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Barbara Kingsolver has twelve books in print, including Prodigal Summer, The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams, a collection of shorts stories, a book of poetry and three books of nonfiction. Poisonwood Bible was on the best seller lists for over a year, was a finalist for the Pulitzer and PEN/Faulkner awards, and was an Oprah's Book Club selection. In 2000, Kingsolver was awarded the National Humanities Medal given for service via the arts.
Kingsolver was born in 1955 in Maryland, grew up in Kentucky and attended DePauw University for her bachelor’s degree in biology. She continued her graduate studies in biology and ecology at the University of Arizona where she wrote for the university science journal. Her science articles opened the door for her to become a feature writer of scientific topics for a variety of newspapers and journals. In 1986, she received the Arizona Press Award for outstanding feature writing.
From childhood, Kingsolver was a lover of stories. It is said that she would often ask to tell her mother a bedtime story. During the 1980's she worked as a journalist during the day, but wrote fiction at night. Her father was a physician who practiced in the Congo for short time in 1963.
Kingsolver’s father was intensely proud of his Cherokee heritage. He claims to have only a trace of Indian blood, but credits his Indian features to a "jumping gene" from an aunt. Kingsolver herself does not emphasize her ethnic heritage, but her novels show a marked influence of the American Indian style of writing in multiple voices and in a non-linear format. She considers writing a "form of political activism" having discovered Doris Lessing’s Children of Violence novels in her early twenties. Yet, she insists that her fictional characters are purely fiction and not a reincarnation of herself or of any real individual. Poisonwood Bible is considered by some as her most ambitious work although it was criticized by some for being "heavy handed" on political issues. Her book Prodigal Summer, which followed Poisonwood Bible received a mix of praise and criticism as some critics called it a "return to her eco-feminist romances." The New York Times called it a "book-length benediction."
Kingsolver has continued to write, publishing a collection of essays titled Small Wonder in the spring of 2002. She lives near Tucson, Arizona with her husband Steven Hopp and two daughters.