The the newly-established Affonso "Ferreira Mendes" Ferreira Portuguese-American Archives recently received a donation of the literary papers of late California author Alfred Lewis, one of the most important Portuguese American writers of the 20th century. The archives are part of the UMass Dartmouth Library's Archives and Special Collections.
The donation was made by Lewis’ daughter, Suzanne Dutra, of Morro Bay, California. It is especially important because Lewis is one of the few authors of Portuguese heritage to truly claim the attention of the English-reading public, said UMass Dartmouth Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture Director Frank Sousa.
''This is a contribution of important intellectual and historical property – artifacts and information that will help our students, faculty and the public know more about Mr. Lewis, our collective immigrant heritage, indeed ourselves,'' Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack said. ''This is a statement of respect and faith in our university, this magnificent library and our faculty.
It is an example of the power of the public and private investments in the university. Our splendid archives, this library, exists only because public leaders and private donors see great value in the teaching and research that occurs here.''
The donation was celebrated Wednesday, December 14 with a reception and displat on the first floor of the library. The reception attracted several faculty members, students, friends of the university and legislators.
Among the author’s papers are five unpublished novels, over 25 unpublished short stories and four unpublished plays. The collection also includes correspondence, clippings of published poems and short stories, a scrapbook of reviews of Home is an Island, photographs and books.
Library Dean Ann Montgomery Smith said, “This acquisition adds considerable depth to our Portuguese-American archives. The Lewis papers represent the intellectual and literary output of a Portuguese immigrant and create a wonderful resource for study and reflection.”
Lewis’ short stories were twice referenced in "Best American Short Stories" in 1949 and 1950, and his first novel, Home is an Island, published by Random House in 1951, became a bestseller and was reviewed in many publications, including the New York Times Book Review, Chicago Sunday Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Lewis also wrote plays and poetry in English and Portuguese and had many poems published. Earlier this year the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture published one of his manuscripts, a novel entitled Sixty Acres and a Barn, as part of its "Portuguese in the Americas" series.
Born in 1902 on the island of Flores, Alfred Lewis emigrated from the Azores to the United States in 1922, first arriving in Providence, Rhode Island and then moving on to California. He became a typesetter to earn a living, clerked in a dry goods store, and worked as a wireless operator.
Lewis also wrote articles, stories and poems for the Portuguese press - O Liberdade, O Lavrador Portuges, and O Jornal de Noticias - and a column, "The Far Corner," for local newspapers.
He taught himself to write in English, studied law, and served as a municipal judge from 1938 to 1947 in Los Banos, California, where he lived with his wife Rose. He also worked in real estate and insurance and did translations. He died in Los Banos, California, in 1977.