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Marilynne Robinson | Biography

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Born Marilynne Summers in Sandpoint, Idaho, on November 26, 1943, Robinson was raised in the Presbyterian church. Heavily influenced by the works of French theologian John Calvin, Robinson later became a Congregationalist, a Protestant denomination founded in late 16th-century Britain. She even occasionally took the pulpit at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Iowa City, Iowa. Robinson's father was in the timber industry, and her mother stayed at home to raise Robinson and her brother, David. As a child, she enjoyed a close relationship with David, and she considers him "the first and best of her teachers."

Although she broke into the literary scene in 1980 with her well-reviewed novel Housekeeping, Robinson did not publish a novel again until 2004's Gilead. Meditative and insightful, Gilead is based on Robinson's experience in the Congregationalist church. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. Robinson followed Gilead with two additional novels to form a trilogy. The second, Home (2008), follows the character Glory Boughton and recounts the same events that Gilead does, but from her perspective. The third, Lila (2014), expands on the story of the characters Lila and John and reveals Lila's transient past.

In addition to her works of fiction, Robinson has published works of nonfiction, including book reviews for Harper's Magazine and the New York Times, a book condemning nuclear pollution in England (Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution, 1989), and a book of scholarly essays on historical figures such as John Calvin (The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, 1998). She won a Pushcart Prize, an American literary prize for short works published by small presses, for her essay "On Beauty." Robinson also taught creative writing in the Masters of Fine Arts program at the University of Iowa for 25 years, retiring in 2016.

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