Sue Monk Kidd was born in Sylvester, Georgia, in 1948. Her father was a gifted storyteller, and his creative tales inspired her to pen her own stories. In addition to the fiction she wrote as a teenager, Monk also began recording her thoughts, feelings and experiences in detailed journals. She eventually developed a love for philosophical and spiritual human-interest stories.
Despite writing prolifically during her adolescence, Monk did not initially pursue a writing career. Instead, she earned a bachelor′s degree in nursing from Texas Christian University in 1970. Over the next decade, she was hired as a surgical and pediatric nurse and also worked as a college nursing instructor. During this time, she married a theology graduate student and gave birth to a son and a daughter.
When she and her family moved to Anderson, South Carolina, Monk resumed her writing. She enrolled in writing classes at a small liberal arts college where her husband was teaching. A personal essay she composed for a class assignment was eventually published by Guideposts , a magazine of uplifting personal testimonies and inspirational stories.
Monk continued to sell more essays to Guideposts and eventually became a contributing editor to the magazine. Her freelance work not only provided income, but also allowed her to expand her personal writings on self-revelation and spiritual transformation. She began serious studies of philosophy, psychology and mythology and published her first book, God′s Joyful Surprise , in 1988.
Monk published her second inspirational book, When the Heart Waits , in 1990. This work, which also focuses on her individual journey to spirituality, demonstrates a more profound sense of self-understanding and intellectual examination. It was highly praised by critics, and Monk became a powerful--and professional--voice for personal memoir and heartfelt revelation.
In her forties, Monk turned her attention to feminist topics, combining her deep religious beliefs with contemporary women′s issues. The result was The Dance of the Dissident Daughter , published in 1996. Rather than repelling the mainstream religious community, this personal memoir provoked passionate debate on conventional spiritual traditions and encouraged introspection on social topics.
Despite all of Monk′s success with publishing spiritual memoirs and personal revelation stories, she still longed to write fiction. While still in her forties, she joined fiction-writing courses and attended writing workshops and conferences. Before long, she was publishing short stories and receiving awards for her effort.
Toward the end of the 1990s, Monk turned her attention to writing novels and began work on what would become her most popular publication, The Secret Life of Bees , published in 2002. The setting for the book is South Carolina in 1964. Fourteen-year-old Lily is growing up with an abusive father and a kind, sympathetic African-American servant named Rosaleen. After Rosaleen is beaten by policemen for trying to vote, she and Lily decide to run away--from Lily′s violent father as much as from the police.
Three African-American sisters welcome them to stay in their home. The sisters own an apiary--a place where bees are kept--and Lily learns about the fascinating world of these often-feared insects. She also finds happiness and tranquility in her life for the first time. The Secret Life of Bees has sold more than 4.5 million copies and was on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years.
In 2005, Monk published her second novel, The Mermaid Chair . Also a bestseller, this book is the story of Jessie Sullivan, a middle-aged housewife who journeys to her childhood hometown. Her stay is one of self-discovery, as she must care for her distraught mother and face the overwhelming memories of her dead father. A married woman, Jessie also finds herself tempted by the passion she feels for a young monk set to take his vows. The Mermaid Chair is a story of emotional and intellectual awakening, and explores the need to reconcile sensual desires with spiritual beliefs.
In 2006, Monk published Firstlight , a collection of her early nonfiction essays on topics of philosophy, religious inspiration and personal experience. In addition to her writing, she also serves on the board of advisors for the nonprofit organization Poets & Writers and is a writer-in-residence at the Sophia Institute in Charleston, South Carolina. Monk lives near Charleston with her husband and Labrador retriever.
1. Huntley, Kristine, "Review of The Secret Life of Bees," Booklist , December 1, 2001, p. 628.
2. Sue Monk Kidd homepage, www.suemonkkidd.com, accessed August 15, 2007.
4. Citation (MLA) :
Unknown. "Sue Monk Kidd." SIRS Renaissance Aug. 21 2007: n.p. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 24 March 2010.