Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Jane Hamilton was born in Oak Park, Illinois, the hometown of Ernest Hemingway, whom she thought of as an “icky man” who was dead wrong when he called the suburb “a place of narrow minds and wide lawns.” Hamilton found Oak Park both liberal and livable. She grew up in a family that opposed the Vietnam War and loved the arts and literature. She became familiar with Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo through her father’s recitations. As a youngster, she studied ballet, listened to the music of Peter Tchaikovsky, and read avidly. She read not so much to find out “how people fell in love . . . but how . . . they came together.” She was searching for instructions for life. In later years she became more enamored of the craft, of the “strong or lyrical or surprising sentence.” It was natural for her to become a writer. Her grandmother contributed to a feminist newspaper and produced several unpublished novel manuscripts. Her mother, Ruth Hulbert Hamilton, composed a poem for her titled “A Song for a Fifth Child” that was published in Ladies’ Home Journal, it became a popular nursery rhyme for handstitched samplers.
Hamilton graduated with a B.A. in English from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1979, equipped, as she noted, “to be a waitress or wait until further notice.” Failing to gain acceptance in any of the graduate programs to which she applied, she headed for New York with the promise of a job in the...
(The entire section is 1469 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Jane Hamilton was born in 1957 in Oak Park, Illinois, the birthplace also of novelist Carol Shields. Hamilton’s father was an engineer and her mother was a theater critic. The fifth and last child in a rambunctious brood, Hamilton was the quiet and introspective daughter who, from an early age, preferred the written word over the spoken. Hamilton’s mother and grandmother were writers, too, so writing seemed to be her heritage. She once observed that she thought it only natural that she would grow up to become a writer.
In 1979, Hamilton earned her B.A. in English at Carleton College in Minnesota and then headed east to New York, where she had secured a position in the children’s fiction division of a publishing house. En route to New York she took a detour. A brief stop at an apple orchard in Wisconsin that belonged to a friend’s family became a permanent relocation. Hamilton never made it to New York nor did she regret her lost career in publishing. Instead, she became an apple farmer, laboring in the orchards spring through fall and wintering indoors, where she nurtured her writing skills. She applied for but was denied enrollment in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Undeterred, she continued to submit her short stories for consideration in several publications, but she received rejections. Seeking more formal training in her craft, she spent time at Ragdale in Illinois, a retreat for writers and artists.
In 1982, Hamilton married Robert...
(The entire section is 372 words.)