William Styron was born in June 1925, in Newport News, Virginia. From 1947 until his death in 2006, Styron worked as an author and essayist. He is best known for his works Lie Down in Darkness, The Confessions of Nat Turner, and Sophie's Choice.
Styron was raised in a household with a great understanding of racial relations and the impact of history on the modern world. He was the son of a mother from the North and a liberal Southern father, although his father's parents had been slaveowners. This, together with his Southern upbringing, would ultimately lead him to write The Confessions of Nat Turner. Styron's boyhood home was less than a hundred miles from where the slave revolt took place, and he used his unique understanding of the South's historical background to create a moving and controversial story that would eventually bring him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1968.
Styron grew up with a great understanding of depression, and the effects that depression can have on individuals. His father suffered from depression, and his mother died of breast cancer following a ten year battle. At the time of her death, Styron was still a young child; these events laid the genetic and emotional groundwork for his own battles with depression. His experiences with the illness are documented in his memoir, Darkness Visible.
Styron began his education at the Christchurch Preparatory School in Virginia. He went on to Davidson College, where he first started to write. He remained in school until the last year of World War II, at which time he left to join the Marines; he was eventually awarded the rank of lieutenant. Following his tour of duty, he returned home to complete an English degree, and finally turned to writing full time.
During the course of his writing career, Styron was awared the Rome Prize, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1968, the National Book Award in 1980, and the National Medal of Arts in 1993. While these awards testify to Styron's writing abilities, it is the unflinching approach to controversial topics and themes in all his work that is most often remembered and celebrated by his readers.
William Styron died in November 2006, of complications resulting from pneumonia.