Birthplace: Manchester, England
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Lesbian
Executive summary: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Jeanette Winterson is the controversial and prize-winning author of such novels as Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, The Passion, Sexing the Cherry, Written on the Body, Gut Symmetries, and Lighthousekeeping. While her work has certainly earned a following with gay and lesbian readers, she has managed to create considerable mainstream appeal with her ability to interweave complex themes that touch on deeply shared aspects of the human condition.
Winterson was adopted in infancy by two Pentecostal Evangelists, John and Constance Winterson, who raised her in the mill-town of Accrington. Hemmed in by their devoutly religious worldview, she learned to read from Deuteronomy, and was taught to channel her energy into preaching -- writing and delivering her own sermons by the age of eight. But when she was fifteen her passion for other women was discovered and her relationship with the church and with her family exploded.
Winterson left home, later enrolling in Accrington College of Further Education. She supported herself through a string of unusual jobs that included work in a funeral home, driving an ice cream van, and serving as a domestic in a mental hospital. In 1981 she graduated from St. Catherine's College, Oxford with a B.A. in English. She moved to London and became involved in publishing and the Roundhouse Theatre.
She published her first novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit in 1985, but it was not until 1990, when it was translated into a television series, that she became well known. Her relationship with the press and critics started off sensationally well, with Winterson garnering tremendous praise as well as the Whitbread First Novel Award for Oranges, the Prix d'argent for best script at the Cannes Film Festival, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for best drama.
However as Winterson turned more to intensely erotic prose, and simultaneously made public pronouncements declaring her own preeminence and talent, she began to receive far more criticism. She drew further fire by disclosing that an affair with her agent, a married woman, was in fact the inspiration for her book Written on The Body -- and for personally confronting journalists who had written unfavorably of her.
Winterson herself blasts the press for being more interested in her sex life (lesbian/bisexual) than in her work as a writer –- despite the critical acclaim she has garnered and despite her efforts to branch out in new narrative directions. Some of the repeated motifs in her work include religion, gender identity (especially in the context of the larger society), lesbianism, and life as storytelling.
Winterson has been a full time writer since 1987. In addition to novels and poetry she writes for a variety of newspapers, including the The Times and The Guardian. Additional honors and recognition accorded Winterson include the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize for The Passion, and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for Sexing the Cherry. When not busily at work in her writer's garret, she lives in Gloucestershire with her partner Peggy Reynolds.
Father: John William Winterson (factory worker)
Mother: Constance Winterson
Girlfriend: Peggy Reynolds
University: St. Catherine's College, Oxford University
Author of books:
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985, novel)
The Passion (1987, novel)
Sexing the Cherry (1989, novel)
Written on the Body (1992, novel)
Art and Lies (1994, novel)
Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery (1995, essays)
Gut Symmetries (1997, novel)
Lighthousekeeping (2004, novel)
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