Hobart, Lois (Elaine)
HOBART, Lois (Elaine)
PERSONAL: Born in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Evan Llewellyn (an insurance manager) and Alveda Irene (Gjertsen) Hobart; married Harold Black (a painter, enamelist, and operator of a horseback riding school and an art gallery), November 17, 1950; children: Anthony. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A. (cum laude), M.A., B.S. Hobbies and other interests: Chess, tennis, horseback riding, bowling.
ADDRESSES: Home—6431 Pizarro, El Paso, TX 79912.
CAREER: Esquire, Chicago, IL, associate editor, 1943-45; Condé Nast Publications, New York, NY, Glamour, 1945-1953, also associate editor of Coronet, 1945-53. El Pegaso, San Miguel Allende, Mexico, shop operator; director of publicity for her family's art gallery and riding school, San Miguel Allende; University of Texas—El Paso, lecturer in English, 1984-90, 1998. Photographer, with work exhibited in shows. Hamline University, guest lecturer; Institute of Children's Literature, past faculty member; workshop lecturer; gives readings from her works.
MEMBER: Dramatists Guild, National Society of Arts and Letters, Southwest Writer's Workshop.
AWARDS, HONORS: Drama awards include José Martí Award, Institute of Spanish Culture, 1993, for Dream of Sor Juana; grant from National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.
Katie and Her Camera (romance novel), Julian Messner (New York, NY), 1955.
A Palette for Ingrid (romance novel), Julian Messner (New York, NY), 1956.
Laurie, Physical Therapist (romance novel), Julian Messner (New York, NY), 1957.
Strangers among Us, Funk & Wagnalls (New York, NY), 1957.
Elaine Forrest, Visiting Nurse (romance novel), Julian Messner (New York, NY), 1959, reprinted as Debutante Nurse.
Patriot's Lady: The Life of Sarah Livingston Jay, Funk & Wagnalls (New York, NY), 1960.
Behind the Walls, Funk & Wagnalls (New York, NY), 1961.
(And photographer) Mexican Mural: The Story of Mexico, Past and Present (juvenile), Harcourt, Brace & World (New York, NY), 1963.
What Is a Whispery Secret? (picture book), illustrated by Martha G. Alexander, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1968.
Columnist, Mexico City News, 1965-67, and Mexico City Times-Week, 1967-68. Contributor of articles, reviews, and photographs to periodicals, including Life, New York Times, This Week, Parents, U.S. Camera, Childcraft, Compact, and Humpty Dumpty.
The book Elaine Forrest, Visiting Nurse was published in Swedish in Denmark.
The Late Season Traveler (based on a story by Tom Cole), performed in a staged reading in El Paso, TX, at University of Texas—El Paso, 1984; produced in Los Angeles, CA, at First Stage, 1992.
Dream of Sor Juana: A Full Length Play about the Famous Feminist and Writer of Seventeenth-Century Mexico, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (produced as Dream of Sor Juana in El Paso, TX, at Chamizal National Memorial Theater, 1985; produced in New York, NY, at Kraine Theater, 1992), L. Hobart (El Paso, TX), 1985.
The Mask of Marina, performed in a staged reading in Austin, TX, at Costume Annex, University of St. Edwards, 1992.
Portrait in a Cell, produced in El Paso, TX, at El Paso Community College, 1992.
Who Won the Burglary?, performed in a staged reading in Farmington, NM, at San Juan College, 1995.
Little Owl in the Tree, performed in a staged reading in Las Cruces, NM, 2000.
Suburbia B.C. (one-act), Eldridge Publishing (Venice, FL), 2000.
Also author of the plays The Conquest of Cortés, The Emissary, Herself a Diplomat, and The X Factor. Author of scripts for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and others.
SIDELIGHTS: Lois Hobart told CA: "As the head of the Job Department at Glamour magazine, I attended meetings, assigned articles to my assistant editors, continued thinking up new approaches to vocational pieces, and did the research and writing for many of them myself. When I began freelancing, my son was three, and like most writers for children, I began with that audience.
"I called Alvin Tresselt, then editor of Humpty Dumpty, to inquire whether he might be interested in some vocational pieces for small children. There was a long silence; then he said carefully, 'We look at everything.' In fact, he took every article I sent him, from 'What Does a Teacher Do?' to other pieces.
"When my son Tony was four, he suggested one storyline to me, and I wrote 'The Forgetters,' in which a little boy forgets who he is and goes to Daddy's office, dictates to the secretary (in her lap, if I remember correctly), while Daddy forgets who he is and tries to fit into his son's desk at school. Even the dog and cat get mixed up; the cat chews and buries luscious bones, and the dog climbs a tree and gets stuck.
"Another story for small children, 'What Is a Whispery Secret?,' ran first in Humpty Dumpty. Later Alvin asked permission to turn it into a book. As a book-of-the-month choice, it earned me more than any of my young adult books, fiction or nonfiction, and it's still circulating in libraries many years later.
"When I moved with my husband and our then six-year-old son from New York to San Miguel Allende in Mexico, family enterprises—art gallery, international riding school, my shop El Pegaso—kept me too busy to write books, but I did continue with articles and some reviews. Then I became an accidental playwright.
