On this date in American literary history – August 27, 1871, Theodore Dreiser, whose book Sister Carrie helped change the direction of American literature, was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. Starting in his early teens, Dreiser supported himself through menial jobs. A sympathetic teacher helped him get into Indiana University, but he stayed only one year. In 1892, he began working as a journalist for the Chicago Globe. He continued working in journalism while writing his first novel, Sister Carrie, which was published in 1900. The novel was a major break from the Victorian propriety of the time, and the printer refused to promote the book. Fewer than 500 copies were sold. The book was rereleased in 1907 and gradually grew in popularity. Dreiser then began to write full time and published several more novels between 1911 and 1915, including Jennie Gerhardt (1911), The Financier (1912), and The Titan (1914). In 1925, his novel An American Tragedy became his most commercial success. Based on a famous murder trial, the book criticized the U.S. legal system, and Dreiser became a spokesman for its reform. In 1927, he visited the Soviet Union and published Dreiser Looks at Russia in 1928 and became associated with radical politics and the Communist Party during the 1930s. He focused on political writing until his death on December 28, 1945 in Hollywood, California.
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