Anne Tyler Biography

Anne Tyler Biography

Anne Tyler was in charge—until the cows came home! Tyler’s parents valued a rural lifestyle and settled in the hills of North Carolina in a somewhat communal settlement. The principal of the local school often had to go home in the afternoons to feed his cows, and he would leave Tyler in charge of the school during his absence. Often humorous and always smart, her stories were influenced by these early Southern memories and by Eudora Welty’s writing, despite the fact that many of Tyler’s own books are set in Baltimore, Maryland, where she now resides. She is most famous for writing The Accidental Tourist, which was made into a film in 1988, and Breathing Lessons, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989.

Facts and Trivia

  • Tyler graduated from Duke University at the age of nineteen. Later, she was a bibliographer at Duke and worked in the law library at McGill University.
  • Tyler did graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University before becoming a full-time author.
  • Tyler loves the rewriting process and often rewrites her novels in longhand.
  • Tyler’s newest novel, Digging to America, was inspired by her witnessing a family adopting a new baby at the airport. It’s also taken from her experience with her late husband’s Iranian family.
  • Critics have been hard on Tyler because of her tendency to mix comedy and drama, but she is, at this point, considered one of America’s most influential authors.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 25, 1941, the oldest child and only daughter of Lloyd Parry Tyler, a chemist, and Phyllis Mahon Tyler, a social worker, who later became the parents of three boys. During Anne’s childhood, the family moved frequently, living in Quaker communes at various locations in the Midwest and the South and finally settling for five years in the mountains of North Carolina. As the oldest child and only girl in a large, active family, Anne Tyler recognized the feminine capacity for leadership, which is emphasized in many of her novels.

Furthermore, both within the family and within the larger context of the commune, she became aware of the tension between two human needs—one for privacy, solitude, and personal freedom, the other for membership in a group, as a defense against indecision and loneliness. By nature, though warm and sympathetic, Tyler has defined herself as an extremely private person. During childhood, she became aware of the difficulties encountered by people such as herself when groups of which they are members demand their full allegiance.

After graduating at sixteen from a secondary school in Raleigh, Tyler entered Duke University, majoring in Russian. When she picked up the enrollment card for her freshman composition class, she became the first student of a new English teacher, Reynolds Price, who at twenty-five was already a promising novelist, experimenting with new ideas and new narrative techniques. Price recognized Tyler’s talent and helped her with her writing. The importance of this early tutelage, from a novelist whose The Surface of Earth (1975) would later be called by some critics one of the major American novels of the twentieth century, cannot be overestimated. Tyler, however, was not yet ready to commit herself to a writing career. Instead, although she continued to write, she concentrated on her studies in Russian.

In 1961, after only three years, she graduated from Duke with a Phi Beta Kappa key and moved to New York City, where she spent a year taking graduate courses in Russian at Columbia University. The following...

(The entire section is 880 words.)

Anne Tyler Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Although Tyler’s plots may seem as circular as life itself, with her characters often moving back to the places from which they came, the characters are changed by the events through which they have moved. Tyler’s great gift lies in the creation and sympathetic treatment of these characters, who in their interactions produce scenes of comedy and even of farce.

Tyler’s characters and their actions may seem extreme, but the theme that they illustrate rings true. Every human being must try to harmonize such opposites as individuality and conformity, emotion and reason, and energy and restraint. Some of Tyler’s novels suggest that such reconciliation is almost impossible; others indicate that the possibility exists, that energy and love can do what reason can never accomplish.

Anne Tyler Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

When Anne Tyler was seven, her parents moved to Celo, a Quaker commune in North Carolina, to raise their family in a quiet, isolated environment. Anne and her two brothers were schooled at home. Tyler became an avid reader, and her favorite book was The Little House (1942) by Virginia Lee Burton. Unable to support the family adequately at Celo, Tyler’s parents moved to Raleigh in 1952, where her father worked as a research chemist, and her mother became a social worker. The Tylers were activists in the Civil Rights movement, opposed the death penalty, and, as Quaker pacifists, opposed U.S. involvement in war. With this background, it is surprising that Tyler’s writing reveals no political or social ideology, other than her portrayal of the family as a basic unit in society.

Tyler attended high school in Raleigh, where Mrs. Peacock, her English teacher, taught literature with a dramatic flair and inspired Anne’s desire to become a writer. At sixteen, she entered Duke University on scholarship, majoring in Russian studies and literature, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1961. At Duke, Professors Reynolds Price and William Blackburn recognized her talent. Eudora Welty’s conversational dialogue, southern settings, and gentle satire also influenced Tyler.

Tyler attended Columbia University but did not finish her master’s degree. While working in the library at Duke University, she met Taghi Modarressi, an Iranian medical student,...

(The entire section is 471 words.)

