Rita Golden Gelman family owned a small pharmacy and she spent lots of time in the store, helping out. As a teenager, she worked at the soda fountain in the store. Her favorite part of the job was interacting with the customers, who came in many sizes, shapes, accents and styles.
Rita Golden Gelman attended Beardsley Elementary School, Harding High School for her freshman year and Bassick High School for her last three years. She graduated from Bassick in 1954 and went to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she gained her B.A. in English and American Literature in 1958. Many years later she studied anthropology at UCLA.
After graduating from college, she moved to New York where she worked as a file clerk for the magazine FOR YOUNG NEW YORKERS. Eventually she became a writer for the magazine until it folded. After that, she freelanced writing whatever she could get paid for.
In 1960, she married. She then was the editor for an anthology of children’s books until she had children. Her son, Mitch, was born in 1962 and her daughter, Jan, was born in 1963. After having children, she was a stay at home mom.
Her first book, DUMB JOEY, was published in 1972. The book was about a group of kids in New York City who have nowhere to play.
In 1986, at the age of 48, on the verge of divorce, she decided there had to be more than one way to ‘do life’. She sold or gave away all her possessions and began to travel the world. She settles in wherever she goes, long enough to get to know the people and their customs. She describes herself as a modern day nomad, with no permanent home or address.