Born in 1775, Jane Austen wrote comic stories as a child; her first mature work was a novella called Lady Susan, which she wrote around the age of 19. She published her most well-known novel Pride and Prejudice in 1813. Austen died in 1817 at 41 years old.
Although a pre-Victorian era author, Jane Austen holds pop culture status today and continues to have a devoted following of fans around the world. Movies have been made based on her most popular novels, which include Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park.
Recently, a trend has emerged to create monstrous "mash-ups" with Jane Austen works, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Quirk Books) and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
Dr. Smith has traveled all over Latin America conducting Jane Austen reading groups in Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina. "Readers in those countries love Austen," she said. "I formed one group by walking into bookstores in Buenos Aires and inviting total strangers to join in. I had a fascinating talk with Guatemalans about how Pride and Prejudice made them think about racial prejudice in a country that recently ended decades of racially motivated civil war."
Dr. Smith has recently published on the TV series "Lost in Austen" in the newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of Buenos Aires, and is finishing a book, Salsa and Sensibility, on her year's travels.