said. “When I was abroad and my thoughts turned homeward it was always the Island that I remembered most fondly and longed to see.”

As she became more established in her career as a successful author, Miss West for the past few years has been passing the winter in Oak Bluffs to seek the quiet and seclusion necessary for her writing chores. In the summer when the houses in the Highlands section are occupied and the social life is at its peak, she finds it difficult to buckle down to work. But in winter when most of the cottages are shut tight and the roads and woodlands are drifted with snow, Miss West has written the novel, and the short stories which she regularly sells to the New York Daily News syndicate.

The fact that she had written only short stories, and felt that they were her chosen medium of expression, made Dorothy West hesitate to tackle her first novel. But as she warmed to the task it grew increasingly pleasant. One thing that surprised her was the way the characters and her understanding of them matured.

The first fifty pages and an outline of the plot had been accepted by a New York publisher. When the second fifty pages differed considerably from the proposed development, the original publisher wrote that she was not following the outline and regretted that he would have to withdraw his acceptance. But Miss West, realizing that the characters she had created had a life of their own, let them take their own course.

Before long she had offers from two other publishers for the book. She was drawn to Houghton Mifflin because they are a Boston firm and this, in addition to being the town of her birth, is also the scene in which the book is laid. In her novel, which deals with certain aspects of Black life in that city, Miss West hopes that she has presented her characters as people rather than as stereotypes in a social drama.

Dorothy West began writing stories at the age of seven. At 17 she won a contest and had her prize story published in the Boston Post, the first time one of her tales had appeared in print. A year later she left Boston for New York where her writings in magazines attracted the attention of Blanche Colton Williams, who saw that she was enrolled in fiction writing courses at Columbia University.

After three years at Columbia, in 1933 she joined a group of actors and writers who were to go to the Soviet Union at the invitation of the Kremlin to make a motion picture on life in America. Although Miss West was neither an actress nor a communist, the idea of the adventure appealed to her and she volunteered to make the journey and perhaps play a minor role in the contemplated movie.

Although the members of the group had to pay their own passage, they were comfortably housed in the Grand Hotel in Moscow at the expense of the Soviet government. Each day the players went out to the film studios near Moscow for the usual screen tests, but the actual start of production was long delayed. The whole venture eventually bogged down in bureaucratic tape (red, naturally) and was never undertaken.

After her return from the Soviet Union, Miss West teamed up with Richard Wright in New York to edit a small magazine called the New Challenge. This venture, though run on a shoe string and not at all profitable, deepened her consciousness of racial issues, and increased her writing skill. She continued to turn out short stories and submitted them to popular magazines. Most of them, she said, were returned, but she was encouraged to keep trying by the increasingly complimentary tone of the rejection notes. The editors liked the stories, but they hesitated to use them because they were about Black life. Finally, a story was accepted for publication in the Sunday edition of the New York Daily News. The fiction editors of that paper asked her to submit stories to be used in the daily editions, and she has continued to do so ever since.

Even before her new novel is off the press, Miss West is thinking about the next one. This time it is to be a book with Oak Bluffs as a setting, she says.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox