Joyce Carol Oates is a celebrated American author famed for her “enormous literary productivity” (Showalter 6). At 76 years old, Oates has published over 50 novels and 400 short stories, as well as additional plays, poetry, and non-fiction pieces. Such a large oeuvre is difficult to characterize, but Oates’ works are well-known for adopting the viewpoints of marginalized individuals and groups, as well as for including controversial and sometimes violent content.
Born to a blue-collar Catholic family in rural New York in 1938, Joyce Carol Oates quickly demonstrated a love and talent for the written word. A prolific reader, Oates was given a typewriter at 14 by her beloved grandmother. Within a year she had written a novel and submitted it for publication; it would be turned down for being “too depressing for young readers” (Showalter 5). As a young adult, Oates attended Syracuse University, where she graduated valedictorian in 1960 with a degree in English. She earned her MA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison a year later.
In 1966 Oates published the much anthologized and highly praised “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” earning her increased literary attention. In 1969 her novel them, which explored the topics of race and poverty in Detroit from the 1930s to the 1960s, won the prestigious National Book Award, launching her career. Joyce Carol Oates has said that she believes she will be remembered primarily for them and Blonde, a fictional novel imagining the inner-life of Marilyn Monroe (Burns). Published in 2000, Blonde is one of several Oates books nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Today, Joyce Carol Oates is based out of Princeton University, where she has taught creative writing since 1978. She continues to produce an incredible amount; Wikipedia lists two books, and a short story collection slated for publication in 2015. She lives with her second husband, Charles Gross, a neuroscience researcher and fellow professor at Princeton.