The story of In America is inspired by the emigration to America in 1876 of Helena Modrzejewska, Poland's most celebrated actress, accompanied by her husband, Count Karol Chlapowski, her fifteen-year-old son, Rudolf, the young journalist and future author of Quo Vadis, Henryk Sienkiewicz, and a few friends; their brief sojourn in Anaheim, California; and Modrzejewska's subsequent triumphant career on the American stage under the name Helena Modjeska.
Susan Sontag was born in Manhattan in 1933 and studied at the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Oxford. Her non-fiction works include Against Interpretation, On Photography, Illness as Metaphor, AIDS and its Metaphors and Regarding the Pain of Others. She is also the author of four novels, a collection of stories and several plays. Her books are translated into thirty-two languages. In 2001 she was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the body of her work, and in 2003 she received the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She died in December 2004.