Geraldine Brooks was born in 1955, which makes her 59 years old at this time. She grew up in the suburbs of Sidney, Australia and attended Sidney University as well as having worked as a reporter for the Sidney Morning Herald. She completed her Master’s Degree in Journalism at Columbia University in New York City in 1983. Subsequently, she worked for the “Wall Street Journal” where she covered crises in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. In 1990, for coverage of the Persian Gulf, she and her husband Tony received the Overseas Press Club Award for “Best newspaper or wire service reporting from abroad.”
Her first book, “Nine Parts of Desire” (1995), based on her experiences among the Muslim women of the Middle East, was an international best seller, translated into 17 languages.
“Foreign Correspondence,” published in 1997, was a memoir and travel adventure about a childhood enriched by pen pals from around the world, and her adult quest to locate them again. For this, she won the Nita B. Kibble award for women’s writing.
Her very first novel, “Year of Wonders,” published in 2001, is an international best seller. Set in 1666, the book follows a young woman’s battle to save her fellow villagers and her soul when the plague suddenly strikes the small Derbyshire village of Eyam.
Geraldine’s second novel, “March,” was published in 2005. An historical novel set during the United States Civil War, it chronicles the war experiences of the March girls’ absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” In late 2005, “March” was selected by the Washington Post as one of the five best fiction works published during the year. In April 2006, the book earned her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The March’s lived in Concord, Massachusetts and rubbed elbows and exchanged thoughts with Emerson, Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne. March’s first name never seems to be mentioned except in one subtle instance when he is referred to as “John March.”
It appears that Mr. March was patterned after Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa May Alcott, who started the idea of “recess” in schools. He believed that children learn through play. He also desegregated his classroom and believed in the intellectual capabilities of women. His school would be known as a progressive school today. Bronson Alcott was an abolitionist, educationist, vegetarian (as was Mr. March), Utopian, and a friend of New England Transcendentalists.
In 2008, Geraldine Brooks published her historical fiction piece called “People of the Book.” It focuses on imagined events surrounding the famed and real Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the oldest surviving Hebrew illuminated texts, created in fifteenth-century Spain. A female Australian book conservator is charged with restoring the Haggadah, during which she learns secrets of the past which have never before come to light.
In 2011, Geraldine once again took a small piece of truth and turned it into a best selling novel. She knew only that, in 1665, a young man named Caleb, a member of the Wopanaak tribe on Martha’s Vineyard who embraced Christianity, became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College.
Geraldine Brooks was awarded a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard for the year 2006.
Tony and Geraldine
Geraldine married Tony Horwitz in France in 1984. They met as fellow-journalists at “The Wall Street Journal.” The couple have a son, Nathaniel, and divide their time between homes in the State of Virginia and in Sidney, Australia. While Tony was researching “Confederates in the Attic” in 1998, his book about the Civil War’s legacy in the modern-day south, Geraldine found that she had become something of an expert on the Civil War also.
Tony Horwitz is a native of Washington, D.C. and a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He and Geraldine lived overseas for over a decade and filed dispatches from forty countries, often as war correspondents covering conflicts in the Persian Gulf, Sudan, Lebanon, Bosnia, and Northern Ireland. He worked as a journalist for the “Wall Street Journal” and as a staff writer for “The New Yorker.” He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism in 1995 for a series on working conditions in low-wage America.
Tony Horwitz’ published books include “Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook has Gone Before,” “One for the Road,” “Baghdad without a Map,” and “Confederates in the Attic."
Seldom does one learn of a writing couple who are each so prolific and have managed to stay together even under the burdensome work ethic they have taken on. We look forward to discussing their future works in our Book Club.