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Critical Insights: Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver and the Critics
By Rosemary M. Canfield Reisman
Beginning with an accounting of the laudatory reviews for Kingsolver's first novel, The Bean Trees, Rosemary M. Canfield Reisman tracks how the author's reputation grew incrementally with each of her published works. Reviews often set the tone for how a book was received. Critics did not always approve of the neat endings of Kingsolver's plots and occasionally detected what they considered to be too much unfounded optimism about human nature. After the publication of The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver's reputation was cemented, and her works became the subjects of entire critical studies. She has earned her celebrated status by developing her talents ever further with each novel and by continuing to produce texts of high quality that engage the reader in pertinent issues of social change.
--T.A.When she was named a 2000 National Humanities Medalist, Barbara Kingsolver was commended for producing novels written to a high literary standard whose purpose is to bring about social change. The four novels thus described included her first published work, The Bean Trees (1988), Animal Dreams (1990), Pigs in Heaven (1993), and The Poisonwood Bible (1998) (Towler, Reichers, and Gerard 20-31).
While it is hardly surprising that Kingsolver's sense of purpose did not alter throughout the decade, or indeed that it has not changed since, it is somewhat unusual for a writer's first book to be praised so highly. In The New York Times Book Review, Jack Butler called The Bean Trees "an accomplished first novel," as "richly connected as a fine poem." Butler concluded his review by describing The Bean Trees as a "remarkable, enjoyable book, one that contains more good writing than most successful careers" (15). Other reviewers also admired Kingsolver's style, commenting that it is a unique combination of lyricism, particularly in the passages describing nature, and realism, given the novel's setting in the blue-collar world of poverty, seedy bars, and sudden violence and among frightened illegal aliens. As a Tucson, Arizona, teacher pointed out, neither the realistic setting nor the very real social problems Kingsolver mentions, such as child abuse, make The Bean Trees less captivating for his students. He characterized the novel as "engaging, heartwarming, poignant, surprising, and hopeful" (Mossman 85). Ms. and the Women's Review of Books praised Kingsolver, a feminist by conviction, for her skill in tracing the development of relationships between women and in dramatizing the ongoing struggles of women to survive. Several critics were troubled by what they saw as a tendency toward formula writing: the good characters--those who agree with the author's views--behave so impeccably that they seem less than human. Moreover, not far into the novel, it becomes obvious that it is proceeding toward a predetermined happy ending. Most reviewers, however, welcomed the upbeat tone of The Bean Trees.
During the early 1980s, while working as a freelance journalist, Kingsolver reported on a series of strikes against the Phelps Dodge Mining Company that ended in a victory for the company. After miners were banned from striking, the women in their families took over the picket lines. Among the audiotapes that Kingsolver had accumulated, those that most interested her were the ones showing the transformation of docile housewives into activists. In her first nonfiction book, Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 (1989), Kingsolver focuses on these changes among the women she interviewed, though she also deals with economic injustices in general and, more specifically, with the mistreatment of Mexican Americans. Although Holding the Line did not appeal to as wide an audience as did The Bean Trees, the book was applauded in such publications as the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, the Labour History Review, and Contemporary Sociology. Reviewers in these journals agreed that the scope of Kingsolver's study, her meticulous research, and the high quality of her writing make her work a valuable addition to the academic literature, a good supplementary text for students, and a book that should interest many members of the general public. Holding the Line prompted only a few negative comments. Marc W. Steinberg, writing in Contemporary Sociology, would have liked to see Kingsolver pay more attention to ethnic issues, particularly as the strike affected Mexicans and Native Americans (237). A reviewer in Labor Studies Journal agreed with Steinberg that the study was extremely valuable but felt that, by voicing her own anger with Phelps Dodge, Kingsolver had weakened the effect of the women's testimonies (Tischler 82-83). Again, it seems that the author's passion for a cause led her into what some saw as excesses that marred what would otherwise be an almost flawless artistic work.
