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John Dos Passos. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117477).

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Dos Passos, John (14 January 1896–28 September 1970), writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of John Randolph Dos Passos, a lawyer, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison. His parents were married in 1910, when his father’s first wife died, and in 1912 the boy took his father’s name of Dos Passos; before that he was known as John Roderigo Madison. As an illegitimate child he had lived a rootless life, traveling much in Europe with his mother. She died in 1915. The necessary secrecy of his boyhood, the mixture of admiration and fear Dos Passos felt toward his powerful father—who was both an important corporate lawyer and the author of books on trusts and the stock market—and his dependence on his beautiful, often unhappy southern mother affected him deeply. A timid boy, Dos Passos found excitement in reading, studying languages, and observing the art of the time; he discovered his greatest joy in writing. His early poems, with those of ...

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Mourning Dove (1884?–1936), the first traditional Native American woman novelist, was born Christine Quintasket in a canoe crossing the Kootenay River near Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, the daughter of Joseph Quintasket and Lucy Stuikin, tribal leaders and farmers. Although her parents were prominent members of the Okanogan and Colville tribes of the Interior Salish, they were poor. Christine realized that education might be her only means of advancement. During the 1890s she studied at Goodwin Catholic Mission near Kettle Falls, Washington, and in 1900 at a government school at Fort Spokane. Several years later, she joined the staff at Fort Shaw School near Great Falls, Montana. There she married Hector McLeod in 1909, a member of the Flathead band, but they soon separated....