"A playwright friend told me I should be writing plays; she could tell by the dialogue in my books. I laughed. What did I know about writing plays? But I had seen a good deal of theater, in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York City, London, Madrid, Mexico City, San Miguel Allende, and at international festivals in Guanajuato.
"When I tried my first play, Herself a Diplomat, partly based on my book about Sarah Livingston Jay, among the theater people who took part in the first reading were a poet and novelist couple with theater experience, the director of theater at Wittenberg College, a Finnish actress, and Mildred Harris, the sister of producer Jed Harris. They urged me to send the manuscript to Julie Harris, but I was too shy about my first play.
"I found I loved writing for theater—and it took less time than books! I wrote several more plays, but didn't send them out until I moved years later to El Paso, where another playwright-novelist, Denise Chavez, urged me to send out Dream of Sor Juana, and it won first prize at an Albuquerque theater. This is now my most produced play.
"The first person who spoke to me as a playwright was the great novelist and playwright Carlos Fuentes. He was signing books after a lecture in Ciudad Juarez and politely asking the name of each person. In my turn, I said 'Lois Hobart.' Fuentes looked at me for a moment, then exclaimed: 'Oh, I know your work! You've written a play about Sor Juana . . . and one about Doña Marina.' I nearly fell over.
"That leads to a mystery. How did Fuentes know about my plays? Later he told me that a Spanish professor in Houston had told him about them. But how did the professor know? Until the previous year my plays had never been published. How did a Hamilton College professor know about Dream of Sor Juana when he called to ask for a manuscript copy for a seminar in California? How did the monsignor of Monterrey know about me when, on a visit to El Paso, he asked his secretary to locate me at the University of Texas and buy another manuscript copy of the play? When he received it, he sent me his elegant book on Sor Juana, Mexico's great poet-playwright and a seventeenth-century nun who was a court lady in her teens and later a feminist.
"Then, thirty-odd years after Harcourt Brace published my book Mexican Mural: The Story of Mexico, Past and Present, which was intended for a middle school audience, a friend told me she had read it, not in San Miguel, where she attended our riding school, but at Tulane University, as a textbook. Then I discovered that other colleges and universities used it as a textbook. How is that for a joke? It was reviewed mostly as an adult book.
"I am currently working on a book about an extraordinary young woman of the sixteenth century in what is now Mexico. Her native name in Nahuatl was probably Malinalli; her name with title was Malintzin. She was the daughter of a Nahua chief in Paynala, her nickname was La Malinche, and her name in Spanish was Doña Marina. She was born southeast of Tenochtitlan in the year that Moctezuma became the powerful ruler of the Aztecs, or the Mexica. When I began research for my book Mexican Mural, I had only a vague idea that she had been an interpreter for the explorer Cortés.
"In Mexico Marina is widely regarded as a traitor to her country. Well, I learned that Tenochtitlan was not 'her country.' When Malinalli's father died in battle, her mother married the next chief and later had a baby boy. The mother was probably pressured to get rid of the girl as a threat to her half-brother. She announced that the child (really the child of a slave) had died, but she had actually given or sold the girl to a passing merchant. The merchant sold her as a slave in Tabasco, where the language was Chontal Maya.
"The girl, no doubt in shock from her descent from an honored family to slavery, had to learn a new language, new customs, chores unknown to her. It was the total disruption of a previously charmed life. When she was seventeen the Spaniards sailed into the harbor, and after the Spanish victory Malinalli was among the twenty girls awarded to Cortés along with other booty. The Spaniard thought she was the mistress of the slaves. He soon learned about her skill with languages, and she became the most important woman in the land, the key to his success. Malinalli understood the political and sociological situations they encountered, was able to help him enlist the aid of the many tribes or nation-states that hated the people who had previously conquered them, and paved the way for the conquest of the Mexicans.
"I very much want to show what the facts were in order to promote understanding of the role Malinalli played, not only in the conquest but later. Traitors are disliked and mistrusted by both sides. She was esteemed by both: not possible if she was a traitor. It is a complicated and wonderful story. As Doña Marina, she bore a son to Cortés. She was asked to serve again as an interpreter during a perilous journey to Honduras. She was married en route to a young captain, Jaramillo, and on their return to what became the city of Mexico, she bore a daughter to her husband—and died a year later at age twenty-five.
"Now more is known about Doña Marina, from court testimony by people who knew her and testified to her value, courage, intelligence, and circumstances. I would very much like to see her receive attention for her genuine accomplishments, not as a traitor. She is abused in myths; she deserves recognition for her merits and her true life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Childhood Education, March, 1969, review of What Is a Whispery Secret?, p. 410.
Library Journal, December 15, 1963, Helen H. Kovar, review of Mexican Mural: The Story of Mexico, Past and Present; February 15, 1970, review of Strangers among Us, p. 742.
New York Times Book Review, January 5, 1964, Mildred Adams, review of Mexican Mural.
Publishers Weekly, October 14, 1963, review of Mexican Mural.