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Cover of My Lives and How I Lost Them by Countee Cullen. The book cover features the face of white cat with large, yellow eyes.
Cover of My Lives and How I Lost Them by Countee Cullen

Hi! My name is Saher Al Khamash and I’m part of Middlebury’s Class of 2021. I have the pleasure of working in Special Collections as a digital archives research assistant. What I value most about Special Collections is the access to historical and often rare artifacts. We offer to the public the opportunity of taking an intimate look into our past. I think that is such a gift because oftentimes it grants us a fuller picture of our present.

A prominent voice of the Harlem Renaissance, Countee Cullen was an American poet, novelist, playwright and children’s writer. 

Color photograph of Countee Cullen in Central Park. Cullen stands to the left side of the photo and looks to his left. Cullen is wearing a brown suit.
Countee Cullen. Yale University Library.

Cullen’s 1942 children’s book, My Lives and How I Lost Them, features illustrations by Robert Reid Macguire. The book follows Christopher Cat, a cat in his ninth life, as he reminisces about his adventures in his previous eight. Special Collections has a first edition copy.

Title page of My Lives and How I Lost Them by Countee Cullen. The pages feature two illustrations of cats.
Title page, My Lives and How I Lost Them

Christopher Cat dedicates his memoir to fellow feline, Pumpkin Cummings of Old Orchard Beach, Maine and her late, unnamed brother. Through Christopher Cat’s memoir, Cullen conveys the ephemerality of life in a cute and clever way for young readers.


Photograph of the dedication in My Lives and How I Lost Them by Countee Cullen. The dedication reads, "I, Christopher Cat, dedicate this account of my lives to my little friend Pumpkin Cummings, of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, whose yellow gold and blue eyes so vividly remind me of my little Sister Claudia; and to the memory of Pumpkin's twin brother, who, even before he had an opportunity to be named, lost all his nine lives in his first encounter with an automobile."
Dedication of My Lives and How I Lost Them

Special Collections will continue to feature Black authors throughout February as we celebrate Black History Month.

Keep an eye on our Instagram for more.

Questions? Email specialcollections@middlebury.edu