Before "We Were the Mulvaneys" was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection in January, the novel ranked No. 19,869 in sales at Amazon.com. Within a matter of days, the book catapulted to No. 1. Oprah's Book Club is known for providing national exposure to overlooked writers. Yet the book's author, Joyce Carol Oates, had already firmly established herself as one of America's leading writers.
Oates, born June 16, 1938, was raised near Lockport, N.Y., and many of her writings reflect this rural, working class upbringing. From an early age Oates had a love for writing, and as a young child she would illustrate stories with drawings and paintings. During high school she wrote a number of short stories although none was published. As an undergraduate at Syracuse University, Oates won the Mademoiselle fiction-writing contest for her short story "In the Old World."
While studying for her master's degree in English from the University of Wisconsin, Oates met her husband Raymond J. Smith. The couple settled in Detroit in 1962 and the city served as the setting for several of her short stories and novels.
Between 1968 and 1978 Oates taught at the University of Windsor in Canada. In 1978 she joined the faculty of Princeton University working in the writing department; she still holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Humanities. The majority of her novels chronicle family life and the female experience.
In a recent book review Oates wrote: "Telling stories, I discovered at the age of three or four, is a way of being told stories. One picture yields another; one set of words another set of words. Like our dreams the stories we tell are also the stories we are told."
Read a biography of Oates that highlights her major achievements.