In 1986 Janette Turner Hospital was named one of Canada’s ten best fiction writers under the age of forty-five. Hospital is not a native Canadian, however; she was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1942, the eldest child and only daughter in a family so religiously conservative that, as a teenager, she was not allowed to go to the movies or out on dates. When she was still quite young, the family moved north to Brisbane, Queensland. It was not until she was twenty years old and had taken a job teaching high school English in a rough coastal town that Hospital finally attained some degree of freedom and independence. The bewilderment she experienced because of this sudden change in her lifestyle surfaced years later in a short story called “You Gave Me Hyacinths,” which appeared in Malahat Review and was later reprinted in Hospital’s first short-story collection, Dislocations.
In 1965 Hospital married Clifford G. Hospital, a comparative religion scholar. At the same time, she continued her own education at the University of Queensland, earning a B.A. in 1966. In 1967 the Hospitals left Australia for the United States, where Clifford took a teaching position and Janette became a librarian at Harvard University. During their years in Boston the couple had two children, Geoffrey and Cressida. In 1971 the family moved to Kingston, Ontario, where Clifford began teaching at Queens University.
It was not until 1974 that Hospital began writing seriously, producing several short stories that were published in prestigious magazines and journals such as The Atlantic Monthly, North American Review, Queen’s Quarterly, and The Yale Review. Her career advanced rapidly after 1977, in part as a result of a trip to India, where she and the children accompanied Clifford on an extended research sabbatical. The cultural disorientation she experienced in India led directly to a short story entitled “Waiting,” which won an Atlantic Monthly “first” citation in 1978. She later expanded this story into her first novel, The Ivory Swing, which won Canada’s prestigious Seal Award (including a financial award of fifty thousand...
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