Millen Brand (January 19, 1906 – March 19, 1980) was an American writer and poet. His novels Savage Sleep and The Outward Room, which addressed mental health institutions, were bestsellers in the 1960s and 1930s, respectively.
Life and Career
Millen was born in Jersey City, New Jersey into a working-class family and was of Pennsylvania German descent on his mother’s side. After graduating from Columbia University, he worked as a psychiatric aide and as a copywriter before accepting faculty posts at New York University and New Hampshire University. In 1937, he wrote his first and most famous novel, The Outward Room, based in part on his experience as a psychiatric aide. The novel was a bestseller and was adapted for Broadway as The World We Make. After establishing himself as a writer, he was able to acquire a post as a book editor for Crown Publishers.
While Millen viewed his move to New York City as an effective escape from his Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, he returned to the topic of the Pennsylvania Dutch late in life, writing the text to accompany George Tice's photographs for Fields of Peace: A Pennsylvania German Album, and Local Lives (1975), a book of poems about the Pennsylvania Dutch. He resided in Greenwich Village and on a small farm he owned in Bucks County, PA. He also taught writing at New York University and worked as a book editor for Crown Publishers.
He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing (Screenplay) in 1948 for The Snake Pit (with Frank Partos), an adaptation of Mary Jane Ward's novel, which, like his novel The Outward Room, involved confinement in a mental health institution.
Millen was active in the civil rights movement. He was forced to testify before Senator Joseph McCarthy. He also authored Peace March: Nagasaki to Hiroshima. Toward the end of his life, Brand was active in a movement to open up major poetry publications to writers of color and younger writers, through his friendship with the author June Jordan. Buried in Concord, Massachusetts, his gravestone is just a few steps from those of Emerson and Thoreau.