In her review of Kingsolver's second published work of fiction, Homeland, and Other Stories (1989), Wendy Brandmark took issue with such criticisms. She argued that one of Kingsolver's virtues is that despite her empathy for characters caught in difficult situations, she "cannot forgive those who cramp the vitality of others, who watch with indifference the destruction of the earth's bounty." Brandmark concluded that "the power of these stories rests as much with their moral awareness, their righteousness, as it does with their charm and the ease of her story-telling" (22). Earlier, another Times Literary Supplement reviewer found the collection more carefully crafted than The Bean Trees but still uneven: the strongest stories, she insisted, are those in which the narrators are children, as in the title story, and the weakest are those narrated by "young, educated adults" (Neuhaus 956). However, Russell Banks called all of the stories "interesting" and most of them "extraordinarily fine." He expressed admiration for the author's "Chekhovian tenderness toward her characters," her sense of the comic where male foibles are concerned, and her unusual style, which "mixes argot with aphorism, sexual frankness with delicate high-mindedness" (16).
By the time Animal Dreams was published, Barbara Kingsolver was becoming acknowledged as one of the best new American regional writers. Her first two books of fiction were popular, and both The Bean Trees and Homeland won awards from the American Library Association. However, her new novel was judged far superior to The Bean Trees. In an interview with Lisa See Kendall, Kingsolver herself suggested that the problem with The Bean Trees was that, like many first novels, it was essentially autobiographical: despite her best efforts, Kingsolver kept hearing her own voice in that of Taylor Greer, the heroine of the novel. Recognizing this problem, Kingsolver said, she experimented with various voices while she was working on the Homeland stories. As a result, by the time she began Animal Dreams, she could turn over the narration to her heroine, Codi Noline, who shares some of the author's attitudes but has her own distinct personality. What does not change in Animal Dreams is the thematic content. As Kendall points out, again Kingsolver feels compelled to draw the attention of her readers to unresolved family relationships, abuse of the environment, the exploitation of Native Americans, systematic injustice in the treatment of the labor force, and sinister American schemes in other countries, in this case support of the Contras in Nicaragua. Kingsolver admitted to the interviewer that at one point she feared she had so many themes that perhaps Animal Dreams should be five novels instead of one. However, upon consideration, she realized that all these issues are actually manifestations of a pervasive flaw in human nature: the failure to recognize that everyone is a part of the larger world. This epiphany made it possible for her to proceed with Animal Dreams and, indeed, to return to most of these themes in her subsequent publications (46-47).
However, reviewers again regretted that a novel they agreed was beautifully written was too predictable. As Carolyn Cooke commented, not only does virtue triumph at the end of Animal Dreams but also none of the major characters seems to suffer from moral uncertainty. Thus Codi's Native American lover does not hesitate to give up cockfighting simply because both Codi and his mother disapprove of it (653-54). This incident also reflects a pattern evident in all of Kingsolver's novels: it is not men but women who possess the moral compass, and it is not men but women, and very ordinary women at that, who effect reforms. As Kendall points out, in Animal Dreams it is the women of the Stitch and Bitch Club who save the river that runs through their town from being contaminated by the poisonous by-products of the Black Mountain Mining Company (46-47).
Writing in Time magazine, Paul Gray argued that Kingsolver's consistent elevation of women as saviors of their communities and of the planet, usually through the "adoption of older, often Native American ways," is another instance of "eco-feminist fiction," a new subgenre developed in the 1980s by such writers as Ursula K. Le Guin, Louise Erdrich, and Alice Walker. Gray described Kingsolver's Animal Dreams as an "entertaining distillation of eco-feminist materials." The novel has a "fragile landscape," a "doughty heroine," some wise and virtuous Native Americans, and, most important of all, a set of strong-willed matriarchs more than capable of taking on the white males who represent the mining company (87).
Gray agreed with earlier reviewers of Kingsolver's work that her heroines can be "preachy"; in fact, he stated that the novel has a "rather hectoring tone." However, he found that defect balanced by the author's use of humor (87). Animal Dreams was popular with readers and critics alike. In addition to being a best seller, in 1991 the novel won the Pen/USA West Fiction Award and the Edward Abbey Ecofiction Award. It was also named the Arizona Library Association Book of the Year.
