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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Study Guide

Jeanette Winterson

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Jeanette Winterson | Biography


Jeanette Winterson was born on August 27, 1959, in Manchester, England. Her natural mother gave her up for adoption when she was about six months old, so Jeanette was raised by Constance and John Winterson—who actually knew Jeanette's natural mother but refused to let her see Jeanette.

Religious Zealotry during Childhood

Constance was a fervent and vocal devotee of Pentecostal religious beliefs and raised her daughter to be a missionary. Winterson began her education as a homeschooled child, forced to memorize Bible verses. As a church member, she gave sermons when she was just eight and participated actively in events involving religious zealotry, including tent revival meetings and distribution of pamphlets on the streets. When the authorities intervened and forced her to go to school, she went to Accrington Girls' Grammar School, where she experienced much pain as a misfit among the other girls.

When Winterson was 15, Constance discovered her daughter was in a homosexual relationship. The church treated the teenager as someone possessed by a demon, and at 16 Winterson was banished from the community, forced to leave home, and faced with earning her own way.

Early Jobs and Continuing Education

Winterson worked at many odd jobs during her teen years, eventually completing her education at Accrington College of Further Education. She then earned her bachelor's degree in English from St. Catherine's College, Oxford in 1981.

Writing as a Profession

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Winterson's first novel, was published in 1985. It won the Whitbread Book Award that year for the best first novel written by an author from the United Kingdom or Ireland. By 1987 Winterson was able to become a full-time writer and has since published more than two dozen books across genres, including her eventual memoir, winning more impressive literary awards along the way. She has also worked as a broadcaster and as a professor of creative writing.

Lingering Pain and Finally Love

Despite her success, Winterson has often struggled to find herself. She has expressed her feeling of abandonment from being given up for adoption, hinted at the true horrors of her childhood, and seriously considered suicide. She has also gone in and out of relationships with women, although she did marry British psychotherapist Susie Orbach in 2015, after being in a happy partnership with her for five years.

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