Barbara Kingsolver demonstrates that politics are personal in The Bean Trees, her novel of friendship and survival set in the arid American Southwest. The novel focuses on Taylor Greer's search for a new life as she moves from her dull Kentucky home to exotic Arizona and the lessons that she learns along the way. Taylor's adoption of an abused Cherokee toddler, her friendship with a pair of Guatemalan refugees, and her support system of a small community of women, all contribute to the novel's central conviction that people cannot survive without empathy and generosity. Published in 1988 to an enthusiastic critical reception, The Bean Trees won an American Library Association award and a School Library Association award and has found a devoted reading audience around the world. Critics and readers alike relish Taylor's humor and warmth, with her down-home speech and perceptive observations. Like her narrator, Kingsolver grew up in Kentucky, and she draws from the voices she heard in her youth to create Taylor's voice. This voice helps to guide the novel, with its strong humanitarian views, away from simple political correctness toward a rich believability. Kingsolver has been praised for her skill in The Bean Trees at walking the fine line between preaching and taking a moral stand, and Taylor's straightforwardness and humor provide the cornerstone to Kingsolver's approach.