Although she was raised by divorced hippie-renegade parents on the outskirts of Big Sur (with occasional stints in Honolulu), Cornelia Read knows old-school WASP culture firsthand, having been born into the tenth (and last) generation of her mother's family to live on Oyster Bay's Centre Island. Her childhood mentors included Sufis, surfers, single moms, Black Panthers, Ansel Adams, draft dodgers, striking farmworkers, and Henry Miller's toughest ping-pong rival.
At fifteen, Read returned east, attending boarding school and college on full scholarship. While in New York, she did time as a debutante at the Junior Assemblies, worming her way back into the Social Register following her expulsion when a regrettable tantrum on the part of her mother's boyfriend's wife landed the lot of them on "Page Six" of the New York Post.
Much of the material in her Madeline Dare novels is autobiographical. Cornelia indeed lived in Syracuse, worked at a thankfully-defunct "therapeutic" boarding school in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, and has a cousin named Cate Ludlam who's intimately involved with the renovation of Prospect Cemetery, the oldest burial ground in Queens, New York.
Today, her Bostonian Great-Grandmother Fabyan's Society of Mayflower Descendants membership parchment (once proudly displayed at the back of Read's tiny linen closet in Berkeley, California) is boxed up in a mini-storage unit on the West Coast, awaiting a cross-country U-Haul rental so Cornelia can road-trip it to her new digs in New Hampshire.
Cornelia has twin daughters, the younger of whom has severe autism.
SHAMUS AWARD WINNER!