Anne Tyler Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 25, 1941, to Phyllis Mahon Tyler, a social worker, and Lloyd Parry Tyler, an industrial chemist. She was the eldest of four children, the only girl. Both of her parents were Quakers dedicated to finding an ideal community, a quest that produced the theme of frustrated idealism in Tyler’s fiction. As a consequence of her parents’ idealism, Tyler spent most of her early years, from infancy until age eleven, in various rural Quaker communes scattered throughout the midwestern and southern United States. When she was six, the family settled in Celo, North Carolina—a large, isolated, valley commune virtually independent of the outside world and unquestionably the setting for Tyler’s short story “Outside,” which appeared in the Southern Review in 1971.

Tyler later wrote of the impact of her early years on her fiction. Unable to sleep at night and needing to amuse herself, she began telling herself stories at age three. Furthermore, her isolation in the rural communes in which she lived as a child contributed to the themes of isolation and community dominant in her novels. Growing up in North Carolina, where she spent summers tying tobacco, Tyler listened carefully to the stories of the tobacco handlers and tenant farmers. Later, she was able to capture the cadences of everyday speech in her fiction, realizing that the stories these workers told could form the basis for literature. She also relied heavily on the North Carolina tobacco country as the setting for her early novels, especially The Tin Can Tree and A Slipping-Down Life.

When Tyler was eleven, she and her family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where they finally settled into an “ordinary” middle-class existence. There, Tyler...

(The entire section is 739 words.)

Anne Tyler Biography

(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)
0111201283-Tyler.jpg Anne Tyler (Diana Walker) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Early Life

From the age of six, Anne Tyler experienced a southern childhood: first at Celo, a wilderness community in the mountains of North Carolina, where her mother and father, Phyllis and Lloyd Tyler, joined a Quaker community; then in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she attended high school and discovered in the works of Eudora Welty that a writer may create literature from the ordinary things in life. At Duke University, she majored in Russian and studied creative writing with author Reynolds Price. She published short stories in the Archive, Duke’s literary magazine, and twice received the Anne Flexner Award for creative writing. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Tyler pursued graduate studies at Columbia University.

The 1960’s

Tyler returned to Duke in the early 1960’s to work as a Russian bibliographer in the university library. She published short fiction in popular magazines such as Seventeen, Mademoiselle, and McCall’s and in more sophisticated periodicals, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Southern Review. She won a Mademoisellemagazine award for writing in 1966, and in 1969, one of her stories appeared in Prize Stories 1969: The O. Henry Awards.

After marrying Thigh Mohammed Madeiras, an Iranian psychiatrist and writer she met at Duke, in May, 1963, Tyler moved to Montreal, Canada, and spent six months working on her first novel, If Morning Ever Comes (1964). In 1965, she gave birth to her first daughter, Tech, and published her second novel, The Tin Can Tree. In 1967, a second daughter, Metra, was born, and the family settled in Baltimore, Maryland, which became the setting for most of her subsequent fiction.

By the end of the 1960’s, Tyler had attracted both readers and critical attention. The two novels she published during the decade depict confining family situations, characters desiring their separate identities yet needing to be connected, and the circling journey narrative she continued to use in her later works. Calling herself a “southern writer,” Tyler skillfully selects details and conveys small town speech to evoke setting and character in these novels. Her mature works continue to be marked by major themes such as movement without change or change without movement and the sense of remoteness from present life that afflicts many of her characters.

Later Life

Between 1970 and 1977, Tyler published five novels. In 1977, she received the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Literature. Her 1980 novel, Morgan’s Passing, brought wide recognition and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. For Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982), she won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The Accidental Tourist (1985) received the National Book Critics Circle Award and Breathing Lessons (1988) the Pulitzer Prize. Her 1990’s novels, including the best-selling Ladder of Years (1996), feature familiar themes.


Tyler, who ignores the latest trends in writing, holds a unique place in contemporary American literature. She concentrates on...

(The entire section is 1335 words.)

Anne Tyler Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although Anne Tyler’s books have always been popular with general readers, acclaim from critics came more slowly. With Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, however, Tyler’s position in American literature was firmly established. In addition to her many short stories and novels, Tyler is much in demand as a book reviewer. She has achieved her greatest success and recognition as a witty yet serious and compassionate observer of human nature, with a polished style, a strong sense of irony, and an uncanny ability to create memorable characters and to reproduce their speech as if she had actually heard it.

Tyler is the only daughter of Lloyd Parry and Phyllis (Mahon) Tyler; there were also four boys in the...

(The entire section is 750 words.)

Anne Tyler Biography

(Novels for Students)

At fourteen, Tyler discovered a writer who would have a significant impact on her own literary career. While reading Eudora Welty's short...

(The entire section is 338 words.)

Anne Tyler Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

Anne Tyler was born on October 25, 1941, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her father, Lloyd Parry Tyler, a chemist, and mother, Mahon Tyler, a...

(The entire section is 496 words.)

Anne Tyler Biography

(Novels for Students)

On October, 25, 1941, Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her parents were members of the Society of Friends and liberal...

(The entire section is 254 words.)

Anne Tyler Biography

(Novels for Students)

Anne Tyler was born on October 25, 1941, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to chemist Lloyd Parry Tyler and social worker Phyllis Mahon Tyler. The...

(The entire section is 469 words.)