Jane Smiley (b. 1949)

American novelist and essayist. Smiley was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. She earned a B.A. at Vassar College, and both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. Her first novel, Barn Blind, appeared in 1980; since then she has published twelve more novels, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning A Thousand Acres (1985), a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear set on an Iowa farm. Her latest, Private Life (2010), is an intimate depiction of the life of a woman who comes of age in post–Civil War Missouri. Smiley’s nonfiction includes the biography Charles Dickens (2003), A Year at the Races: Reflections on Horses, Humans, Love, Money, and Luck (2004), and Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (2005), a consideration of the history of the novel. See also web.mac.com/therealjanesmiley.