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Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates

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The prolific Joyce Carol Oates is an acclaimed writer known for novels like 'A Garden of Earthly Delights,' 'The Falls' and 'Them,' which won the National Book Award.


Born on June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York, Joyce Carol Oates developed a love for writing as a child and went on to become an acclaimed, bestselling scribe known for her novels, stories, poetry and essays, winning the National Book Award for 1969's them. Her other notable works include A Garden of Earthly Delights, We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, The Gravedigger's Daughter and The Accursed.


Joyce Carol Oates was born in Lockport, New York on June 16, 1938. She grew up on a farm where times were sometimes tough while developing a love for literature and writing. She received her first typewriter as a teen and received ardent support from her parents over her choice of a career as she wrote and wrote through high school and college.

She earned a scholarship to attend Syracuse University and graduated valedictorian in 1960. She then received her master's from the University of Wisconsin in 1961, the same year in which she wed English student Raymond Smith. Oates took on teaching work at the University of Detroit, and by the end of the decade, had moved on to work at the University of Windsor in Canada. She and her husband went on to work as co-editors on the literary quarterly publication The Ontario Review, and Oates would take on a teaching position at Princeton University by the late 1970s.

Prolific, Award-Winning Career

Over the decades, Oates has established herself as a highly prolific scribe who has written dozens of books that include novels, shorts story collections, young adult fiction, plays, poetry and essays. Her first published book was the 1963 story collection By the North Gate, followed by her debut novel With Shuddering Fall in 1964.

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Other notable works among many include National Book Award winner them (1969), a layered chronicling of urban life that was part of Oates' Wonderland Quartet series, and her 26th novel We Were the Mulvaneys (1996), the story of an unraveling family which became an Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection. The novels The Falls (2004) and The Gravedigger's Daughter (2007) were both New York Times bestsellers, while 2012's Patricide was published as an e-book novella. Oates has also written suspense novels under the pseudonyms Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly.

Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1978, Oates has won scores of awards over the course of her career, including the Prix Femina Etranger and the Pushcart Prize.

'Widow's Story' and 'The Accursed'

In 2008, Smith died unexpectedly of pneumonia-related complications. Oates suffered tremendously emotionally, and detailed the depths of her grief in the memoir A Widow's Story. She remarried in 2009 to Professor Charles Gross.

In early 2013, she published the novels Daddy Love, which recounts the horrifying experience of a boy who's kidnapped, and The Accursed, a Gothic, surreal tale that looks at Woodrow Wilson's time as the president of Princeton and the violent prejudice faced by the African-American community.

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