Nom de Plume

A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms

By Carmela Ciuraru
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061735271, 400pp.)

Publication Date: May 2012

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Exploring the fascinating stories of more than a dozen authorial impostors across several centuries and cultures, Carmela Ciuraru plumbs the creative process and the darker, often crippling aspects of fame.

Only through the protective guise of Lewis Carroll could a shy, half-deaf Victorian mathematician at Oxford feel free to let his imagination run wild. The "three weird sisters" from Yorkshirethe BrontËsproduced instant bestsellers that transformed them into literary icons, yet they wrote under the cloak of male authorship. Bored by her aristocratic milieu, a cigar-smoking, cross-dressing baroness rejected the rules of propriety by having sexual liaisons with men and women alike, publishing novels and plays under the name George Sand. Highly accessible and engaging, these provocative stories reveal the complex motives of writers who harbored secret identitiessometimes playfully, sometimes with terrible anguish and tragic consequences. Part detective story, part exposÉ, part literary history, Nom de Plume is an absorbing psychological meditation on identity and creativity.

About the Author
Carmela Ciuraru is not a pseudonym. Her anthologies include First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems That Captivated and Inspired Them and Solitude Poems. She is a graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Elle Decor, ARTNews, O, The Oprah Magazine, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn.

Conversation Starters from


  1. We are living in an era of made-up memoirs, semi-autobiographical fiction, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and an ever-increasing number of "reality" TV shows. In a culture in which privacy is constantly being violated, threatened, and exposed, is it still possible to use a pseudonym without being discovered?

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