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Jaffe, Rona

JAFFE, RONA

JAFFE, RONA (1932–2005), U.S. author. Born in Brooklyn and educated at Radcliffe College, Jaffe was 26 when her bestselling first novel, The Best of Everything, shocked many readers with its sharp-edged portrayal of "girls brought up to fulfill the image of what boys wanted" and the "rat race" to get married. Jaffe was working as an associate editor at Fawcett Publishing in the 1950s when she chronicled the lives and tortured loves of five young working women in the typing pool at a large New York publishing house. Published in 1958 and made into a movie the following year starring Joan Crawford, Hope Lange, and Suzy Parker, the book and movie were popular successes. Notorious in its time for its candor about sex, the novel was widely regarded as a cultural marker, providing a template for a gossipy genre of confessional fiction about women.

The themes in the book, Jaffe said 50 years after its publication, continued to be relevant to women: trying to balance professional success and personal happiness; pursuing an often futile search for Mr. Right; making mistakes without looking back, and finding solace in friendships with other women. Jaffe wrote the tale of ambition and lust in five months and five days, basing it loosely on her experiences as a striving 25-year-old Brooklyn innocent bent on making her way in the New York publishing world. The title became a catch phrase. The book, though dated in the details, was reissued in 2005 at a time when the television series Sex and the City showed women in a different light, although some critics felt that the characters, who had a compulsion to have it all, had much in common.

Jaffe, who never married or had children, wrote 16 more novels and countless magazine articles about single working women. In 1995, she began the Rona Jaffe Foundation, which gave cash grants to young women writers. The awards were the only national literary prizes that supported female writers exclusively.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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