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Best-Selling Author Barbara Kingsolver '77 Examines the Small Wonder of Life

May 8, 2002

May 8, 2002, Greencastle, Ind. - "Who is America's most influential present-day writer? It may be Barbara Kingsolver, a woman who possesses a marvelous ability to write clearly and with profound feeling," writes Howard Upton in the Tulsa World. His May 5 article entitled, "World according to Barbara ; Prolific Kingsolver looks at life in collection of essays," examines Small Wonder, a new series of essays by the best-selling author and 1977 DePauw University graduate whose novels include The Bean Trees, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer.

Upton's article states, "Kingsolver, born in 1955, grew up on a farm in Kentucky. Today she lives with her husband and two daughters live near Tucson, Arizona. During the summer months they dwell in an Appalachian cabin in western Virginia. Over the years Kingsolver has been a teacher, a writer and an editor, and has lived at times in such exotic places as the interior of Africa and on the edge of a Central American rainforest. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Indiana's DePauw University and a master's in the same academic discipline from the University of Arizona."

The article continues, "This background in the natural sciences prompts some of the most impassioned passages in Small Wonder. Kingsolver is distressed, for example, about the long-range effect of genetically engineered food. American agribusinesses, she says, are altering the genetic makeup of corn seed so that maturing corn plants will emit a pollen that causes the stomachs of certain corn-eating caterpillars to explode."

Of Small Wonder, Publisher's Weekly writes, "This book of essays by Kingsolver is like a visit from a cherished old friend. Conversation ranges from what Kingsolver ate on a trip to Japan to wonder over a news story about a she-bear who suckled a lost child to how it feels to be an American idealist living in a post-September 11 world ... As she puts it herself in 'What Good Is a Story': 'We are nothing if we can't respect our readers.' Respect for the intelligence of her audience is apparent everywhere in this outstanding collection."

Booklist's Donna Seaman writes, "Trained as a biologist and gifted in the art of storytelling, Kingsolver is able to draw on her knowledge of the wild -- of evolution and biodiversity -- as well as her feel for archetypes to bring into focus and dramatize the biological and social impact of our unexamined habits of consumption. Food, motherhood, gardening, literature, television, homelessness, globalization, scientific illiteracy, selfishness, and forgiveness all come under sharp and revelatory scrutiny. As does love of country: Americans who read and think are patriots of the first order.' Amen."

In the Miami Herald, Connie Ogle calls the new book "Kingsolver's penetrating but hopeful view [that]our world, full of fury and grief and hatred surprisingly still holds beauty even as we systematically and thoughtlessly seek to destroy it. The angry question she poses is this: Are we capable of self-control? Can we protect what's good? Or is it really too late?"

In Small Wonder, Kingsolver writes, "For most of my life I've felt embarrassed by a facet of our national character that I would have to call prideful wastefulness. What other name can there be for our noisy, celebratory appetite for unnecessary things, and our vast carelessness regarding their manufacture and disposal? In the autumn of 2001 we faced the crisis of taking a very hard knock from the outside, and in its aftermath, as our nation grieved, every time I saw that wastefulness rear its head I felt even more ashamed. Some retailers rushed to convince us in ads printed across waving flags that it was duty in wartime, especially in wartime, to get out and buy those cars and shoes."

Barbara Kingsolver Apr2009In summarizing the new book, the World's Upton writes, "You may not share Kingsolver's position on all political issues. You will find it difficult, however, not to admire her writing skill."

You can learn more about Small Wonder, and order the book, at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. You can also visit a Barbara Kingsolver web site maintained by her publisher by clicking here. To read the Miami Herald article, click here. Also available is an Arizona Republic article on Small Wonder here.

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