Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Frances Sherwood

AT LONG LAST, VINDICATION

"I'VE ALWAYS BEEN AN OUTSIDER." says Frances Sherwood, whose debut novel, Vindication, was rejected by four agents before she sent it herself to Farrar, Straus & Giroux (their acceptance, she says "was like hearing from the Wizard of Oz"). The oldest of four children, she grew up in Brazil, New York City and California. When she was 17, her father, a biochemist, committed suicide—ironically, on Father's Day, 1957, the night before he was to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Reflects Sherwood: "Imagine that happening after growing up in an atmosphere of open discussion, after being ostracized as the village atheists, something that we were all really proud of."

Following that trauma, Sherwood enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she was the only white woman at that time. "I was a radical at a black college that I must say was rather bourgeois." She left after two years and, she says, "I ended up graduating from Brooklyn College and became a working mother who wrote whenever she could." A collection of stories, Everything You've Heard Is True, appeared in 1989.

Sherwood, who lives alone in South Bend, Ind., has been married twice and has three grown children. She felt naturally drawn to the heroine of her novel, Mary Wollstonecraft. Says Sherwood: "She was trying to be a complete person in mind and body at a time when women were incomplete in both ways.

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