Barbara Kingsolver (born April 8, 1955) is an American writer. She has written, or collaborated on, 12 books, most of which are novels, but including some poems, short stories and essays. Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize for "literature of social change", named after the bellwether.
In the late 1970s, Kingsolver lived in a number of places, including Greece, France, and Tucson, Arizona, working variously as an archaeological digger, copy editor, housecleaner, biological researcher and translator. She earned a Master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. She then took a job as a science writer for the university. The science writing led to some freelance feature writing and journalism. In 1986, she won an Arizona Press Club award for outstanding feature writing. Her first novel, The Bean Trees, was published in 1988.
Her subsequent books were Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 (non-fiction); a short story collection, Homeland and Other Stories (1989); the novels Animal Dreams (1990), Pigs in Heaven (1993), The Poisonwood Bible (1998) and Prodigal Summer (2000); a poetry collection, Another America (1992); the essay collections High Tide in Tucson (1995) and Small Wonder: Essays (2002) Last Stand: America's Virgin Lands, prose poetry with the photographs of Annie Griffiths Belt; and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007), a description of eating locally. The Poisonwood Bible (1998) was a bestseller that won the National Book Prize of South Africa, was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award, and was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection. In 2000, Kingsolver was awarded the National Humanities Medal by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
In 1994, Kingsolver was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from her alma mater, DePauw University. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Duke University, where she delivered the commencement address, entitled "How to be Hopeful".
Barbara Kingsolver lives on a farm in southwest Virginia with her husband Steven Hopp, their daughter Lily, and her daughter Camille from a previous marriage.
In The Bean Trees, the main character meets a family of Guatemalan immigrants whose daughter was taken by the government in an effort to force them to speak out about their underground teaching circle. They were forced to escape torture and death in their home country, but are also forced to evade the authorities in the United States. The sequel to The Bean Trees, her 1993 novel Pigs in Heaven, examines the conflicts between individual and community rights, through a story about a Cherokee child adopted out of her tribe. In Animal Dreams, the American sister of the main protagonist is kidnapped by US-backed Contras while working to promote sustainable farming in Nicaragua. In The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver examined the role of the United States and other political powers in colonial and post-colonial Africa.
Kingsolver has said, "If we can't, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread".