Sue Monk Kidd was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia, a place that deeply influenced the writing of her first novel The Secret Life of Bees. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University and Anderson College, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers’ conferences. In 2016, TCU conferred on her an honorary doctor of letters degree. She was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2011 and into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2022.
Her book When the Heart Waits, published by Harper San Francisco in 1990 has become a touchstone on contemplative spirituality. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, also published by Harper in 1996, describes Kidd’s journey into feminist theology, a memoir that had a groundbreaking effect within religious circles.
In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction. Her short stories appeared in TriQuarterly, Nimrod, and other literary journals and received a Katherine Anne Porter award and citations in Best American Short Stories’ 100 Distinguished Stories.
When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon, spending more than 2½ years on the New York Times bestseller list. It has been translated into over 36 languages and sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. Bees was named the Book Sense Paperback Book of the Year in 2004, long-listed for the 2002 Orange Prize in England, and won numerous other awards. For over a decade, the novel was produced on stage by The American Place Theater, and in 2008 it was adapted into a movie by Fox Searchlight, which won the People’s Choice award for best movie and the NAACP Image award for best picture. An Off Broadway musical of Bees ran at The Atlantic Theater in 2019, winning the AUDELCO VIV award for best musical, and will debut in London at the Almeida Theater in 2023. The novel is taught widely in middle school, high school, and college classrooms.
Kidd’s second novel, The Mermaid Chair, has sold well over a million copies since its publication by Viking in 2005, reaching #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and remaining on the hardcover and paperback lists for nine months. Winner of the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction, the novel was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, translated into 28 languages, and made into a television movie by Lifetime.
The spiritual essays, meditations, and inspirational stories Kidd wrote in her thirties were collected into a single volume, Firstlight: The Early Inspiration Writings and published by Guideposts Books in 2006 and Penguin in 2007.
After traveling with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, to sacred sites in Greece, Turkey, and France, Kidd and Taylor co-authored a memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story. Published by Viking in 2009, it appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including the New York Times list and has been published in several languages.
The Invention of Wings, Kidd’s third novel was published in 2014 by Viking. It debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list where it spent a total of 9 months. It has sold over a million copies and been translated into over 20 languages. The novel has won several literary awards, including the Florida Book of Year Award and the SIBA Book Award. It was a Goodreads Readers Choice Award runner up, nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award, and chosen for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.
Kidd’s much anticipated fourth novel, The Book of Longings, was published on April 21, 2020 to widespread critical and reader acclaim. It immediately landed at the top of the bestseller lists, reaching #5 on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction list, #1 on the IndieBound bestseller list, and #2 on the Associated Press bestseller List. The novel was a finalist for Book-of-the-Month Club’s Book of the Year Award, a Goodreads Readers Choice Award runner up, a Heather’s Pick (Indigo Books) in Canada, and a Australian Women’s Day Great Read Pick. It has been translated into 17 languages thus far.
Kidd serves on the Writers Council for Poets & Writers, Inc. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Sandy, and dog, Barney.