Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kingsolver Wins Orange Prize for Fiction

Barbara Kingsolver's most recent novel, The Lacuna, has just been named the winner of this year's Orange Prize for Fiction. The novel tells the story of Harrison Shepherd, taking the reader on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover, highlighting the estrangement of art and politics in the US. "We chose The Lacuna because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy," said Daisy Goodwin, chair of judges. Kingsolver was previously shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 1999 for her novel, The Poisonwood Bible (it was also a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize that year).

In an interview with Cynthia Crossen in The Wall Street Journal last year, Kingsolver talked about her passion for research: "The best research gets your fingers dusty and your shoes dirty, especially because a novel is made of details. I had to translate places through my senses into the senses of my readers. I had to know what a place smelled like, what it sounded like when it rained in Mexico City. There's no substitute for that. I've been steeped in evidence-based truth."

The other finalists for this year's fiction prize were Rosie Alison, The Very Thought of You; Attica Locke, Black Water Rising; Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall; Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs; and Monique Roffey, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle.You can read more about the Orange Prize at our previous blog posts here and here.

Kingsolver is the author of six other novels, two collections of essays, a book of poetry, and three nonfiction books, including the bestselling book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, published by Harper Collins in 2007. In 2002 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. In 1998 she established the Bellwether Prize, honoring fiction addressing issues of social justice. [Sidenote: The most recent winner of the Bellwether Prize is former Portland resident Heidi Durrow, for her novel, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.]

Kingsolver rew up in rural Kentucky and earned degrees in biology from DePauw University and the University of Arizona. She spent two decades in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to southwestern Virginia where she currently lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

There is a great quote from the author on her website: "What keeps me awake at the wheel is the thrill of trying something completely new with each book. I’m not a risk-taker in life, generally speaking, but as a writer I definitely choose the fast car, the impossible rock face, the free fall."

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