Kingsolver's first volume of poetry, Another America/Otra America (1992) was not as widely reviewed as her earlier works, and the few reviews that appeared were fairly perfunctory. Critics pointed out that Kingsolver's reason for including a Spanish translation of each poem was obviously her desire to make a political statement about social and political injustices in the Americas. However, though they found some of her poems impressive both in form and in content, reviewers agreed that Kingsolver is at her best when she is writing fiction.
Though Kingsolver's next novel, Pigs in Heaven, had a first printing of one hundred thousand copies and was chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate, some critics dismissed it as simply another of the author's "feel-good fables for the politically correct" (Young 9). There was no doubt that the book would sell well: as a sequel to The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven had a ready-made audience. Moreover, readers could expect the same folksy humor and the same types of admirable, strong-willed women that had pleased them in Kingsolver's earlier fiction. However, though even her most severe critics had to admit that Kingsolver "is vivid, animated and amusing," they could not forgive her for suggesting simplistic answers to complex problems or for depending on "idealistic feminist theory" instead of attempting to "illuminate human behavior," which Young calls the real task of literature (9). In The New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt was gentler in his criticism, admitting that Kingsolver is talented and praising her in particular for the empathy revealed in her treatment of her characters. Nevertheless, he found some of the passages of Pigs in Heaven unbearably "treacly," and he also faulted the book for its lack of tension and its predictability (C16).
By contrast, a Library Journal reviewer insisted that Pigs in Heaven surpasses The Bean Trees primarily because it demonstrates that family problems can be resolved only by love. Similarly, a Publishers Weekly critic commended Kingsolver for her emphasis on the importance of family ties and on the need for wisdom, insight, and compassion in dealing with others. In a Newsweek review, Laura Shapiro pointed out that in Pigs in Heaven, for the first time Kingsolver "challenges her own strong, 60's-style politics." Instead of applying the tenets of political correctness to every moral issue, as she had previously done, Kingsolver presents a complex situation in which neither side is wholly right or wholly wrong. Clearly the politically correct decision would be to turn over the Cherokee child to her own people. However, Kingsolver understands that the consequences of breaking a bond between a child and a mother, or the person she has come to regard as her mother, can be devastating. Shapiro was not particularly happy with Kingsolver's use of coincidence to work out a solution to the problem, but she was impressed by the fact that in the course of the novel what begins as a confrontation ends with compromise and understanding. Appropriately, Shapiro's review was titled "A Novel Full of Miracles" (61).
Karen Karbo, too, saw Pigs in Heaven as a marked improvement on Kingsolver's earlier books. Having expected the novel to turn into a "morality play," in which Turtle's fate is based on the principles of political correctness, Karbo was surprised to find it a "resounding achievement" in which the author "somehow manages to maintain her political views without sacrificing the complexity of her characters' predicaments." Karbo agreed with Shapiro that the denouement, while a bit farfetched, does not in any way mar the book. The only flaw she saw in Pigs in Heaven is that the author fails to pass moral judgment on the relatives, themselves Cherokee, who are indifferent to Turtle's plight. Karbo praised Kingsolver for her narrative gift and for her skill in blending "a fierce and abiding moral vision with benevolent, concise humor" (9). A Canadian reviewer agreed; as she put it, by refusing to brand either side as "wrong," Kingsolver ends up with a "charming positivism" that is unusual in present-day fiction (Daurio C16).
With the publication of her first fictional work, Barbara Kingsolver had won both the hearts of the reading public and the respect of the critics, and over the six years that followed, she retained the attention of both groups. One of the first attempts to account for Kingsolver's appeal is an essay by Maureen Ryan titled "Barbara Kingsolver's Lowfat Fiction," which appeared in 1995 in the Journal of American Culture. Ryan observes that, on a superficial level, one can explain the popularity of Kingsolver's novels by noting that they have compelling characters, well-crafted plots, and an easy, often colloquial style. However, more poignantly, Ryan sees them as "the exemplary fiction for our age: aggressively politically correct, yet fundamentally conservative" (77). Although the causes Kingsolver embraces are not the same as those of the nineteenth-century reformers whom she admires, such as Charles Dickens, she does pride herself on being an "old-fashioned" writer, not only because of her emphasis on social issues but also because her fiction is meant to appeal not just to the few but to everyone. What disturbs Ryan is that "for all their apparent attention to the pressing social problems of our time, Kingsolver's light and lively books--which purport to give us food that's both nourishing and appetizing--leave all of us feeling just a bit too fine" (78).
