Sue Monk Kidd was born and raised in the tiny town of Sylvester, Georgia, a place that deeply influenced the writing of her first novel The Secret Life of Bees. She discovered her desire to be a writer as a child, listening to her father's imaginative stories.Two books, which she read at the age of fifteen- Thoreau's spiritual memoir, Walden and Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening- had a deep impact on her and would foreshadow the course she herself would eventually take as a writer: writing spiritual memoir and novels.
Her hope for a career in writing was not without an early detour. In what Sue has called an "inexplicable twist that is partly due to a failure of courage and partly due to the cultural climate of the South in 1966," she chose a more traditional path when it came time to go to college. She majored in nursing and graduated in 1970 from Texas Christian University with a B.S. degree, then worked throughout her twenties as a registered nurse. During this time, she married Sanford (Sandy) Kidd and they had two children, Bob and Ann.
Shortly before Sue turned thirty, the pull to writing returned. Living in South Carolina, where her husband Sandy was teaching at a small liberal arts college, she enrolled in writing classes with the intention of writing fiction, but was soon diverted to non-fiction. She began a career as a freelancer, writing personal experience articles, most of them inspirational and art of living pieces. Sue published several hundred articles, primarily in Guideposts Magazine, but also in numerous other publications, newspapers and journals.
It was during Sue's thirties that she began to experience an intellectual and spiritual flowering. She embarked on a serious study of the classics of Western spirituality, depth psychology and mythology, while also reading voluminous amounts of literary fiction. She became deeply influenced by the work of monk, Thomas Merton and psychiatrist, C.G. Jung, which would impact her writing in the years ahead.
Her first book, God's Joyful Surprise, published by Harper SanFrancisco in 1988, describes the beginning of her spiritual searching. Her second book, When the Heart Waits was published by Harper SanFrancisco in 1990, and revealed a deepening of Sue's voice. Rooted in contemplative spirituality, the memoir recounts a vivid spiritual transformation at mid life. While in her early forties, Sue turned her explorations and study to feminist theology. The result was The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, published in 1996 by Harper SanFrancisco. This bold and highly successfully memoir had a groundbreaking effect within religious circles.
When Sue's desire to write fiction returned, she felt, by her own account, intimidated, but took the leap, enrolling in a graduate writing course at Emory University, and studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf and other writers' conferences. She began by writing and publishing short stories in small literary journals for which she garnered several awards.
When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon. A story of coming-of-age, race-relations, the search for love and home, the novel tells the story of fourteen year old Lily, who runs away with her black housekeeper in 1964 in South Carolina and the sanctuary they both find in the home of three beekeeping sisters, who revere a Black Madonna.
The Secret Life of Bees has sold more than 5 million copies, spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list and been published in 35 countries. It was awarded the 2004 Book Sense Paperback book of the Year, nominated for the Orange Prize in England, and chosen as Good Morning America's Read This! Book Club pick. Taught widely now in college and high school classrooms, The Secret Life of Bees is fast becoming a modern classic. It has been produced on stage in New York by The American Place Theater and been adapted into a movie by Fox Searchlight.
Sue's second novel, The Mermaid Chair, has sold more than 1.7 million copies since its publication in the Spring of 2005. Set on a South Carolina barrier island, it tells the story of 42 year old Jessie Sullivan, a married woman who falls in love with a Benedictine monk, and explores themes of mid life marriage and self-awakening. The Mermaid Chair reached the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list and remained on the hardcover and paperback list for nine months. Winner of the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction, the novel has been translated into 23 languages and was produced as a television movie by Lifetime.
In 2006, Firstlight, a collection of Sue's early writings was released in hardcover by Guideposts Books and in paperback by Penguin in 2007. This compilation of inspirational stories, spiritual essays, and meditations has been translated into several languages and has over 200,000 copies in print.
Sue's new book, Traveling with Pomegranates, co-authored with her daughter Ann, is a mother daughter travel memoir due out in 2009.
Sue serves on the board of advisors for Poets & Writers and for Low Country Initiative for the Literay Arts (LILA). She is Writer in Residence at The Sophia Institute in Charleston.
Today Sue lives beside a salt marsh near Charleston, South Carolina with her husband Sandy and their black lab, Lily.
“An extraordinary novel . . . a triumph of insight and storytelling.” —Associated Press
“A true masterpiece.” —Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed
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