Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Born in Annapolis, Maryland, on April 8, 1955, Barbara Kingsolver grew up in Kentucky. Her father, Wendell, was a physician, and her mother, Virginia, was a homemaker. Kingsolver, who has kept a journal of personal revelations since the age of eight, learned a sense of community in small-town Kentucky. Community, to her, meant a place where people “grow their own food and know who they could depend on for help.” She writes about community in all of her stories, but she discovered that the reality of community is relatively rare in other parts of the United States. Part of her heritage is Cherokee, and her stories include American Indian characters, history, and issues. She discovered that the community so important to her is fundamental to most American Indian cultures.
After leaving Kentucky for college, Kingsolver deliberately lost her “hillbilly” accent, which prompted ridicule wherever she went. “People made terrible fun of me for the way I used to talk, so I gave it up slowly and became something else. It was later in life, about ten years later, that it occurred to me this language was a precious and valuable thing.”
Kingsolver earned a B.A. magna cum laude in biology from De Pauw University (1977) and an M.S. in biology from the University of Arizona (1981); she has completed additional graduate study. Her university studies began with a piano scholarship, but she switched to biology because it was more practical. She has always written, everything from childhood journals to scientific and technical writing after college. Kingsolver’s jobs have included research assistant in the department of physiology at the University of Tucson...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Barbara Kingsolver treats her characters with respect and compassion. Her fictional characters live true to their convictions and trust their inner sense of what is right, creating interesting tensions in each novel or story. One cannot read Kingsolver’s works without questioning what is just, as her vision includes the world’s joys and its injustices. Whether the problems involve the pollution of a site by a corporation (Animal Dreams), issues of religious and international power (The Poisonwood Bible), or family entitlement (Prodigal Summer), all trails of thought lead to dilemmas that face any responsible, caring citizen of the world.
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Barbara Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, Maryland, on April 8, 1955. Her childhood was spent mostly in eastern Kentucky’s rural Nicholas County. She began writing before she entered high school. In 1977 she earned her undergraduate degree magna cum laude in biology from DePauw University in Indiana. Work toward her master’s of science degree at the University of Arizona at Tucson included a creative writing class. Between her stints as a student, she lived for a time in Greece and France. After completing her master’s degree, she worked as a science writer for the University of Arizona and began to write feature articles, which have appeared in national publications such as Smithsonian, Harper’s, and The New York Times. In 1985 she married Joseph Hoffman and wrote The Bean Trees in insomniac interludes during her pregnancy with her daughter Camille. She settled in Tucson, Arizona, with husband Steven Hopp, Camille, and Lily. Kingsolver has been a political activist all of her adult life.
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Barbara Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1955. Her childhood was spent mostly in eastern Kentucky’s rural Nicholas County. She began writing before she entered high school. In 1977, she earned an undergraduate degree in biology, magna cum laude, from De Pauw University in Indiana. Work toward her master of science degree at the University of Arizona in Tucson (1981) included a creative writing class. After completing her master’s degree she worked as a science writer for the University of Arizona and began to write feature articles on the side, which appeared in publications such as Smithsonian, Harpers, and The New York Times.
In 1985, Kingsolver married Joseph Hoffman. She soon began to write what would become her first novel, The Bean Trees, doing so in insomniac interludes when she was pregnant with her daughter, Camille. Kingsolver subsequently was divorced; she then married Hopp and settled in Tucson. Kingsolver has been a political activist all her adult life. Just after 2000, she and her family relocated to a farm in southwestern Virginia. Their move spawned her nonfiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Barbara Kingsolver grew up in a family of three children in Eastern Kentucky. Her family background of a two-parent home differs from much of her fiction. All three novels to some degree explore the impact of a missing parent.
Kingsolver describes her father as a doctor with a social conscience, often accepting payment in garden vegetables. Her father’s social conscience apparently influences her fiction and nonfiction, for example, her study of women’s roles in the Arizona mine strike of 1983.
Kingsolver’s personal participation in campus activism and antiwar demonstrations matches a motif in her fiction: commitment to social responsibility and change. Hallie Noline in Animal Dreams follows her conscience to farming communities in Nicaragua, “where farmers were getting ambushed while they walked home with their minds on dinner” and where Hallie is kidnapped and murdered. Issues such as environmental degradation and immigration injustices play significant roles in her fiction as well.
An especially strong autobiographical influence is the Western setting of her novels. Having headed west for doctoral study in biology at the University of Arizona, Kingsolver settled in Tucson, fascinated by the landscape, animal life, and indigenous cultures of the desert. Her close observation of nature and deep respect for...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
When Barbara Kingsolver won a Los Angeles Times Book Award for Pigs in Heaven after receiving the 1991 PEN West Award for Animal Dreams, her arrival as a serious writer of contemporary American fiction could hardly be questioned; what is not immediately apparent, perhaps, is the breadth of knowledge and experience in the author who brought these works to life. Kingsolver is the daughter of a physician, she married a chemist, and she has worked as a research assistant in the department of physiology at the University of Arizona. She received a B.A. (magna cum laude) in 1977 from DePauw University and an M.S. in 1981 from the University of Arizona, and has pursued further graduate study since then. From...
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IntroductionSome people are born to be writers: it just takes them a little while to figure that out. Barbara Kingsolver’s first essay was titled “Why We Need a New Elementary School.” It outlined the reasons her local school was unsafe and ultimately helped to secure an improvement bond. Since Kingsolver was only nine years old at the time, it was a major accomplishment—but only the first of many. In college, she studied everything from music to science, eventually doing graduate work in evolutionary biology. Though she worked as a scientific writer for the University of Arizona and then as a freelance writer, she finally turned to fiction full-time in the 1980s. Since then, Kingsolver has published twelve novels and won numerous awards, including the 2000 National Humanities Medal.
- Before becoming a full-time author, Kingsolver held many jobs: typesetter, housecleaner, medical laboratory technician, translator, scientific writer, and freelance journalist.
- She wrote her first novel, The Bean Trees, at night during a terrible bout of insomnia during her pregnancy.
- Kingsolver instituted the Bellwether Prize in 1997, which is awarded in even-numbered years to a first novel that uses literature as a tool for social change.
- Kingsolver loves to write about people’s relationship to the land. She counts Henry David Thoreau as one of her many influences.
- Kingsolver now lives on a farm in Virginia and raises chickens, sheep, turkeys, and has a huge vegetable garden.