This is the story of the Nolan family, including daughter Francie, and life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn during the early part of the 20th century. Through it is often categorized as a coming-of-age novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is much more than that. Its richly-plotted narrative of three generations in a poor but proud American family offers a detailed and unsentimental portrait of urban life at the beginning of the century.
Betty Smith's first novel became immediately popular when it was published in 1943. The book sold 300,000 copies in the first six weeks after it was published. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is now considered an essential part of American literature.
Betty Smith was born on December 15, 1896. The daughter of German immigrants, she grew up poor in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. After stints writing features for newspapers, reading plays for the Federal Theater Project, and acting in summer stock, Smith moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina under the auspices of the W.P.A. While there in 1943, she published A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, her first novel. Smith's other novels include Tomorrow Will be Better (1947), Maggie-Now (1958) and Joy in the Morning (1963). She also had a long career as a dramatist, writing one-act and full-length plays for which she received both the Rockefeller Fellowship and the Dramatist Guild Fellowship. She died in 1972.