A Girl Called Vincent by Krystyna Poray Goddu

The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay

A Junior Library Guild Selection

California Reading Associaton 20016 Eureka Nonfiction Children's Book Honor Award

To Buy the Book


I encourage you to buy my book from your local independent bookseller. To find an independent bookstore,visit IndieBound. There are also many sources for purchasing the book online; I suggest ordering directly from the publisher, Chicago Review Press, from IndieBound or from Barnes & Noble.

A Girl Called Vincent introduces Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) to young readers. Known from early childhood as Vincent, she was an acclaimed American poet who came to embody the modern, liberated woman of the Jazz Age. From the fiery energy of her youth, to the excitement and acclaim of her early adulthood in New York and Paris, to the demands of living in the public eye, Vincent’s life was characterized by creativity, hard work and passion. A Girl Called Vincent traces her incredible journey from a unique and talented girl to an international celebrity and Pulitzer Prize–winning poet. Thoroughly researched using primary sources, including family diaries and letters, the book rings with Vincent’s passionate, determined—and often playful and teasing—voice, presenting a fully-dimensional portrait of the girl and woman who captivated all those who met her. Many of her well-known poems are included, as well as photos from babyhood through the last years of her life. A timeline, notes and bibliographies of books both by and about Vincent round out this compelling biography.

Here's what reviewers are saying about the book


"For this luminous biography, Goddu—known for her glimpses into the lives of figures like Wilma Rudolph and Paul Revere—hones in on the story of twentieth- century poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Before delving into the many milestones of Vincent’s remarkable life, Goddu candidly acknowledges her own mission: “to look at Vincent’s story with [her] own eyes.” That she does, eloquently depicting Vincent’s unconventional childhood, turbulent time at Vassar, and passionate adulthood as a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, successful librettist, and fierce antiwar activist. Throughout, Goddu offers a fairly objective and exceedingly thorough look at Vincent’s relationships, from her unwavering devotion to her mother and sisters and her enchanting romance with George Dillon, to her unshakable marriage to Eugen Boissevain. Complicated issues for young readers, such as polyamory and Vincent’s many medical conditions, are treated with acute clarity. Importantly, Goddu’s words are often interspersed with excerpts from Vincent’s letters and diaries, stanzas of beguiling poetry, and the occasional but absorbing photograph. When it comes to scene setting, Goddu seems to borrow Vincent’s love of the natural world with vibrant passages like “thousands of red poppies [growing] wild in wheat fields." To see Vincent through Goddu’s eyes is to see a most extraordinary story—one that, like Millay, belongs in any nonfiction collection."--Booklist (starred review)

"The rags-to-riches story of one of the most popular poets of the Jazz Age has caught the eye of adult biographers repeatedly, and here Goddu brings Millay's action-packed life to light for young readers. Named in honor of Manhattan's St. Vincent's Hospital, Edna St. Vincent Millay early on came to be known as Vincent. Goddu takes great care in highlighting the formative trials and successes of Vincent's abbreviated childhood and precocious development as a poet. The eldest of three girls raised in rural Maine by a caring, hardworking, and often absent single mother, Vincent found herself having to parent her siblings by age 12. Goddu convincingly shows how Vincent's adventurous spirit and love for nature—not to mention the spotlight—arose from her hardscrabble, largely unsupervised upbringing, leading her to enter poetry contests at a young age as "E. Vincent Millay" and have the confidence to deliver a recitation that would earn her a tuition-free ride to Vassar just a decade before winning the Pulitzer Prize. In addition to showcasing Millay's path-breaking feminism alongside her playfulness and tireless work ethic, Goddu's well-researched account produces an illuminating snapshot of the uphill battle female writers fac ed trying to earn a living in the first half of the 20th century. A revealing glimpse of a gifted poet whose impassioned works and acts are sure to capture the imaginations of young readers."--Kirkus Reviews

"Raised in rural Maine, Millay (known as Vincent) overcame poverty, illness, and sexism to become one of America’s most celebrated poets. Readers learn about how she cared for her family as a young girl, left home to attend Vassar College, and became the “It Girl” of Greenwich Village in New York City. The narrative is direct and clear. The facts are well researched and laid out chronologically, and students will come away with a good sense of Millay’s life, which was filled with adventures and accomplishments, from writing “the greatest American opera” (according to The New Yorker) to riding horses and climbing mountains in Indonesia. The text is accompanied by relevant photos of Millay, and the layout is clean. Excerpts of her poems are expertly chosen. Comparable to Carolyn J. Brown’s A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty (2012) and Song of My Life: A Biography of Margaret Walker (2014, both University Pr. of Mississippi), this is a great option to recommend to aspiring poets, writers, and feminists, as well as those who enjoy historical nonfiction. VERDICT A strong addition to any collection, especially those seeking out new titles for Women’s History Month."--School Library Journal

"An obvious labor of love, Goddu's biography of irrepressible poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) strikes a fine balance between academic presentation and devoted characterization of a life well lived. From the early description of Millay's home life—including the trials and tribulations of being a child loosely supervised, along with her two younger sisters—through brief explorations of Millay's impact on the sociological feminist paradigm shift in the 1920s, Goddu, a PW contributor, moves briskly from one major life event to the next. Myriad archival photographs, snippets of Millay's verse, and accompanying descriptions offer additional insight into the era in which Millay lived, as well as a young woman "by turn gay and grave, pompous and flippant," who clearly felt that rules were for other people. Overall, Millay is painted as a brilliant narcissist whose literary contributions continue to influence generations of readers. Source notes and other resources round out a biography that, while accessible to the target audience, has plenty to offer older readers as well."--Publishers Weekly

Here are links to more press and online coverage of the book


Portland Press Herald
The local newspaper of Portland, Maine, reviews the book

Quick Links