Barbara Kingsolver was born on April 8, 1955 in the rural areas of eastern Kentucky. She found Kentucky particularly limiting during her youth, believing she only had two choices - to be a "farmer or a farmer's wife." She began writing as a child, keeping a journal from the age of eight and writing stories and essays as a youth.
Kingsolver left Kentucky to attend college at DePauw University in Indiana, where she majored in biology. However, her interest in writing never waned, and she took a number of creative writing courses. Kingsolver focused particularly on social activism while in college, becoming involved in numerous protests against the Vietnam war. After graduating from DePauw in 1977, Barbara Kingsolver traveled and worked extensively, finally settling in Tucson, where she pursued her masters degree at the University of Arizona in biology and ecology.
Kingsolver's writing career began only after she pursued several disparate, unrelated careers. Some of these varied occupations included: copy editor, archaeologist, x-ray technician, housekeeper, biological researcher and translator of medical documents. She at last became a science writer for the University of Arizona, a position that led to her publication in a number of academic journals and newspapers, including the New York Times. In 1986 she won the Arizona Press Club award for feature writing, and in 1995 she was given an honorary doctorate from DePauw University.
From 1985 to 1987, Kingsolver worked as a freelance writer. In 1985 she also married a chemist and became pregnant. Suffering from insomnia during her pregnancy, Kingsolver began writing The Bean Trees as a way to combat her sleeplessness. The Bean Trees was published by Harper Collins in 1988, and was enthusiastically received by both readers and critics. She followed The Bean Trees with the collection Homeland and Other Stories (1989) and the novels Animal Dreams (1990) and Pigs in Heaven (1993). The best-selling High-Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now and Never was published in 1995. Kingsolver also published a collection of poetry, Another America: Otra America in 1992, and a non-fiction work, Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983.
In 1997, Barbara established the Bellwether Prize, awarded in even-numbered years to a first novel that exemplifies outstanding literary quality and a commitment to literature as a tool for social change.
In 1998 Kingsolver published the best-selling novel The Poisonwood Bible, selected as part of Oprah Winfrey's book club. Kingsolver followed that novel with her books Prodigal Summer, Small Wonder: Essays, and Last Stand: America's Virgin Lands. Her latest novel is entitled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Published in 2007, the book is a non-fiction account of her family's move to a farm in Virginia where they lived off the land and grew their own food.
Currently, Kingsolver and her family live on that Virginia farm, where she writes and is involved in numerous activist causes.
Study Guides on Works by Barbara Kingsolver
The Bean Trees draws from many of the experiences of its author, Barbara Kingsolver, whose personal life and academic training provide some of the background for the novel. The novel is not autobiographical, but there are numerous parallels...
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver's most heralded novel, is the story of the Price family and their journey into the African Congo as Baptist missionaries in the late 1950's. The novel is told from the perspective of the four Price children...