Born January 1903, Louisville, Kentucky; died 1969
Wrote under: Mrs. Carl Randau
Daughter of Albert and Gertrude Zugsmith; married Carl Randau, 1940
Leane Zugsmith spent most of her childhood in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Her formal education consisted of a year each at Goucher College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University. She lived in New York until her death, except for a year in Europe and some months in Hollywood, where she worked as a screenwriter for the Goldwyn studio. She has also worked as a copy editor for pulp magazines like Detective Stories and Western Story Magazine and written advertising copy. In the early 1940s, after marrying a newspaperman, she was a special feature writer on the staff of the New York newspaper P.M.
Her first novel, All Victories Are Alike (1929), is the story of a newspaper columnist's loss of ideals. Goodbye and Tomorrow (1931), which Zugsmith said is "shamelessly derivative of Virginia Woolf," is about a romantic spinster who becomes a patron of artists. Never Enough (1932) is a panorama of American life during the 1920s. The Reckoning (1934) tells the story of a New York slum boy.
A Time to Remember (1936) is concerned with labor troubles and unionization in a New York department store. Its heroine, Aline Weinman, a Dreiseresque, middle-class, Jewish employee of the store, goes out on strike. She pays the price of painful separation from her family for her political ideals because her father, who has lost his job, would disapprove if he knew Aline's politics.
The Summer Soldier (1938) is about a small group of men and workmen, mostly Northerners, who travel by train to a Southern county to hold a hearing on the abuse of black workers. Their mission, however, is not successful. The novel is a slick character sketch of different political types.
Home Is Where You Hang Your Childhood (1937) is a collection of short stories. "Room in the World" describes the desperation unemployment causes in a young family. The title story, about a very young high school girl's movement from childish innocence to experience, uses one of Zugsmith's favorite themes. Hard Times with Easy Payments (1941) is another collection of short stories, all from P.M.
With her husband, Zugsmith wrote The Setting Sun of Japan (1942) about their flying trip through the Far East for P.M.; a mystery story, Visitor (1944); and Year of Wrath, a novel serialized in Collier's in 1942. Stories by Zugsmith appeared infrequently until 1949 in Good Housekeeping, the New Yorker, and Collier's.
In the early 1940s, Zugsmith was considered one of the most promising young left-wing novelists. She said her greatest influences were Albert Maltz and Irwin Shaw in the short story and Josephine Herbst in the novel. All of her six novels are political, and her political themes gained considerable sophistication and some cynicism during the decade of her productivity (1929-38). Her sympathetic treatment of Jewish characters is of interest to the history of Jewish American writers because her Jewish characters solve the problem of assimilation by becoming socialists. Zugsmith belongs with those Jewish writers of the 1930s who attempted to transform ethnic background into meaningful politics. Her work became dated and of historical interest after World War II and the anti-Soviet backlash of the 1950s.
Madden, D., ed., Proletarian Writers of the Thirties (1968). Ravitz, A. C., Leane Zugsmith: Thunder on the Left (1992).
CAA (1944). TCA. Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (1943-48).
Science & Society (Spring 1994).
—CAROLE ZONIS YEE