Biography of Sue Monk Kidd, Author of 'The Secret Life of Bees'

Sue Monk Kidd (left) with Alicia Keys

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Sue Monk Kidd (born August 12, 1948) spent the early days of her writing career penning memoirs, going on to publish her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, in 2002. Kidd's career has spanned genres of contemplative spirituality, feminist theology, and fiction. 

Fast Facts: Sue Monk Kidd

  • Known For: Bestselling novelist
  • Born: August 12, 1948, in Sylvester, Georgia
  • Parents: Leah and Ridley Monk
  • Education: Texas Christian University, Emory University
  • Published WorksThe Invention of Wings, The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story
  • Spouse: Sanford Kidd
  • Children: Ann and Bob
  • Notable Quote: “It is the peculiar nature of the world to go on spinning no matter what sort of heartbreak is happening.” 

Early Life

Raised in Sylvester, a rural town in Georgia, Kidd was the daughter of an imaginative, story-telling father. She knew early on that she wanted to be a writer. She cites Thoreau's Walden and Kate Chopin's The Awakening as early influences that would eventually lead to a writing career rooted in spirituality.

In 1970, Kidd earned a B.S. degree from Texas Christian University in nursing. During her 20s, she worked as a registered nurse and a college nursing instructor at the Medical College of Georgia. Kidd married Sanford “Sandy” Kidd, with whom she had two children.

Early Literary Work

When she decided to enroll in writing classes, Kidd and her family were living in South Carolina where her husband taught at a small liberal arts college. Her goal was to write fiction, but she began her career writing nonfiction inspirational pieces, many of which she published in Guideposts Magazine, where she eventually became a contributing editor. Spiritual searching ensued, which Kidd chronicled in her first book, God's Joyful Surprise (1988). Two years later in 1990, her second spiritual memoir followed, entitled When the Heart Waits.

Spiritual Publications

While in her 40s, Kidd turned her attention to a study of feminist spirituality, resulting in another memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (1996). The book recounts her spiritual journey from a Baptist upbringing to non-traditional feminist spiritual experiences.

Novels and Memoirs

Kidd is best known for her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees (2002), in which she tells the coming-of-age story—set in 1964—of a 14-year-old girl and her black housekeeper, a modern classic that spent over two years on The New York Times bestseller list, has been published in 35 countries, and is now taught in college and high school classrooms.

In 2005, Kidd followed with The Mermaid Chair, the story of a middle-aged married woman who falls in love with a Benedictine monk. Like The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair uses its female protagonist to explore spiritual themes. The Mermaid Chair was also a long-time bestseller and won the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction. Shortly thereafter, Firstlight, a collection of Kidd's early writings, was published by Guideposts Books in 2006 and by Penguin in 2007. 

Kidd co-authored her next memoir with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor after they traveled together in France, Greece, and Turkey. The resulting Traveling with Pomegranates (2009) appeared on The New York Times list and has been published in several languages.

Her third novel, The Invention of Wings, was published in 2014 by Viking and remained on The New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for more than six months. The winner of several literary awards, The Invention of Wings won the SIBA Book Award and was selected for Oprah's Book Club 2.0. It has been translated into 24 languages and sold over one million copies. 

Her entire collection of writings to date include:

  • God's Joyful Surprise (1988)
  • When the Heart Waits (1990)
  • The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (1996)
  • The Secret Life of Bees (2002)
  • The Mermaid Chair (2005)
  • Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd (2006)
  • Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey, and France (with Ann Kidd Taylor) (2009)
  • The Invention of Wings (2014)

Sources

  • Bryfonski, Dedria. "Coming of Age in Sue Monk Kidd's Secret Life of Bees." Greenhaven Press, 2013.
  • Sue Monk Kidd, 30 Sept. 2018.
  • “Sue Monk Kidd.” New Georgia Encyclopedia.