In The Bean Trees, Ryan argues, while Kingsolver does send Taylor Greer out of a secure rural environment and into contemporary society, the emphasis is not on the real dangers that lurk there but instead on "the characters' resilience and the inherent goodness of the world." Pigs in Heaven is similarly optimistic, for though the Cherokee do threaten to remove Turtle from her adoptive mother's care, in the end it is their community that takes in not just Turtle but also Taylor and even her mother, thus providing them with an extended family and, by insisting on preserving ancient customs and traditions, giving them an antidote to the temptations and dangers of the outside world. Again, the characters have moved easily to a happy ending and a secure environment (78-79). Ryan admits that the dangers in Animal Dreams are more worrisome than those in the other two novels; certainly Kingsolver does not gloss over the fact that the heroine's sister, who has been helping the Nicaraguan peasants, is kidnapped and then murdered. However, that takes place at a distance; in Grace, Arizona, the villainous mining company is defeated by a group of Mexican American women who thus avert disaster and rescue their community.
Despite her consistent advocacy for nontraditional families, Kingsolver often reveals herself as adhering to traditional values. As Ryan puts it, the author believes in the "sanctity of motherhood." She also offers her readers an easy faith: "if we love our children and our mothers, and hang in there with hearth and home, the big bad world will simply go away." Thus, Ryan concludes, Kingsolver does indeed adhere to the "conventions of traditional realistic fiction," and though that practice has made her popular, it can leave a thoughtful reader unsatisfied (81).
Kingsolver herself has often expressed concern that her readers might be reading her novels purely for pleasure and ignoring their political content. This motivated her to select twenty-five of her essays, many of which had previously been published, and bring them together in an edited, somewhat expanded form in a miscellany titled High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never (1995). Though she had feared that she would lose readers by being too outspoken, Kingsolver told Robin Epstein in an interview for The Progressive that High Tide in Tucson was an even greater immediate success than any of her novels. Reviewers, too, were enthusiastic, praising Kingsolver for her warmth, her humor, and her poetic style, the same qualities that they had admired in her fiction, and several wrote that they had found the personal anecdotes in the collection especially appealing. One of the few dissenters was a British critic who was repelled by Kingsolver's self-dramatization, particularly in some "cringe-making vignettes of American life," such as the account of her jazz tour. That reviewer's conclusion was that Kingsolver should abandon personal essays and express herself instead in "her fine novels" (Barker 36).
If some reviewers found Kingsolver too "preachy," their objection was to style, not to content. Very few readers would object to the author's passion for the environment, her reverence for nature, or her pleas for social justice, whether the downtrodden are women, children, or specific ethnic groups. With The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver ventured into riskier territory, for the novel is meant to serve not only as an indictment of American foreign policy but also as an exposure of the stupidity, the insensitivity, and the hypocrisy of Christian evangelical missionaries. In a review for Christianity Today, Tim Stafford called the voices of the women in the novel "unforgettable" but expressed his disappointment that in a novel supposedly about religion, "neither faith nor doubt has any punch." He added, "This makes me wonder whether Kingsolver has ever known a fundamentalist missionary" (88). Alan Neely also worried about troubling "incongruities" in The Poisonwood Bible, such as the fact that Nathan, a Southern Baptist, is "a devotee of the Apocrypha." A former missionary himself, Neely also pointed out that no church's mission board would have allowed someone like Nathan to go into a field where he would have to work with people of other cultures.
