Armistead Maupin Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Armistead Jones Maupin (MAW-pihn), Jr., is a an openly gay novelist known primarily for his casual storytelling style and passionate desire to relate an inclusive portrait of the universal human experience. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 as the eldest of three children, Maupin grew up in the conservative environment of Raleigh, North Carolina, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. His family was descended from a Confederate general. Maupin’s father, Armistead Jones Maupin, was a leading southern lawyer who wished for his son to follow in his footsteps. While growing up, however, Maupin explored his early creative impulses by acting in local theater productions with his mother, Diana Jane (Barton) Maupin, an amateur actress. Armistead Maupin graduated in 1966 with a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina (UNC). Following his father’s wishes, he abandoned his study of English to enter UNC’s law school, but having failed his first-year exams, Maupin quit school and worked as a reporter at the WRAL television station in Raleigh with conservative senator Jesse Helms, one of the station’s executives. Maupin left the station to enter the U.S. Navy’s officer candidate school and served as a communications officer in the Mediterranean region. He then volunteered for duty in Vietnam, where he served with the River Patrol Force as a lieutenant from 1967 to 1970. For his service, Maupin received the Navy Commendation Medal. After the war, he organized a group of American veterans to return to Vietnam and build homes for disabled Vietnamese veterans and was subsequently awarded the Freedom Leadership Award and a Presidential Commendation from U.S. president Richard Nixon in 1972.

By 1970, Maupin had begun working as a journalist for the Charleston News & Courier in South Carolina, covering the military beat and writing an occasional feature article, but he left the newspaper in 1971 to accept a position with the Associated Press (AP) in San Francisco for a year. This move from the conservative South to the more tolerant and liberal West Coast proved to be a watershed in Maupin’s life. The atmosphere of tolerance and free expression he found in San Francisco encouraged him to...

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Armistead Maupin (pronounced “mop-pin”) was born into a Southern, conservative household. He served a tour of duty in Vietnam, voted for Barry Goldwater for president, and worked in the office of ultraconservative newspaperman and later senator Jesse Helms. One of Maupin’s earliest impressions of homosexuality came from the film Advise and Consent (1962), from which Maupin inferred that the only recourse available to the honorable homosexual was suicide.

Celebrity Anita Bryant’s antigay campaign triggered Maupin’s evolution from Southern conservative to gay liberal. Maupin moved to San Francisco, proclaimed his homosexuality, and discovered that concurrently he had found his authentic writing voice. In the mid-1970’s, Maupin began writing a daily serial for the San Francisco Chronicle about life in San Francisco. Although the installments dealt with gay and straight characters, the most popular ones quickly became Anna Madrigal, a transsexual, and Michael Tolliver, her gay tenant.

Maupin repopularized the newspaper serial as a form of fiction, thus becoming known as the Charles Dickens of the twentieth century. Each installment had unity of time, place, and action and ended on a high point of drama or mystery. In his serials, Maupin followed the words of another nineteenth century writer, Wilkie Collins: “Make ’em cry, make ’em laugh, make ’em wait.”

The readership of the daily 800-word...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bass, Barbara Kaplan. “Armistead Maupin.” In Contemporary Gay American Novelists, edited by Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. Bass examines Maupin’s biography, major works and themes, and his critical reception in this concise overview of his novels.

Gale, Patrick. Armistead Maupin. Bath, England: Absolute Press, 1999. This biography, written by a close friend, traces Maupin’s life through 1998 and presents an honest and amusing portrait of the writer.

Maupin, Armistead. “Influences: Armistead Maupin.” New Statesman and Society 7, no. 295 (March, 1994): 13. In this brief interview, Maupin discusses the various artists and writers who have influenced his work, including Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

Maupin, Armistead. “An Interview with Armistead Maupin.” Interview by Scott A. Hunt. Christopher Street 192 (November, 1992): 8-12. Maupin talks about his success as an author and the critical reception of his work.