Available to SHIP now; STORE PICKUP in 7-10 days
"Makes an excellent case for Parrott as an unjustly forgotten historical figure."—The New Yorker
"Remind[s] us of the brazenly talented women sidelined by convention."—New York Times
The riveting biography of Ursula Parrott—best-selling author, Hollywood screenwriter, and voice for the modern woman.
Credited with popularizing the label "ex-wife" in 1929, Ursula Parrott wrote provocatively about divorcées, career women, single mothers, work-life balance, and a host of new challenges facing modern women. Her best sellers, Hollywood film deals, marriages and divorces, and run-ins with the law made her a household name. Part biography, part cultural history, Becoming the Ex-Wife establishes Parrott's rightful place in twentieth-century American culture, uncovering her neglected work and keen insights into American women's lives during a period of immense social change.
Although she was frequently dismissed as a "woman's writer," reading Parrott's writing today makes it clear that she was a trenchant philosopher of modernity—her work was prescient, anticipating issues not widely raised until decades after her decline into obscurity. With elegant wit and a deft command of the archive, Marsha Gordon tells a timely story about the life of a woman on the front lines of a culture war that is still raging today.
About the Author
Marsha Gordon is Professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State University, a former Fellow at the National Humanities Center, and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar award. She is the author of numerous books and articles and codirector of several short documentaries.
"As Marsha Gordon argues in her engaging new biography, Becoming the Ex-Wife, the novel 'offers a strong case for the protections of marriage and the dangers of being an unattached woman.' . . . In her biography, Gordon makes an excellent case for Parrott as an unjustly forgotten historical figure: a sociological flash point, a beneficiary of feminism and victim of patriarchy who got her enemies mixed up."
— The New Yorker
“Why did a once-transfixed reading public turn away, and why is Parrott so often now eliminated from a pantheon of popular urban “working girl” writers that includes Helen Gurley Brown, Candace Bushnell, Nora Ephron, Dorothy Parker and, perhaps most comparably, Jacqueline Susann? . . . A reissue of Ursula Parrott’s racy novel “Ex-Wife,” and a new biography of its author, remind us of the brazenly talented women sidelined by convention. . . . [Gordon] surfaces plenty of colorful period detail: passport photos of everyone looking mussed and truculent in that Jazz Age way; correspondence from exasperated agents, editors and lovers; even an adorable 'mapback' version marked with key locations in 'Ex-Wife.'”
— The New York Times
“[V]igorous, entertaining, and well-researched . . . [Gordon’s] biography salvages and reconstructs Parrott’s many remains, rescuing an important American voice and cultural figure from near oblivion. . . . The result is a clear, full, yet unlabored portrait of Parrott, written in agile, accessible prose. Gordon’s tone is warm but unsentimental (as was Parrott herself), occasionally displaying a subtle and welcome bit of cheek or zing befitting her subject."
— Los Angeles Review of Books
“[R]igorous . . . an enlightening companion to the novel"
— The Baffler
"Marsha Gordon’s Becoming the Ex-Wife: The Unconventional Life and Forgotten Writings of Ursula Parrott is a thoroughly researched, sympathetic, but not uncritical portrait of a woman who achieved exceptional commercial success as a writer and who was, for a while, 'the most famous divorcée in the United States.'"
— Joyce Carol Oates
"Gordon’s biography . . . is good on Parrott’s significance for an understanding of American life – and women’s lives, in particular – in the interwar period, with its glancing insights into alcoholism and abortion. Keenly supported by examples from the writings, Gordon also shows how her subject’s life was often too strange for any kind of fiction."
— Times Literary Supplement
"Parrott led a scandalous, glamorous, sometimes lonely life in the public eye, and Gordon, professor and director of the film studies program at North Carolina State University, has done the world a great service by bringing her back into the spotlight."
— Washington City Paper
"In Becoming the Ex-Wife, Marsha Gordon sheds welcome light on this remarkable and troubled writer, who knew too well how hard it was to be a modern woman who wanted sexual freedom and a career of her own choosing. In this well-researched and fascinating biography, Parrott emerges as a star who should be remembered alongside Jazz Age icons like Dorothy Parker and the Fitzgeralds.”
— Newcity Lit
"[O]ffers an in-depth look at Parrott’s complicated and sometimes scandalous life."
— Walter Magazine
"Parrott is forgotten and Faulkner is famous. This is so much more than a matter of quality, which is why we need biography. . . . Marsha Gordon makes a compelling case for Parrott’s artistry and continuing relevance. . . . Ms. Gordon does something else that is quite shrewd: She has a concluding chapter, after Parrott has died, which concentrates on her subject’s literary legacy. The story of Parrott’s life is over, but her writing lives on, even if we don’t yet know it."
— The New York Sun
"Marsha Gordon’s new biography of the best-selling author Ursula Parrott, Becoming the Ex-Wife, rescues this important author’s life from obscurity, . . . Both Gordon’s biography, and the 2023 publication of a McNally Edition of Parrott’s 1929 novel Ex-Wife have garnered a lot of well-deserved attention. . . . In Becoming the Ex-Wife, it is clear Gordon mined all the archives and saved what she could of this fascinating and accomplished woman’s life from obscurity.”
"There are certain books which catch you completely by surprise. Marsha Gordon’s Becoming the Ex-Wife is one of those books. . . . Gordon does an excellent job of telling Parrott’s story because she balances her admiration with the right amount of critical eye. . . . If you can accept that a human can be both good and bad in various measures while finding their life story interesting, then you will enjoy this book immensely.”
— History Nerds United