The Poisonwood Bible is also an attack on the patriarchal system of family governance, for, as a Publishers Weekly reviewer pointed out, the Reverend Nathan Price, an evangelical missionary who has decided to convert a village in the Congo to Christianity, has no more respect for women than he does for the natives and, in fact, is both physically and mentally abusive to his wife and his four daughters. By using these five women as narrators, Kingsolver shows the extent to which they have been brainwashed by Nathan and the system that he represents. Through their eyes, the author reveals truths not only about the disastrous results of Nathan's bungling efforts but also about the effects of past colonial rule and of more recent American intervention, effects that Nathan is too blind to see. Reviewer Liane Ellison Norman noted that after exposing American "imperialism" and the persistence of "habits of racial superiority," Kingsolver ends her book by having four of her female narrators deliver a sermon. To those who might object to this intrusion on the narrative, Norman responded that by writing "so big, so important, and so engrossing a novel," Kingsolver had earned the right to end the book in any way she liked (59).
Even critics and reviewers who were annoyed by occasional authorial intrusions in the book agreed that The Poisonwood Bible was Kingsolver's best novel to date. Certainly it inspired a much wider variety of critical approaches and interpretations than any of her previous books. In the Women's Review of Books, for example, Gayle Green argued that the novel is about "what these characters see, fail to see, learn to see" and about how all of us may come to think differently about other cultures (8-9). Another writer suggested that the novel shows the difference between "Nathan Price's narrow definition of salvation" and true "redemption" (Warren C5).
Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, Judith Bromberg called the book Kingsolver's "best to date" in both style and content, though she did find the political comments at the ending "a bit belabored." She also contrasted Nathan's "self-serving" use of Christianity with the efforts of his predecessor, a priest gone native, who continues to serve his people in the true spirit of Christianity (13). Tim Stafford in Christianity Today stated his admiration for Kingsolver's creation of a "finely wrought, distinctive voice" for each of the Price women, but he found Nathan no more than a "stick-figure" whom the author herself does not seem to understand. He also deplored the fact that none of the characters has a profound faith or even a profound doubt, leading Stafford to "wonder whether Kingsolver has ever known a fundamentalist missionary." Though the book has its merits, he concluded, it is basically a "cartoonish story of idiot missionaries and shady CIA operatives" (88). Alan Neely, a theologian and former Southern Baptist missionary, worried that readers of what he described as an "exquisitely written, engaging book" will not see the "incongruities" in the novel, such as the impossibility of a church mission board's sending out someone as ill suited to deal with other cultures as Nathan Price. Neely was also troubled by the fact that Kingsolver does not permit Nathan a voice, thus depriving him of his humanity, and he wondered whether readers will realize that the fundamentalist missionary presented to them is not a realistic representation but merely a caricature (138).
Even its severest critics, however, cannot deny that The Poisonwood Bible is a major literary achievement. Prior to the novel's publication, Kingsolver was considered an extremely talented writer who produced entertaining novels with political overtones. Like her earlier novels, The Poisonwood Bible was a best seller; in fact, it had sold more than one million copies before June 2000, when Oprah Winfrey chose it as the thirty-fifth selection for her on-air book club. The Poisonwood Bible also impressed the literary world, however; with its publication, Barbara Kingsolver established herself as one of the most important writers of her era. Soon several book-length studies of Kingsolver were published, among them Mary Jean DeMarr's Barbara Kingsolver: A Critical Companion, Mary Ellen Snodgrass's Barbara Kingsolver: A Literary Companion, and Linda Wagner-Martin's biography Barbara Kingsolver. Essays on The Poisonwood Bible also began to appear frequently in scholarly journals. They included comparisons of The Poisonwood Bible to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1902) and to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868) as well as one study of the similarities between Kingsolver and the New Zealand author Keri Hulme in their treatment of disability. The Poisonwood Bible has been viewed as a political allegory, as a feminist protest, and even as a systematic refutation of the Platonic concept of absolute truth. The very fact that The Poisonwood Bible can be approached in so many different ways is further proof of its superior quality.
In 1999, Barbara Kingsolver made a unique contribution to her chosen field by establishing the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, which is awarded biannually for an unpublished novel by a relatively unknown writer with a commitment to social change. Her own efforts in that area, as well as the high quality of her writing, were recognized when it was announced that Kingsolver would receive the National Humanities Medal in 2000, sharing that honor with such world-famous writers as Ernest Gaines and Toni Morrison.
