Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? | Study Guide

Joyce Carol Oates

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Joyce Carol Oates | Biography


Born June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York, Joyce Carol Oates grew up on a farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse. Oates was a bright child and developed her love of writing after receiving a typewriter from her grandmother when she was 14, eventually becoming one of the most prolific American writers.

After receiving her undergraduate degree in English from Syracuse University, she earned her master's degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she met her husband—educator, author, and editor Raymond Smith. In 2009, a year after Smith's death, Oates married neuroscientist Charles Gross.

Oates has taught at several universities including the University of Detroit, the University of Windsor, and Princeton University. While at the University of Windsor, Oates and Raymond Smith founded and published The Ontario Review, a literary magazine.

By the North Gate, Oates's first book, appeared in 1963. This collection of short stories marked the beginning of her long career, spanning decades and genres including stories, poetry, plays, essays, and more than 50 novels. Her style has varied as well as her genres, from Gothic romances to everyday contemporary life and suspense novels under two pen names, Rosamond Smith and Laouren Kelly. Oates has written a number of best sellers and won many awards, including the National Book Award in Fiction for Them (1969), a National Humanities Medal, and a PEN/Malamud Award for a lifetime of literary achievement.

The character of Arnold Friend in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" was influenced by the actual serial killer Charles Howard Schmid Jr., convicted of murdering three young women in Tucson, Arizona, in 1964 and 1965. Among Oates's best-known tales, the story has become one of the most frequently anthologized American short stories of recent times.

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