YOUNG--Genevieve. Genevieve Young, 89, the legendary book editor, died peacefully on February 18, 2020 at her home in Manhattan. Ms. Young's esteemed career in book publishing spanned over five decades. Beginning as a secretary in 1952, "Gene" went on to hold prominent positions at Harper & Brothers, Little, Brown and Bantam Books. She worked with a number of distinguished authors and public figures, including Stephen Birmingham, Craig Claiborne, Henry Kissinger, Ava Gardner, Helene Hanff and Mimi Sheraton. Gene was responsible for the publication of Erich Segal's Love Story and Nancy Milford's biography Zelda. One of her most lasting author-editor relationships was with Herman Wouk, whose works she edited from the 1970's until Mr. Wouk's death in 2019. In addition, she worked on the The Learning Tree with Gordon Parks, whom she later married. Gene was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1930, where her father, Clarence Young, was serving in the Chinese delegation to The League of Nations. He went on to become China's consul general to the Philippines, and in 1942, with the country under Japanese occupation, he was arrested and executed. When the Philippines were liberated in 1945, Gene's mother Juliana--described by Gene as 'a woman of great fortitude'-- immigrated to New York, where in a short time, she landed a job at the United Nations and got her daughters enrolled in private schools with full scholarships. Gene graduated from Abbot Academy (now Phillips Academy Andover) in 1948 and Wellesley College in 1952. Gene often expressed deep gratitude for what this country had provided to a family of four immigrants, and her desire to give back never waned. She was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award from Wellesley College, the Matrix Award from Women in Communications, and the Alumni Award of Distinction from Phillips Academy Andover, where she had served as a trustee. She was a literacy tutor and board member of Literacy Partners, and served as President of the Youth Counseling League. For many years, she was an Adjunct Professor at the Center for Publishing at NYU. Always active and eager to try new things, Gene figure skated, skied, played tennis and bridge, and danced. Up until her death, she took ballroom dancing lessons for several hours a week and participated in dance competitions in a sequined red dress. She was a finalist in the 2017 Fred Astaire World Championships. At age 50, Gene was featured on the cover of Lear's Magazine, extolled for her ageless beauty. At all ages, Gene was a head turner, an attribute she carried with just the right combination of humility and pride. Gene was married twice, to Cedric Sun and later to the photographer Gordon Parks. After Parks' death, Gene helped to establish the Gordon Parks Foundation and served on their board. She is survived by her sister, Shirley Young, Shirley's three sons, David, Bill and Douglas Hsieh; the four children of her deceased sister Frances Young Tang: Tracy Limpe, Dana, Kevin and Kristin Tang; her brother-in-law, Oscar Tang; and 18 grandnieces and nephews. Of all Gene's accomplishments, her greatest was her devotion to family and friends, particularly to her mother, Juliana Young Koo, who died in 2017 at age 111. That devotion was also lavished on the next generation; the gains of her nieces and nephews were her triumphs, and their losses her sorrows. A celebration of Gene's life will be held at the Century Club in New York on April 4th at 5pm. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Phillips Academy Andover or Wellesley College in Gene's honor.
Published in New York Times on Feb. 20, 2020.