Born on March 8th, 1960, Jeffrey Kent Eugenides grew up in Grosse Pointe, a

Jeffrey Eugenides
Creative Commons AttributionJeffrey Eugenides - Credit: Karen Yamuachi

middle-class suburban area on the borders of Detroit, Michigan. He was the third and youngest son of an Anglo-Irish mother from Kentucky, and a mortgage banker father who came from a Greek immigrant family. He lived on a street called Middlesex Boulevard, which became the home of the protagonist in his second novel Middlesex.

Eugenides was educated at University Liggett private school, where he developed a love of classical literature, before studying writing at Brown University. Eugenides was attracted to Brown because he admired John Hawkes, who taught there for thirty years. Eugenides claimed Hawkes's books offered a world  "away from the world I knew in Grosse Pointe, and I wanted to find out what that world was." (The New York Times: 1 January, 2003)

He took a year off after his penultimate year of University to travel. He volunteered at Mother Teresea’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta, having believed he had a calling to become a Trappist monk, but decided that he "lacked charity" (The Telegraph: 5 January, 2008) and instead returned to graduate from Brown in 1983. Eugenides later received an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University. In 1986 his story “Here Comes Winstow, Full of the Holy Spirit” won Eugenides the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship.

 

Eugenides began writing The Virgin Suicides while an executive secretary at the Academy of American Poets, but was fired for writing at work. The story of the suicides of the five Lisbon sisters was inspired by a conversation with his nephew’s babysitter, who claimed that she and her sisters had considered killing themselves. Eugenides had sent about a dozen stories to The Paris Review, but it was the short story version of The Virgin Suicides that caught the attention of editor James Scott Linville, who felt it had a "very unusual choral voice and was quietly insinuating" (The Daily Beast: 22 July, 2009).  The story appeared in the Winter 1990 issue (and won the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction), and the novel was eventually published in 1993. The Virgin Suicides has been translated into 34 languages, is reputed to be one of the most shoplifted books and in 1999 was adapted for the screen in Sofia Coppola’s critically acclaimed motion picture.

 

Middlesex, published in 2002, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award and was selected by Waterstone's as part of their top 100 books of the past 25 years. The novel's narrator Cal charts his family's journey from Asia Minor to the United States and the book later deals with his struggle to accept his intersex identity. Like The Virgin Suicides before it, Middlesex explores the Detroit Eugenides knew growing up and also delves into Eugenides’ Greek heritage. Although both his novels are influenced by his own life, Eugenides calls autobiography "artless" and explains: "I have to transform autobiography into fiction, which means that I use my imagination at least as much, if not more, than my memory." (Work in Progress: 14 July, 2010)

 

Eugenides has published numerous short stories and is the editor of My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead, a collection of short fiction. Eugenides lived in Berlin, Germany, from 1999 to 2004, and during this time was a Fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service and of the American Academy in Berlin. In late 2007, Eugenides became Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton, where he now lives with his wife, Japanese-American photographer and sculptor Karen Yamauchi, and their daughter.  Eugenides is currently writing an as yet untitled novel he has described as a "college love story" that deals with "religion, depression, the Victorian novel and Roland Barthes" (Work in Progress: 14 July, 2010)  set in 1982 as the three main characters embark on life following graduation.

 

Short Fiction and Anecdotes by Jeffrey Eugenides Available on the Web

 

"Extreme Solitude" (The New Yorker: 7 June, 2010)

"Great Experiment" (The New Yorker: 31 March, 2008)

Summer Movies: "Walkabout" (The New Yorker: 11 June, 2007)

Summer Movies: "At the Drive-in" (The New Yorker: 11 June, 2007)

"The Burning of Smyrna" (The New Yorker: 5 January, 1998 - Subscription required for full text)

"A Genetic History of My Grandparents" (The New Yorker: 22 December, 1997 - Subscription required for full text)

"Brotherhood of Man Dept." (The New Yorker: 22 September, 1997 - Subscription required for full text)

"Timeshare"  (Conjunctions: 28, Spring 1997)

"Baster" (The New Yorker: 17 June, 1996 - Subscription required for full text)

"Hand Me My Air Guitar, I'm Still a Jethro Tull Freak" (The New York Times: 4 June, 1995)

 

Arts: A Conversation With Jeffrey Eugenides - NYTimes.com

Jeffrey Eugenides At Le Conversazioni Literary Festival, Italy

Video - Jeffrey Eugenides & Daniel Kehlmann In Conversation - New York Public Library

Video - Q&A With Jeffrey Eugenides - Oprah.com