June 16

There are 1 entries for this date: Joyce Carol Oates

    Joyce Carol Oates

    Joyce Carol Oates

    On this date in 1938, Joyce Carol Oates was born in Lockport, New York. She grew up in an economically disadvantaged Catholic household and was the first in her extended family to graduate from high school. She was valedictorian of her graduating class at Syracuse University and earned her master’s in 1961 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, when she married Raymond Smith. She published her first book in 1962 and has since written 58 novels as well as a number of plays and novellas and many volumes of short stories, poetry and nonfiction. Several of her novels have been made into movies.

    Oates, one of the most recognized contemporary authors, has won numerous awards, including the O’Henry Prize for Continued Achievement in the Short Story and the National Book Award. She has been a finalist five times for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, most recently in 2015. She was the American Humanist Association’s 2007 Humanist of the Year. In her acceptance speech, Oates said: “It has always been something of a mystery to me that intelligent, educated men and women, as well as the uneducated, can ‘have faith’ in an invisible and nonexistent God. Why, instead, is humanism not the preeminent belief of humankind? Why don’t humans place their faith in reason and in the strategies of skepticism and doubt, and refuse to concede to traditional customs, religious convictions and superstitions?”

    Oates taught at Princeton University from 1978 to 2014, then taught creative writing at UC-Berkeley, retiring in 2018. After her husband Raymond died in 2008, she married Charles Gross, who died in 2019.

    PHOTO: Oates at the 2014 Texas Book Festival in Austin; photo by Larry D. Moore under CC BY-SA 4.0

    “I’m not a person who feels very friendly toward organized religion. I think people have been brainwashed through the centuries. The churches, particularly the Catholic Church, are patriarchal organizations that have been invested with power for the sake of the people in power, who happen to be men. It breeds corruption. I found going to church every Sunday and on holy days an exercise in extreme boredom.”

    —Oates, interview, Playboy magazine (November 1993)

Freedom From Religion Foundation