How Barbara Kingsolver makes literature topical — from climate change to opioids — and what she might have done differently
In this October 2017 photo taken in the grounds of an historic estate in Tennessee, author Barbara Kingsolver poses for a photographer at the estate of her author husband, John Kingsolver.Photo: Joe Burbank/AP Photo
There is usually something wrong with a writer telling me he or she wrote something about climate change or opioids in 2015. But this is what happened when I spoke with Barbara Kingsolver, author of “The Animals They Left Behind” and “If I Were King,” about how climate change has been a major theme in her latest novel.
“I’m the kind of person who really wants to know more about the most pressing issues of our time,” says Kingsolver, who grew up in Florida and now lives in California. “I am somebody who’s concerned about health care, I’m concerned about climate change, I’m concerned about immigration, I’m concerned about inequality, I’m concerned about the future, but I’m also interested in how books look and what happens when we do the most powerful writing about those things.”
In “The Animals They Left Behind,” the first novel in her latest series, Kingsolver follows four generations of a family living in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her family roots are in Florida, where she grew up, but she now lives in California, where she works as a writer and as a professor of creative writing at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
Her memoir, “Falling and Flying,” was the result of a chance meeting with her family, when a friend asked how the book ended after the hurricane.
“My parents were like, ‘You wrote a book of love. Love is the only thing we have going in the world.’ So it became the central theme.”
Kingsolver wrote this book, originally titled “Falling,” in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is the story of her family’s struggle to rebuild after the storm, which destroyed everything they had.