Maxine Clair was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, in the 1950s. She is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. She attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence where she studied science. Clair went on to a career in medical technology as chief technologist at a children's hospital in Washington, D.C. It was while working there that Clair became interested in writing. She pursued and achieved her M.F.A. at George Washington University. In 1989 she became an associate professor of English at GWU, retiring from the position in 2008.
Her first book, a collection of poetry, Coping With Gravity, was published in 1988. In 1992 she published a fiction chapbook entitled October Brown, which earned her an Artscape Prize for Maryland Writers. Her next book, Rattlebone, was published in 1994 and is perhaps her most well-known work. Rattlebone is a collection of interrelated stories revolving around the life of a young African-American girl coming of age in a small African-American neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas. Clair got the name of her book from Rattlebone Hollow, a North Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood.
Her most recent work is October Suite, published in 2001. This novel takes a character from her chapbook October Brown and her novel Rattlebone and explores her life and experiences as an unwed teacher and African-American mother in the 1950s. The novel is a journey of self discovery for its lead character, October Brown, and was well received by critics.
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