Jodi Picoult: Biography & Books

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Jodi Picoult is one of the most lauded current American authors. She has written nearly two dozen novels, several of which have been made into movies. This lesson covers the biography and books of Jodi Picoult.

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult has been called 'terrific' by Stephen King and a 'master at the craft of storytelling' by the AP Book Review. It's not surprising, then, that she has so many bestselling novels. Picoult writes the types of books that tug at your heart, but leave you with a smile and - oftentimes - tears running down your cheeks. This lesson will examine the life and work of Jodi Picoult.

Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult


Jodi Picoult was born on May 19, 1966, in Long Island, New York, where she lived for 13 years in a development called 'The Storybook.' She thinks it might have been a self-fulfilling prophecy that she ended up a writer. She wrote her first story, 'The Lobster Which Misunderstood,' when she was five years old. When Picoult was 13, her family moved to New Hampshire, where she still lives today, and where many of her stories are set. Also at age 13, she read Gone with the Wind and memorized entire passages. That was when she decided that she wanted to be a writer, so she could, in her words, 'create worlds out of words.'

After graduating high school, Picoult studied creative writing at Princeton University, and she had two stories published in Seventeen magazine while still a student. She graduated in 1987 and had several jobs, including technical writing, copy writing, editing textbooks, and teaching eighth-grade English, before deciding to pursue a master's degree in education at Harvard University.

Upon graduating from Harvard, Picoult wrote five issues of Wonder Woman for DC Comics. She married Timothy Warren van Leer and wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale, while pregnant with their first child. She and her husband have three children: Samantha, Kyle, and Jake.

Picoult is involved with many charitable organizations, including the Writer's Council for the National Writing Project, Positive Tracks/Children's Hospital at Dartmouth and the New Hampshire Coalition Against the Death Penalty. She is the founder of the Trumbull Hall Troupe, a teen theater group.

Picoult's Books

One of Picoult's strengths is in research for her books. She lived with an Amish family while researching Plain Truth, had an expert instruct her in shooting and handguns for Nineteen Minutes, and even went ghost hunting for Second Chance. Of her 23 novels, the last eight have debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Following are descriptions of a few of her most popular novels:

Keeping Faith (1999) is the story of Mariah White and her 7-year-old daughter, Faith. After a traumatic discovery about her husband, Mariah has a nervous breakdown, leaving her daughter in the care of her mother, Millie. But Faith is acting strangely; she's reciting scripture, talking to an imaginary friend she calls God, and healing the sick. Soon, people begin flocking to see Faith, either to proclaim her a miracle or call her a liar. Mariah's ex-husband sues for custody of Faith, and the girl develops stigmata, leaving her very life hanging in the balance. Mariah must discover what's happening with her daughter before she loses her forever.

My Sister's Keeper (2004) is the story of Anna and her older sister, Kate. Anna is a healthy teenager, but she lives with the knowledge that her very existence is tied to her sister's leukemia. Anna was conceived and genetically selected to be a perfect match for Kate, and by the time Anna's in her teens, she has undergone countless surgeries and transfusions so she can help prolong Kate's life. But when her parents demand she give a kidney to Kate, Anna refuses and tries to have herself emancipated. My Sister's Keeper is a story of just how far one sibling should have to go to help another.

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