J.D. Salinger’s Biography

Literary recluse J.D. Salinger was born New Year’s Day 1919, the youngest child to Sol and Maria Salinger; he had one sibling Doris who was born eight years prior. His father owned an import business, which specialized in meats and cheeses. Salinger was of Irish-Scottish and Jewish descent.

In his early life, J.D. Salinger attended several primary schools through the early 1920s and 1930s. Always described as an introverted child, Salinger had a rough transition from Upper West Side public school to McBurry private school and thus caused his parents to enroll him in Valley Forge Military Academy, this move was due to Salinger’s declining academic performance, and at the time he was fifteen years old. During his time at Valley Forge Military Academy, Salinger focused on his ambition in drama and theatre, as well as, writing fiction for a literary magazine and becoming editor of the Valley Forge yearbook. He received special honors as a poem he published in the yearbook became the school anthem. Salinger graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy in 1936.

Upon graduating Valley Forge Military Academy, Salinger had a brief soiree with his secondary education. He first attended New York University, Ursinus College, and Columbia University. He withdrew from New York University after he had tried to become an entertainer on a Caribbean cruise liner. At Ursinus College, Salinger wrote a column called “Skipped Diplomas,” the column included humorous works, satires, and reviews of films. At Columbia, Salinger was taught by Whitt Burnett, a writer, and editor of Story magazine. During this time Sol, his father attempt to coerce Salinger to continue to the importing business, however, this was to no avail.

As the United States entered in what would later be known as World War II, Salinger enlisted and served as a Counter-Intelligence Corps of the Fourth Infantry Division, he often kept a typewriter near him for his work. Salinger participated in several major battles, including landing in Normandy on D-Day, as well as the Battle of the Bulge. During his time in Europe, Salinger wrote several essays. He was hospitalized near the close of War World II, for battle fatigue, an analogous term for a mental breakdown. Salinger stayed in Europe after the war, eliminating the last of the Nazi’s malignant growths. While in Europe, he had a brief marriage with a physician named Sylvia, surname unknown.

In 1946, Salinger penned Holden Caulfield in a short novella, however, the publishing agreement fell through and what would later be known as Catcher in the Rye would be published five years later in 1951. Catcher was a best seller and developed a cult-like following in Cold-War America. With the concept of morality and frame of reference of the “adult” world, many American adolescents flocked to the book.

While a much younger Salinger would have been appreciative of publicly that arose in the wake of Catcher in the Rye publishing, the elder Salinger was not. He whisked himself away to live a hermit life in New Hampshire. In 1955, he met his wife Claire Douglas and they had a son and daughter, Margret Ann and Matthew.

In his later life, Salinger appreciated his privacy and rarely granted interviews. In the 1980s, Ian Hamilton attempted to write a biography, which Salinger had not authorized, Salinger took Hamilton to court before it was published. In 1998, Joyce Maynard wrote At Home in the World a memoir recounting her 1972 affair with Salinger. However, critiques claimed she was trying to exploit and profit from her relationship with Salinger. Salinger stayed whisked away from the world until his sudden death in 2010. His publicist claims Salinger remained pain-free, despite a broken hip. Salinger remained healthy until his sudden decline from New Year’s 2010 to his death on January 27, 2010.


“The Catcher in the Rye: J.D. Salinger Biography.” CliffsNotes, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, www.cliffnotes.com.


Mcgrath, Charles. “J. D. Salinger, Literary Recluse, Dies at 91.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 Jan. 2010, www.nytimes.com/.