Barbara Kingsolver grew up in rural Kentucky where she learned the art of storytelling and an appreciation for the natural world. Her background in biology and ecology led to work in scientific writing and journalism. In her fiction she combines this technical background with her interest in social justice issues. Writing, she believes, is a form of social and political engagement. Her books include: The Bean Trees, Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983, Prodigal Summer and Small Wonder. The Poisonwood Bible won the National Book Prize of South Africa and was a finalist for the Pulitzer and PEN/Faulkner awards.
From Small Wonder (Perennial, 2002)
by Barbara Kingsolver
In my darkest times I have to walk, sometimes alone, in some green place. Other people must share this ritual. For some I suppose it must be the path through a particular set of city streets, a comforting architecture; for me it's the need to stare at moving water until my mind comes to rest on nothing at all. Then I can go home. I can clear the brush from a neglected part of the garden, working slowly until it comes to me that here is one small place I can make right for my family. I can plant something as an act of faith in time itself, a vow that we will, sure enough, have a fall and a winter this year, to be followed again by spring. This is not an end in itself, but a beginning. I work until my mind can run a little further on its tether, tugging at this central pole of my sadness, forgetting it for a minute or two while pondering a school meeting next week, the watershed conservation project our neighborhood has undertaken, the farmer's market it organized last year: the good that becomes possible when a group of thoughful citizens commit themselves to it. And indeed, as Margaret Mead said, that is the only thing that ever really does add up to change. Small change, small wonders - these are the currency of my endurance and ultimately of my life. It's a workable economy.
Political urgencies come and go, but it's a fair enough vocation to strike one match after another against the dark isolation, when spectacular arrogance rules the day and tries to force hope into hiding. It seems to me that there is still so much to say that I had better raise up and yell across the fence. I have stories of things I believe in: a persistent river, a forest on the edge of night, the religion inside a seed, the startle of wingbeats when a spark of red life flies against all reason out of the darness. One child, one bear. I'd like to speak of small wonders, and the possibility of taking heart.
Barbara Kingsolver: Knowing Our Place
Barbara Kingsolver Website
Introduction to Small Wonder
Kinsolver: Letter to My Mother