authors who dealt with poverty
Throughout history, humans have mastered the art of storytelling. Through images, oration and literature, authors have told unique stories that reflect their culture and experiences. Books endow readers with the gift of understanding another perspective. While some authors have enjoyed lavish lifestyles, others traveled down a rugged road with only a dream. These are five authors who dealt with poverty.

5 Authors Who Dealt With Poverty

  1. John Steinbeck: Born in 1902 in the rural Salinas Valley in California, Steinbeck was neither rich nor poor. At a young age, Steinbeck became fond of writing. After a brief tenure at Stanford, Steinbeck went to New York. An inability to secure employment paired with abysmal living conditions compelled him to return to California. In Lake Tahoe, he worked as a caretaker for an estate and as an employee at a fish hatchery. He bore extensive hours of work with unbearable temperatures. After multiple unsuccessful attempts as a writer, Steinbeck wrote his first successful novel, “Tortilla Flat,” in 1935. He went on to author “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath” which both highlight the difficulties of migrant workers during the Great Depression. “The Grapes of Wrath” went on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. In 1962, John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in literature.
  2. J.K. Rowling: The acclaimed author of the Harry Potter series, Rowling did not come from humble beginnings. After a brutal divorce in 1994, Rowling became a single parent to her daughter. She had no money or job, forcing her to rely on British welfare. In 1997, Rowling’s life changed with the publishing of her book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” She went on to write six more books in the series that sold upwards of 400 million copies. Her net worth today sits at around $1 billion. The Harry Potter series manifests some of the struggles in Rowling’s life, most profoundly, death. Her struggles in early adulthood stemmed from her mother’s death after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. After this trauma, Rowling was indecisive about the path she should take, similar to Harry Potter throughout the series.
  3. Stephen King: Regarded as one of the greatest horror writers of all time, Stephen King is another author that did not have an easy upbringing. At the age of 2, King’s father abandoned his family, leaving them in utter poverty. King’s mother took multiple low paying jobs in an effort to make ends meet. When he reached adulthood, King became employed at a textile mill in Maine. He worked outrageous 20-hour shifts with minimal pay. This work inspired him to write his first piece, “Graveyard Shifts.” After graduating from college, King took a low paying job at a laundromat and later secured a demanding teaching position hoping to provide for his family. During this time, King began writing “Carrie.” Upon finishing “Carrie,” publishers rejected it 30 times before publishing it. The novel helped King earn over $200,000 and jumpstart his writing career. He went on to write bestsellers such as “The Shining” and “It.” King was always interested in the horror genre because he had experienced a great deal of trauma during his life. King’s novels such as “The Mangler,” “Salem’s Lot” and “Duma’s Key” all include elements of his struggles throughout life
  4. Charles Dickens: One of the most influential writers of the Victorian Era, Dickens has constructed a plethora of acclaimed novels. Born in 1812, Dickens was the second oldest of eight children. While his parents worked to provide the best life possible, the family remained poor. In 1822, the family moved to the poor neighborhood of Camden Town in London. Dickens’ father went to prison for being in debt shortly after in 1824. As a result, Dickens had to leave school and work at a run-down shoe polishing factory. He worked strenuous hours to only earn six shillings per week. Dickens was able to return to school when his father paid his debts and left prison but he ended up working again at the age of 15 to help his family. In 1836, Dickens published his first book, “Sketches by Boz.” He married soon thereafter and went on to publish stellar novels such as “Oliver Twist,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Great Expectations.” Dickens’ early life played an integral role in shaping his works. His feelings of being usurped of his childhood and education are evident in books such as “Hard Times” and “Oliver Twist.”
  5. George Orwell: Born in 1903 in Bengal, India, people have lauded George Orwell for his creative works based on his societal observations. Orwell characterizes his parents as those with wealthy attitudes without substance. In 1911, Orwell returned to England with his parents and began attending boarding school. Despite being brilliant, people ostracized Orwell due to his poverty. In 1928, he went to live among the poor for over a year in London and, later, Paris. In Paris, he worked as a dishwasher and attempted to understand the lives and values of the poor. Orwell’s disdain for imperialism prompted him to write “Down and Out in Paris and London,” a fictional recount of his time in Paris and London. In 1946, Orwell began writing “1984,” which describes a future dystopia where the entire world succumbs to poverty due to governmental repression. Other famous works include “The Road to Wigan Pier,” which highlights the life of impoverished mine workers in England, and “Animal Farm,” an allegorical satire of communism and the Soviet Union.