Kingsolver's next novel, Prodigal Summer (2000) was much lighter in tone than The Poisonwood Bible. However, as Paul Gray commented in his review in Time, though its subject is not institutionalized evil but "the rhythms of nature and man's misguided attempts to interfere with them," Prodigal Summer is at least as didactic as any of the author's previous works. "It can be no accident," Gray continued, "that three of the four main characters in the novel have worked as teachers in the past and aren't at all shy about giving lectures" (90). However, as Suzanne W. Jones explains in her examination of the novel, the enlightened characters do not merely voice their beliefs; they also live them. Thus Lusa Landowski, the city girl whose husband's death left her with a farm to run, shows the community how to save the small family farm while she herself learns how important it is to "understand both the human and nonhuman ecology" of the place where one lives (90). Jones expresses admiration for the way in which Kingsolver carries her emphasis on interconnections into seemingly casual details and even into the "braided narratives" (94) that constitute the structure of the novel, which justify a second and even a third reading.
Some reviewers of Prodigal Summer were disturbed by Kingsolver's vision of "a utopia of sex and fecundity ruled over by glorious nature and wise females" (Bush 1245). Even though the coyote hunter Eddie Bondo wins the heart of Deanna Wolfe and then departs, leaving her to rear their child, thus fulfilling the pattern of male behavior one would expect in a Kingsolver novel, it has been pointed out that there is a sympathetic male character in Prodigal Summer, the elderly widower Garnett Walker. Though he refuses to stop using herbicides, at least Walker has a noble purpose: to bring back the American chestnut tree. His presence suggests that Kingsolver's "range is certainly expanding" and underscores her theme, "how important dependency is for human survival" (Gibson 17).
Barbara Kingsolver's second essay collection, Small Wonder (2002), was not as well received as Prodigal Summer. The five essays that Kingsolver wrote as responses to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent military action taken by the United States were labeled unpatriotic by some reviewers and naive by others. According to one reviewer, even when Kingsolver is dealing with other subjects, her pronouncements in Small Wonder contain "errors of fact" and "mistakes and lapses in logic" (Mesic 70-71). The reviewer for The Economist concluded that nonfiction is not the best genre for Kingsolver and expressed the hope that her "crusading optimism" will "launch more consistently affecting fiction in future" ("Little" 363). However, Kingsolver's next work, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (2007) was not another novel; instead, it was an account of a year during which Kingsolver's family lived on local food, most of it from their own Appalachian farm. One reviewer commented that by indulging her "glorious wit," in this book Kingsolver finally manages to avoid being "preachy" (Hughes 8). Animal, Vegetable, Miracle received an enthusiastic reception from critics and readers alike. On February 15, 2008, Booklist included it as one of the "Top Ten Books on the Environment."
Although readers and reviewers may disagree with Barbara Kingsolver's views, none of them denies her command of the language, her gift for creating characters, and her skill in developing plots. Even though her works are sometimes marred by didacticism or self-righteousness, her many readers seem to recognize that these flaws are merely evidence of the passion for human rights, social justice, and ecological responsibility that motivates her to write. As Snodgrass puts it, Kingsolver is a "master writer blessed with moral vision and an innate certainty of place and character. . . . As a result of her courageous stands, her works enlarge reader compassion for the earth as well as for the poor and beleaguered" (3).
Banks, Russell. "Distant as a Cherokee Childhood." Rev. of Homeland, and Other Stories, by Barbara Kingsolver. The New York Times Book Review 11 June 1989: 16.
Barker, Elspeth. "With Buster the Hermit Crab." Rev. of High Tide in Tucson, by Barbara Kingsolver. The Independent on Sunday [London] 23 June 1996: 36.
Brandmark, Wendy. "Kinship with the Earth." Rev. of Homeland, and Other Stories, by Barbara Kingsolver. Times Literary Supplement 24 Jan. 1997: 22.
Bromberg, Judith. Rev. of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. National Catholic Reporter 19 Mar. 1999: 13.
