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Mary Doria Russell

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Occupation  Novelist
Alma mater  University of Michigan
Name  Mary Russell
Nationality  American
Period  1995–present
Role  Writer
Mary Doria Russell July 30 2015 Mary Doria Russell KPFA
Born  August 19, 1950 Elmhurst, Illinois, US (1950-08-19)
Genre  Science fiction, historical fiction
Notable works  The Sparrow, Children of God
Education  Northeastern University, University of Michigan, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Awards  Arthur C. Clarke Award, James Tiptree, Jr. Award
Nominations  Hugo Award for Best Novel
Books  The Sparrow, Children of God, A thread of grace, Dreamers of the Day, Doc

Author mary doria russell discusses epitath a historical novel about ok corral

Mary Doria Russell (born August 19, 1950) is an American writer of speculative fiction novels.


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Early life and education

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Russell was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Her parents were both in the military, her father a Marine Corps drill instructor and her mother a Navy nurse. She was raised as a Catholic but left the church at age fifteen, and her struggles to figure out how much of that culture to pass on to her children fueled the prominence of religion in her work. She graduated from Glenbard East High School and later she earned a Ph.D. in biological anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Writing career

Mary Doria Russell Mary Doria Russell The Sparrow Cleveland Women profile

Russell's first two novels, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God—sometimes called the Sparrow series or Emilo Sandoz sequence—were published by Random House Villard in 1996 and 1998. They feature first contact with aliens. Both explore the problem of evil, how to reconcile the idea of a benevolent deity with a factual universe filled with pain and evil (Theodicy). The Sparrow won the Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree annual science fiction book awards (below), and it was the basis for Russell winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1998. For the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, chief editor John Clute calls Russell an "author who established a strong reputation for cognitive subtlety and narrative power in her brief [science fiction] career; after the Emilio Sandoz sequence ... she turned her interest to other fields. ... Because of the quality of its writing, and the seriousness of its examination of various issues, some critics claimed that The Sparrow could not therefore be [science fiction]. Russell herself seems not to have encouraged the claim."

Russell's historical novel A Thread of Grace (2005) is set in Northern Italy during World War II, and features both the Italian resistance and the plight of Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecution throughout Europe. Much of story is based on accounts by survivors from the period, when many Italian citizens allowed Jews seek safe harbor in their farmlands, cities, and ports. (Russell herself is of Italian heritage and is a convert to Judaism.)

Dreamers of the Day (2008), another historical novel, features the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, which laid the foundations for the modern Middle East.

Her fifth novel, Doc (2011), is a Western and murder mystery. It is set in Dodge City during 1878, when the friendship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday began, four years before the shootout at the OK Corral.

In April 2015, renowned physicist Freeman Dyson told the New York Times Sunday Book Review that Mary Doria Russell was one of the three writers he would invite to a literary dinner party, along with Joan Breton Connelly and Kristen R. Ghodsee.

Personal life

Russell resides in Lyndhurst, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, with her husband Don. They have a son, Dan.

She is a convert to Judaism.


  • The Sparrow (Random House Villard, 1996)
  • Children of God (Villard, 1998)
  • A Thread of Grace: a novel (Random House, 2005), OCLC 55657999
  • Dreamers of the Day: a novel (RH, 2008), OCLC 144769917
  • Doc (RH, 2011), a novel about Doc Holliday
  • Epitaph (Ecco, 2015)
  • Awards

  • James Tiptree, Jr. Award, 1997, The Sparrow
  • British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Best Novel Award, 1998, The Sparrow (UK edition: Transworld Publishers Black Swan, 1997)
  • Arthur C. Clarke Award, 1998, The Sparrow
  • John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, 1998, citing The Sparrow
  • Cleveland Arts Council Prize for Literature
  • American Library Association Readers Choice Award
  • Gaylactic Spectrum Hall of Fame Award, 2001, The Sparrow and Children of God
  • Kurd Lasswitz Preis (Germany), best foreign novel, 2001, The Sparrow
  • Nominations
  • Hugo Award
  • Book of the Month Club Best First Fiction Prize
  • References

    Mary Doria Russell Wikipedia

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