It’s the birthday of columnist and best-selling novelist Anna Quindlen (books by this author), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1953). She grew up in the suburbs, in a middle-class, Irish-American family. Her dad was a management consultant and her mom took care of the kids. She said, “I sometimes joke that my greatest shortcoming as a writer is that I had an extremely happy childhood.”
She went on to Barnard College, and for her thesis she wrote a collection of stories and published one of them in Seventeen magazine. She wanted to be a fiction writer. But straight out of college she got hired by the New York Post, and a few years later, by the New York Times.
She started out as a City Hall and general assignment reporter, and eventually she started her own column, called “Life in the 30s.” And in 1990, she started the regular column “Public and Private,” which made her just the third woman in the history of the Times to write a regular column for the op-ed page. She wrote about raising her kids, religion, her parents’ deaths, and her marriage, at the same time that she wrote about national politics and cultural trends. She said, “Anybody who tries to convince me that foreign policy is more important than child rearing is doomed to failure.” “Public and Private” was nationally syndicated, and some of these columns were collected into a best-selling book, Thinking Out Loud (1993). In 1992, she won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
She was so successful that a lot of people thought she was in line to be deputy editor of the paper. But then, in 1995, she quit. She really wanted to write fiction, and she had been trying all along — during her tenure at the Times, she managed to publish two novels, Object Lessons (1991) and One True Thing (1994). But she was also raising kids, and she didn’t have enough time for her family or enough time to write. So she quit to become a full-time writer, and since then she’s published eight novels, including Blessings (2002), Rise and Shine (2006), and most recently, Miller’s Valley (2016).