These five authors who dealt with poverty are examples of people who did not give in to the demeaning nature of poverty. They used literature as an outlet to convey their deepest emotions. Books entail more than fictional elements. They are a reflection of the events and hardships in the author’s life with perennial lessons, and these authors are an exemplification of this.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Women have overcome many obstacles since the beginning of time. Gaining equal rights, balancing career with children and battling insecurities with self-image and self-worth are just a few of the battles that women continue to fight. It is no secret that women are strong and capable of changing not only the path of the world, but their own paths. The stories of these three powerful women that have overcome poverty could belong to any woman.

Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey grew up in the small town of Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her family was extremely poor and Winfrey sometimes had to wear potato sacks because of lack of clothing.

After living in Mississippi with her grandmother, Winfrey was sent to live with her mother in an even more extreme state of poverty. During her time there, she was subjected to child abuse and rape. She also became pregnant. However, her baby boy tragically died due to complications after she gave birth.

Winfrey eventually went to live with her father, where her life improved. She attended college and pursued journalism. Her television career soon took off with a job as an anchor; after this, she hosted her own TV show. Through all of Winfrey’s trials in life, somehow she was able to persevere and overcome poverty. Winfrey is quoted saying, “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change their future merely by changing their attitude.”

J.K. Rowling

The billionaire author of the iconic “Harry Potter” series struggled with finances at one time. Living in a two-bedroom house with her daughter, the newly-divorced Rowling struggled to survive on state assistance.

“…I was jobless, a lone parent and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.”

However, through this time of great struggle, Rowling pushed through and decided she would make her dreams a reality on her own terms. She reflects on this time during a documentary with ITV. “I feel I really became myself here, in that everything was stripped away, I’d made such a mess of things. But that was freeing, so I just thought, well, I want to write, and I wrote the book. And what is the worst thing that can happen? It gets turned down by every publisher in Britain, big deal.”

The determination and fight to never give up led Rowling out of poverty. At a commencement address to Harvard graduates Rowling states, “Poverty entails fear, stress and sometimes depression. It means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty on your own effort that is on which something to pride yourself…”

Sonia Sotomayor

The first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, grew up in the housing projects of South Bronx. She was repeatedly witness to drug deals and gang crimes. Having an emotionally detached mother, Sotomayor learned to entertain herself with books. Despite with her love of stories and knowledge however, she still found herself slightly behind educational standards.

Again, this set back did not stop her determination. She studied and learned around the clock in order to be on top. Needless to say, Sotomayor continued to fight her way out of poverty. She fought hard to overcome obstacles thrown her way due to her poor upbringing.

Sotomayor managed to excel in academics and eventually went on to attend Princeton University and Yale Law. She is now a federal judge.

Hopefully these women will inspire people that are fighting their own way out of poverty today.  These stories reveal hope and highlight the importance of determination, while revealing the crucial community obligation to ensure that all have the opportunity to overcome poverty.

Amy Robinson

Sources: The Telegraph, Harvard Magazine, Biography Online, Indian Country Today, NPR
Photo: The Telegraph

Lumos Foundation J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling may be most famous for her adventurous and classic tales of witchcraft and wizardry, but the author of the Harry Potter franchise has much more up her sleeve. The Lumos Foundation, Rowling’s charitable organization, has bettered the lives of millions.

A well-known advocate for international human rights, Rowling spent time volunteering for Amnesty International prior to her breakout success.  Rowling cites her time with the organization for teaching her about the kind of impact she wishes to have for humanity.  In the wake of her celebrity status, Rowling became the 12th richest woman in the world.  With her wealth, Rowling decided to donate half of it to charitable causes, taking a pledge alongside other billionaires and initiated by Bill Gates.


The Lumos Foundation


Rowling’s shining charitable achievement, however, is the Lumos Foundation. The Lumos Foundation is an organization committed to providing basic human rights services for over eight million children living in institutions.  The organization seeks to provide community-based services such as primary education and healthcare as replacements for institutions that often neglect these basic needs.

While the Lumos Foundation is globally minded, it focuses most specifically on Eastern European nations.  Moldova, for example, has one of the highest institutionalization rates among children of any nation.  “Most of these vulnerable young people are not orphans and poverty has separated them from their parents,” says Lumos, concerning orphanages in Moldova.  Furthermore, many of these children are placed in institutions due to gaps in the education system.  Children with disabilities are especially at a disadvantage and have a high chance of being institutionalized.

“Lumos works on every level, with every actor, to transform an outdated and harmful system into one which supports and protects children and enables them to have a positive future.”  Founding the Lumos Foundation and supporting the development of the world’s most vulnerable citizens, children, shows how dedicated Rowling is to advocacy (even without Hogwart’s training.)

Taylor Diamond

Sources: Lumos, The Borgen Project