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The Bean Trees
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The Bean Trees

Biography

Barbara Kingsolver was born on April 8, 1955, in Annapolis, Maryland.� Her father, Wendell, was a physician serving a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, and her mother, Virginia, was his junior-high sweetheart. �Barbara was the middle of three children.� When she was young and her father was released from service, the whole family moved to rural Kentucky, where Wendell practiced medicine and the whole family ran a farm.�

 

Barbara's family was extremely close knit.� They did not have a lot of material goods, but this taught the young girl the complexities of socio-economic divides.� What they did have was love and a commitment to living a principled life.� When she was young, her parents took the children to live in Africa, where her father practiced medicine in a remote outpost.� Here, young Barbara was an outsider who looked different from and was not immediately accepted by the other children.� From this experience, she learned the hardships that outsiders face.� Later, her family would live for several months in the Caribbean while Wendell practiced medicine there.� Home, however, was rural Kentucky.

 

When Kingsolver finished high school, she won a music scholarship to DePauw University in Indiana.� She had always been a voracious reader, but she saw little opportunity for herself in Kentucky.� In college, she participated in the liberal politics of the time, protesting the war in Vietnam and identifying herself as a feminist.� She also consciously gave up her Kentucky accent.� She also became a victim of acquaintance rape, a crime for which the legal system at the time had little recognition.� Kingsolver faced her despair and shame in private.�

 

After graduation, she worked and traveled in Europe.� Upon her return home, she bought a used car and moved from Kentucky to Arizona, where she wanted to start a life for herself.� She knew no one but quickly found an apartment and a good job.� She also joined the Sanctuary movement, which helped Latin American persecuted refugees find safe havens in the United States.� She began a graduate program in biology and ecology in 1979, but ultimately decided against an academic life and left the program without completing her dissertation.� Yet, her scientific background colors much of her writing, as does the social conscience that was instilled by her early life.

 

Kingsolver's professional and personal lives began to develop.� She worked as a science writer and a journalist.� She married Joseph Hoffmann in 1985 and gave birth to a daughter, Camille, in 1987.� The sleeplessness of pregnancy gave her the time and motivation to write her first novel, The Bean Trees, which was published in 1988.� When her marriage ended in 1992, she was already a successful writer.� She traveled to Virginia and met her second husband, Steven Hopp, who would become the father of her second daughter, Lily.�

 

Kingsolver's other novels include Animal Dreams (1990), Pigs in Heaven (1993), The Poisonwood Bible (1999), and Prodigal Summer (2001). A collection of Kingsolver's essays, Small Wonder, was published in 2002.

 

Barbara Kingsolver now divides her time between Arizona and Appalachia.� She continues to publish successful fiction and non-fiction.� She also plays in a band called "Rock Bottom Remainders," so named because all the players are successful writers.

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