Joyce Carol Oates: Biography

Joyce Carol Oates

16 jun 1938

Joyce Carol Oates is an American author, poet and literary critic who was born in New York State in 1938. She grew up alongside her younger brother and sister in a rural farming community. She was very close to her grandparents and some of the events in their lives went on to inspire some of Oates’s novels. The Gravedigger’s Daughter, for example, draws on her great-grandfathers suicide and her grandmother’s consequent struggle to conceal her Jewish roots.

Oates remembers being a keen reader as a child, and how a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland became her most cherished possession and the biggest single literary influence of her whole life. She began writing at the age of 14, and never stopped. Whilst studying at college she wrote novel after novel, throwing the drafts away when she finished until she had written one she was proud of.

Her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, was published in 1964, when Oates was 26 years old. She has since published a further 39 novels, several novellas and collections of poetry, short stories and non-fiction essays. She has been awarded a National Book Award, the National Humanities Medal and teo O. Henry Awards. She has had 5 Pulitzer Prize nominations; three for novels and two for collections of her short stories.

As well as being a highly accomplished author, Joyce Carol Oates has also been a professor of creative writing for several decades. She has been a lecturer on the Creative Writing program at Princeton University since 1978.