Charmian Kittredge London
Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
312 Pages | 6 x 9 | 20 b&w illus.
In this biography, Iris Jamahl Dunkle draws the reader into Charmian’s private and public worlds, underscoring her literary achievements and the significant role she played in promoting her husband’s legacy. Her life, as Dunkle emphasizes, required fortitude and bravery, and in many ways it paralleled the history of the American West.
Born on the mudflats of what would become Los Angeles’s harbor, Charmian became an orphan at age fourteen. Raised by her aunt Netta Wiley Ames, a noted writer and editor for the Overland Monthly, Charmian attended college, became an expert equestrian and concert pianist, and had a successful career as a stenographer. But her life shifted when, in 1905, she married Jack London, already a bestselling author. For the rest of Jack’s life, until his untimely death at the age of forty, reporters would follow the couple’s every move. Charmian and Jack traveled the world, exploring and writing together.
In addition to collaborating with Jack on many of his projects, Charmian wrote three books about her travels, as well as countless articles. After Jack’s death in 1916, she remained a celebrity, continuing to travel and write—and seek adventure. She also wrote a biography about her late husband and managed his estate, influencing how Jack’s literary legacy was remembered.
Charmian Kittredge London is a central figure in California cultural history. Now, thanks to Dunkle’s riveting portrait, readers have the opportunity to embark on the grand adventure that was her life.
“Charmian Kittredge London captivates us as she did Jack London. In this compelling biography, Iris Jamahl Dunkle captures Charmian’s illusive qualities that made her a force to be reckoned with and an integral part of London’s career.”—Jay Williams, author of Author Under Sail: The Imagination of Jack London, 1893–1902
“Despite her flaws, or perhaps because of them, Charmian is indeed the kind of woman whom one would love to have known. After reading this comprehensive, carefully researched biography, many Jack London fans will probably feel that they do indeed know Charmian.”—Jack London Society
“…Dunkle’s vibrant, readable biography goes a long way in acquainting modern readers with a woman whose own story deserves to be told.”—California History Journal
“Dunkle succeeds in narrating Charmian’s life story as that of an important figure in California’s cultural history, restoring a vignette of American women writers’ history. As the first fulllength biography of Charmian Kittredge London, the narrative appears exceptionally well researched and documented. But more than that, it embodies a testimony to historical women’s experience that transcends time. Her portrayal of the relationship between Charmian and Jack focuses on their lives as writers and seekers of adventure. The tone of the book does justice to place and time, to the dynamics of being a famous writer’s spouse, and to the spirit of creativity and independence. The writing style, journalistic and poetic in turns, draws the reader into the book and leaves the reader with an appreciation for Charmian’s life and for the effort to tell the story centered in her own consciousness.”—Women & Language