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Marilynne Robinson was born and raised in Sandpoint, Idaho. After graduating from Brown University in 1966, she enrolled in the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Washington. While writing her dissertation, Robinson began work on her first novel, Housekeeping (1980), which received the PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Robinson's essays and book reviews have appeared in Harper's, The Paris Review, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Book Review, among other places. An essay published in Harper's, titled “Bad News from Britain,” formed the basis of her controversial book, Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution (1989), a finalist for the National Book Award.
In 1998, Robinson published a critically acclaimed collection of essays called The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought. The New York Times Book Review observed that “one of Robinson's great merits as an essayist is her refusal to take her opinions secondhand. Her book is a goad to renewed curiosity.”
Her novel, Gilead, an epistolary tale of a dying Iowa preacher writing to his young son, earned her the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award.
To consider Robinson only a creative writer is a mistake. She is a serious thinker, demanding of herself and her audience. During this interview, Robinson commented on a wide range of issues, from Darwinism to current political issues. About fiction's ability to capture any meaningful truth, Robinson said, “I feel there is a great deal of highly conventional thinking in almost every area of life that must be discarded in order for a writer to make something with integrity in terms of that writer's understanding.”
Robinson was interviewed in front of an audience at Eastern Washington University in Spokane.