Brand in the 1930s
|Born||January 19, 1906|
Jersey City, New Jersey
|Died||March 19, 1980(aged 74)|
|Residence||New York City|
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
|Notable works||The Outward Room, Savage Sleep, Local Lives|
|Spouse||Pauline Leader, Helen Mendelssohn|
Millen Brand (January 19, 1906 - March 19, 1980) was an American writer and poet. His novels, The Outward Room (1938) and Savage Sleep (1968), addressed mental health institutions and were bestsellers in their day.
Brand was born on January 19, 1906, in Jersey City, New Jersey, into a working-class family. He was of Pennsylvania Dutch descent on his mother's side. He graduated from Columbia University in 1929. He resided in Greenwich Village and on a small farm in Bally, Pennsylvania. He married twice; first to Pauline Leader, a poet noted for her memoir about growing up deaf, And No Birds Sing, and then to Helen Mendelssohn; both marriages ended in divorce. He had three children by his first marriage and one by his second.
After graduating from Columbia, Brand began work as a psychiatric aide and also a copywriter for the New York Telephone Company before accepting faculty posts at the University of New Hampshire and New York University, where he taught writing fiction. Brand was an editor at Crown Publishers for about twenty years, starting in the early 1950s, where he edited works by Indian social-realist novelist Bhabani Bhattacharya.
In 1935, Brand joined the League of American Writers (1935-1943), whose members included Alexander Trachtenberg, Frank Folsom, Louis Untermeyer, I.F. Stone, Myra Page, Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman, and Dashiell Hammett. Members were sympathetic to the U.S. Communist Party.
In 1937, Brand wrote his first and most noted novel, The Outward Room, based in part on his experience as a psychiatric aide. The novel was a bestseller and was adapted for Broadway as The World We Make. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing (Screenplay) in 1948 for The Snake Pit (with Frank Partos), an adaptation of Mary Jane Ward's novel, which like his novel, The Outward Room, involved confinement in a mental health institution.
Brand described the Pennsylvania Dutch culture in Fields of Peace: A Pennsylvania German Album (1970)--with photography by George Tice--and in Local Lives (1975), a book of poems about his Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors, compiled over the span of his working life.
Brand was active in the peace movement. Toward the end of his life, he was active in a movement to open up major poetry publications to writers of color and younger writers, through his friendship with the Caribbean-American poet, essayist, teacher, and activist, June Jordan.
In 1953, Brand was required to appear before the U.S. Senate Investigations subcommittee, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy, at which appearance he refused to testify against his colleagues in the League of American Writers, citing the Fifth Amendment. Consequently, his works were among those banned from U.S. State Department libraries, abroad.
Millen Brand Peace March: Nagasaki to Hiroshima.