Karen Russell: Biography

Karen Russell

10 jul 1981

Karen Russell is an American novelist. She was born in Miami, Florida in 1981. In 1999, she graduated from high school in Miami and went to Northwestern University, Illinois to study for a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, graduating in 2003. She then went on to enrol in a masters’ course at Colombia University, graduating with an MFA in 2006.

Her debut novel, Swamplandia!, was published in 2011. It is a magical realist novel set off the coast of Florida in the Ten Thousand Islands. It tells the story of a family of alligator wrestlers who live in a theme park entirely dedicated to alligator wrestling. This first novel was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012. It was also the main reason that Russell was awarded a Genius Grant in 2013.

In addition to Swamplandia!, Karen Russell has written two collections of short stories: Vampires in the Lemon Grove and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and a novella: Sleep Donation. She has had her short stories published in The New Yorker, Zoetrope, The Best American Short Stories, Granta, Conjunctions and Oxford American. In 2009, she was named one of the “5 under 35” young writers in America by the National Book Foundation. In 2012 Russell was given the Mary Ellen von der Heyden Berlin Prize and one of her stories, The Hox River Window, won the National Magazine Award for fiction.

Karen Russell now lives in Philadelphia and continues to write and teach.