BARBARA KINGSOLVER Biography - Writers


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Barbara Kingsolver was born in 1955 in Annapolis, Maryland, and grew up in rural             
Kentucky. She counts among her most important early influences: the Bookmobile,               
a large family vegetable garden, the surrounding fields and woods, and parents               
who were tolerant of nature study (anything but snakes and mice could be kept in             
the house), but intolerant of TV.                                                             
Beginning around the age of nine, Barbara kept a journal, wrote poems and                     
stories, and entered every essay contest she ever heard about. Her first                     
published work, "Why We Need a New Elementary School," included an account of                 
how the school's ceiling fell and injured her teacher. The essay was printed in               
the local newspaper prior to a school-bond election; the school bond passed. For             
her efforts Barbara won a $25 savings bond, on which she expected to live                     
comfortably in adulthood.                                                                     
After high school graduation she left Kentucky to enter DePauw University on a               
piano scholarship. She transferred from the music school to the college of                   
liberal arts because of her desire to study practically everything (including                 
one creative writing class), and graduated with a degree in biology. She spent               
the late 1970's in Greece, France and England seeking her fortune, but had not               
found it by the time her work visa expired in 1979. She then moved to Tucson,                 
Arizona, out of curiosity to see the American southwest, and eventually pursued               
graduate studies in evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. During                 
her student and post-college years she supported herself in a wide variety of                 
jobs including typesetter, housecleaner, medical laboratory technician, artist's             
model, archaeological assistant, translator, teaching assistant, and copy editor.             
After graduate school she worked as a scientific writer for the University of                 
Arizona before becoming a freelance journalist.                                               
Kingsolver's short fiction and poetry began to be published during the mid-1980's,           
along with the articles she wrote regularly for regional and national                         
periodicals. She wrote her first novel, The Bean Trees, entirely at night, in                 
the abundant free time made available by chronic insomnia during pregnancy.                   
Completed just before the birth of her first child, in March 1987, the novel was             
published by HarperCollins the following year with a modest first printing.                   
Widespread critical acclaim and word-of-mouth support have kept the book                     
continuously in print since then. The Bean Trees has now been adopted into the               
core curriculum of high school and college literature classes across the U.S.,               
and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.                                     
She has written eleven more books since then, including the novels Animal Dreams             
, Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer ; a collection of                 
short stories (Homeland ); poetry (Another America ); an oral history (Holding               
the Line ); two essay collections (High Tide in Tucson, Small Wonder ); a prose-poetry       
text accompanying the photography of Annie Griffiths Belt (Last Stand ); and                 
most recently, her first full-length narrative non-fiction, Animal, Vegetable,               
Miracle. She has contributed to dozens of literary anthologies, and her reviews               
and articles have appeared in most major U.S. newspapers and magazines. Her                   
books have earned major literary awards at home and abroad, and in 2000 she                   
received the National Humanities Medal, our nation's highest honor for service               
through the arts.                                                                             
In 1997 Barbara established the Bellwether Prize, awarded in even-numbered years             
to a first novel that exemplifies outstanding literary quality and a commitment               
to literature as a tool for social change. For information about past winners                 
and upcoming deadlines, see                                         
Barbara is the mother of two daughters, Camille and Lily, and is married to                   
Steven Hopp, a professor of environmental sciences. In 2004, after more than 25               
years in Tucson, Arizona, Barbara left the southwest to return to her native                 
terrain. She now lives with her family on a farm in southwestern Virginia where               
they raise free-range chickens, turkeys, Icelandic sheep, and an enormous                     
vegetable garden.