Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
In a brief amount of time the British writer Jeanette Winterson established a special place for herself in the literary community. Published in fourteen languages, her work early began to meet with popular and critical succes. After receiving a degree in English from Oxford University, she set out to look for editorial jobs but met with no success. At an interview for one such job, she began telling her interviewer stories about her life. The prospective employer encouraged her to write them down, and the result was her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
Winterson herself remains elusive as to the exact details of her own life, but she refers to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit as “semi-autobiographical.” The novel details a childhood spent in a Pentecostal community with a domineering and strictly religious mother. Throughout her youth, the protagonist, aptly named “Jeanette,” nurtured her skills as a preacher and a potential missionary. However, Jeanette leaves the church and is kicked out of her home when both the congregation she had considered her extended family and her mother reject her upon discovering she is a lesbian. The novel won the prestigious Whitbread First Novel Award and was later made into a miniseries for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit established Winterson as a witty commentator on accepted social standards. Even she expresses surprise that...
(The entire section is 899 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Jeanette Winterson was born in 1959 in Manchester, in the northwest of England, and adopted by a childless Pentecostal couple from Accrington, a mill town just outside Manchester. She was raised under strict religious principles and shaped for a career as a missionary. By the age of eight, she was preaching at evangelist tent meetings held by the family’s small chapel, and was making converts. Her reading material at home was limited to the Bible and Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1485), a strange combination from which she developed a strong feeling for literary style.
At the age of fifteen, Winterson had a lesbian relationship with one of her converts that was strongly denounced by the church. At the age of sixteen, she decided to leave home and took a number of part-time jobs to pay for the academic high school where she was enrolled. When she was eighteen years old, she enrolled at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University, to major in English. She worked for one year at a mental hospital to pay tuition.
After graduation in 1981, Winterson worked in various theaters and began writing what would become her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. She finished the novel at the young age of twenty-three years. After it was published in 1985, she began working as an assistant editor for Pandora Press (her early publisher). She began a romantic relationship with Pat Kavanagh, her literary agent. In 1987,...
(The entire section is 353 words.)