Susan Meyer

Professor of English

Literary critic specializing in Victorian and American literature. Children's author.

Imperialism at Home

As a literary critic, I focus on Victorian and American literature and I am particularly interested in the relationship between literature and history. My book, Imperialism at Home: Race and Victorian Women’s Fiction, looks at the way that race relations are used as a metaphor for the relationships between men and women in the fiction of Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and George Eliot. Lately I have been particularly interested in the way public health concerns (about tuberculosis, fresh air, pure food, etc.) are entwined with the fiction of Willa Cather.

Black RadishesI also write fiction for children. My first novel, Black Radishes, about a Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied France, was inspired by my father's childhood. Black Radishes won the Sydney Taylor silver medal and was named a Massachusetts Book Award finalist and a Bank Street College of Education Best Book, among other honors. I’m also the author of two picture books. The most recent, New Shoes, is about two African-American girls who find an inventive way to foil Jim Crow laws. My second novel, Skating with the Statue of Liberty, about a French Jewish refugee boy in the United States in 1942, a companion novel to Black Radishes, will be published by Penguin Random House in April 2016.

I teach courses in nineteenth-century British literature, early twentieth-century American literature, and creative writing, particularly writing for children. I often teach a first-year writing class on Jane Austen—a novelist much-loved by Wellesley students! I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter, kayaking, ice-skating, walking through the New England woods, waiting for rare books to arrive for me through interlibrary loan, and searching every fall for a perfect, just-dipped caramel apple.

Personal Web Page


  • B.A., Johns Hopkins University
  • M.A., University of California (Los Angeles)
  • M.A., Yale University
  • M.Phil., Yale University
  • Ph.D., Yale University

Current and upcoming courses

  • What makes for excellence in writing for children? When Margaret Wise Brown repeats the word "moon" in two subsequent pages-"Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon"-is this effective or clunky? What makes rhyme and repetition funny and compelling in one picture book (such as Rosemary Wells's Noisy Nora) but vapid in another? How does E.B. White establish Fern's character in the opening chapter of Charlotte's Web? What makes Cynthia Kadohata's Kira-Kira a a novel for children rather than adults-or is it one? In this course, students will study many examples of children's literature from the point of view of writers and will write their own short children's fiction (picture book texts, middle-reader or young adult short stories) and share them in workshops.