Bush, Trudy. Rev. of Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. Christian Century 22 Nov. 2000: 1245.
Butler, Jack. "She Hung the Moon and Plugged in All the Stars." Rev. of The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver. The New York Times Book Review 10 Apr. 1988: 15.
Cooke, Carolyn. Rev. of Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver. The Nation 26 Nov. 1990: 653-54.
Daurio, Beverly. "A Rare, Bracing Tonic for a Cynical Age." Rev. of Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver. Globe and Mail [Toronto] 10 July 1993: C16.
DeMarr, Mary Jean. Barbara Kingsolver: A Critical Companion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.
Gibson, Sharan. "Family Values on the Farm; People Need People as Barbara Kingsolver Returns to Her Roots." Rev. of Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. Houston Chronicle 3 Dec. 2000: 17.
Gray, Paul. "On Familiar Ground: Barbara Kingsolver Returns with Another Novel of Strong Women, Noble Issues and Love of the Land." Rev. of Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. Time 30 Oct. 2000: 90.
____________. Rev. of Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver. Time 24 Sept. 1990: 87.
Green, Gayle. Rev. of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Women's Review of Books 16.7 (1999): 8-9.
Hughes, Kathryn. "Kathryn Hughes Finds a Chronicle of Living Off the Land Is Saved from Being Preachy by Glorious Wit." Rev. of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. The Guardian [London] 7 July 2007: 8.
Jones, Suzanne W. "The Southern Family Farm as Endangered Species: Possibilities for Survival in Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer." Southern Literary Journal 39.1 (2006): 83-97.
Karbo, Karen. "And Baby Makes Two." Rev. of Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver. The New York Times Book Review 27 June 1993: 9.
Kingsolver, Barbara. "Barbara Kingsolver: Her Fiction Features Ordinary People Heroically Committed to Political Issues." Interview by Lisa See Kendall. Publishers Weekly 31 Aug. 1990: 46-47.
_______. Interview by Robin Epstein. The Progressive 60.2 (1996): 33-38.
Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. "Community vs. Family and Writer vs. Subject." The New York Times 12 July 1993: C16.
"Little Big Voice: New Essays." Rev. of Small Wonder, by Barbara Kingsolver. The Economist 11 May 2002: 363.
Mesic, Penelope. "Earth Mother." Rev. of Small Wonder, by Barbara Kingsolver. Book May-June 2002: 70-71.
Mossman, Robert. Rev. of The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver. English Journal 79.6 (1990): 85.
Neely, Alan. Rev. of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. International Bulletin of Missionary Research 24.3 (2000): 138.
Neuhaus, Denise. "On Dependable Ground." Rev. of Homeland, and Other Stories, by Barbara Kingsolver. Times Literary Supplement 7 Sept. 1990: 956.
Norman, Liane Ellison. Rev. of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Sojourners 28.2 (1999): 59.
Rev. of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Publishers Weekly 10 Aug. 1998: 366.
Ryan, Maureen. "Barbara Kingsolver's Lowfat Fiction." Journal of American Culture 18.4 (1995): 77-82.
Shapiro, Laura. "A Novel Full of Miracles." Rev. of Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver. Newsweek 12 July 1993: 61.
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Barbara Kingsolver: A Literary Companion. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004.
Stafford, Tim. Rev. of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Christianity Today 11 Jan. 1999: 88.
Steinberg, Marc W. Rev. of Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983, by Barbara Kingsolver. Contemporary Sociology 20.2 (1991): 236-38.
Tischler, Barbara L. Rev. of Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983, by Barbara Kingsolver. Labor Studies Journal 17 (1992): 82-83.
Towler, Katie, Maggie Reichers, and Chrissa Gerard. "Making a Difference: The 2000 National Humanities Medalists." Humanities 22.1 (2001): 20-31.
Wagner-Martin, Linda. Barbara Kingsolver. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.
Warren, Colleen Kelly. "Family Tragedy Plays Out in Congo." Rev. of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 18 Oct. 1998: C5.
Young, Elizabeth. Rev. of Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver. The Guardian [London] 23 Nov. 1993: 9.
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