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Janet McDonald
Born (1953-08-10)August 10, 1953
Brooklyn, United States
Died April 11, 2007(2007-04-11) (aged 53)
Paris, France
Occupation Attorney, Author
Genre Young adult fiction, Memoir

Janet McDonald (August 10, 1953 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer of young adult novels as well as the author of Project Girl, a memoir about her early life in Brooklyn's Farragut Houses and struggle to achieve an Ivy League education. Her best known children's book is Spellbound, which tells the story of a teenaged mother who wins a spelling competition and a college scholarship. The book was named as one of the American Library Association's eighty-four Best Book for Young Adults in 2002.

In addition to books, McDonald also wrote articles for publications such as Slate, including one in which she paid psychic Sylvia Browne $700 for a telephone reading. McDonald was a member of Mensa, the high IQ society.


After graduating from Vassar (1977), Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (1984), and New York University Law School (1986), McDonald practiced law in New York City (1986–89) and Seattle (1989–91). She took a position as an intern at a Paris law firm (1991–93) before moving to Olympia, Washington, to work in the Attorney General's office and teach French language classes at Evergreen State College. McDonald settled in Paris in 1995 to work first as an international attorney and then as a writer, until she died of cancer in 2007.




  • "Freedom is ... not about nothing left to lose, it's about nothing left to be; you don't have to be anything."
  • "Paris is where I became possible. It's where I became free."
  • Catherine Ross-Stroud. "Urban Hip-Hop Fiction: Janet McDonald", Tarshia Stanley (ed.), Encyclopedia of Hip-Hop Literature, Greenwood Press, 2008.
  • Thomas E. Kennedy, "The Wind Blew It Away", The Literary Explorer, 2001
  • Catherine Ross-Stroud, "A Talk with Janet McDonald", The ALAN Review, Fall 2009
  • Jennifer Williams, "Twists and Turns", HipMama, 2003
  • Susie Linfield, "Caught in Life's Harsh Extremes", L.A. Times Book Review, 1999
  • Julia Browne, "Janet's Own Rhythm", Spirit of Black Paris, 2007
  • Sheryl McCarthy, "Talking With Janet McDonald / I Will Survive", Newsday, 2000
  • Lisa J. Curtis "Tales From the Hood", Go Brooklyn, 2004
  • Thomas E. Kennedy, "You Don’t Remember Me, But I Remember You - For Janet McDonald", Serving House Journal, 2011
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