Happy Birthday Authors | Betty Smith #bettysmith #authorbirthdays #orangecountyreads


Betty Smith (born Elisabeth Lillian Wehner; December 15, 1896 – January 17, 1972) was an American author. She is best known for her 1943 bestselling novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is considered one of the great American novels of the 20th century.



Did you know?

  • She was 47 when she wrote A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
  • She published two poems when she was 11.
  • Her future husband George Smith was the coach of her debate team.
  • It wasn’t until her mid-30s that she began to hone her writing skills, submitting articles and writing plays.
  • The original title of her book was They Lived in Brooklyn.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Themes & Pop Culture

  • The main metaphor of the book is the hardy Tree of Heaven, whose persistent ability to grow and flourish even in the inner city mirrors the protagonist’s desire to better herself.
  • ATGIB became the most popular Armed Services Edition books shipped to American military service personnel during World War II. Smith said that she received ten times more fan mail from soldiers than she did from civilians.
  • The MC in The Glass Castle refers to growing up reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and finding inspiration in the character of Francie Nolan.
  • Will and Grace – Will notices a tree outside Grace’s new apartment in Brooklyn. Grace – “See, trees really do grow here!”
  • Gossip Girl – Blair refuses to volunteer at a community garden, telling Dan – “Just because a tree grows in Brooklyn, doesn’t mean I have to be the one planting it”
  • Her novel was the object of pre-publication bidding competition among several studios, with Darryl F. Zanuck and 20th Century-Fox ultimately paying $55,000 for the rights.


This book made them think of home. Men who never set foot in Brooklyn wrote to Betty Smith … to say that they felt like they were reading about their hometown.


The first set of ASEs (Armed Service Editions) was released in October of 1943. Each month for the next four years, crate after crate of books made their way to overseas soldiers, pretty much wherever they were. “They have been dropped by parachute to outpost forces on lonely Pacific islands; issued in huge lots to hospitals… and passed out to soldiers as they embarked on transports,” reporter Frank S. Adams wrote in 1944.


Opinion: Why Mark Zuckerberg Should Read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”


Have you read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn?  Do you have a special memory of the book?

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