SANTA MONICA—Carolyn See, a long established and leading Southern Californian literary figure, died on Wednesday, July 13, at the age of 82, after battling cancer. See was born in Pasadena on January 13, 1934.
As a native to Los Angeles, See commonly intertwined unofficial Los Angeles landmarks within the scenery of her literature; like “Rhine Maidens,” which unravels in several familiar locations, including: the May Company department store on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile, the Georgian retirement home in Santa Monica, and the Charthouse restaurant in Malibu.
“People referred to her as the Grande Dame of Southern California literature … and she took some pride in that,” See’s daughter, Lisa See told the Los Angeles Times. “When she started, there were very few women writers on the West Coast,” she added.
See graduated from John Marshall High School, earned her associates degree from Los Angeles City College, and then her masters from California State University-Los Angeles. She eventually finished and received her doctorate from UCLA. Her dissertation was on the Hollywood novel.
Carolyn is recognized widely for her literary accomplishments. She wrote more than a dozen books in her lifetime, received a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction, taught creative writing at Loyola Marymount University and UCLA, worked as a book critic at the L.A. Times and Washington Post for 27 years, served on the board of PEN Center USA West, and was awarded the L.A. Times Book Prize’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1993.
See wrote a memoir in 1995, called “Dreaming, Hard Lucky and Good Times in America,” which was among her most popular books. Within the story, she elaborates on her parents’ drinking habits, her mother’s nasty snipes, and her own wild streak – all with humor and understanding.
Her book “Golden Days,” is her most well-known novel – it pristinely captures the humor and zest that made her style so original and well-liked. A New York Times reviewer called the book, “the most life-admiring novel I’ve ever read.”
“There Will Never Be Another You” was published in 2007 and was the writer’s most recent novel.
She married Richard See, an anthropologist in 1954. They spent a year living in Paris where their daughter, Lisa was born; they divorced just five years later in 1959.
A year after her divorce, See married Tom Sturak, a teacher and editor; they were married for nine years. See wrote in a memoir, “Alcohol, Beatles music and parties on the deck our Topanga house were the glue that kept us together.” Sturak and See had one daughter, Clara, before they divorced.
Her longest relationship was with John Epsey, an English professor at UCLA. Epsey was 21 years older than See and the two never married. They were a couple from the 1970s until Epsey died in 2000. See wrote in a memoir, “What kept John and me together…was John’s relentless goodness and the fact that we both loved to drink.”
Carolyn See retired in 2004. Before she retired, she created a $100,000 endowment at UCLA, for the study of Southern California literature. She is survived by her two daughters, Lisa and Clara.