Geraldine Brooks, award-winning journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the novel “March” and the best-selling “People of the Book,” is the winner of the 2009 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. Brooks is the author of two nonfiction works and three novels.
The Australian-born author and journalist grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney. After college, she worked as a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald for three years. In 1982 she won a scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for the Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans.
Brooks has won awards for her coverage of the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal, including reports on the Persian Gulf War. She channeled a unique part of that experience into her first nonfiction book, “Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women.” As a female correspondent, Brooks felt cut off from much of Muslim society when she first arrived in the Middle East. So she donned the hijab (black veil) and penetrated the cloistered world of Muslim women. Brooks uncovered a complex picture in her investigation of Muslim women’s lives that goes beyond the Western assumption of women’s oppression and isolation from public life.
In 1998, Brooks followed her first book with “Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over,” a highly evocative memoir of Australian girlhood in which Brooks tracked down her old pen pals – an Arab boy, an Israeli Jew, a French country girl, and a young anorexic from Maplewood, N.J. – to say some very lucid things about the tug of adventure and the grit of real life. In 2001, she turned her writing talent to novels with the publication of “Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague,” an international best-seller. Set in Great Britain in the 1660s, this historical novel is based on the true story of the plague-ridden English village of Eyam. Critics praised the novel as “sophisticated and utterly absorbing.”
She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her second novel “March,” which focuses on what happened to John March, the father character in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” the year he was away from his wife and four daughters. Brooks based March on Alcott’s own father, an educator, abolitionist and progressive thinker. Brooks’ most recent novel is “People of the Book,” a New York Times best-seller translated into 20 languages. Inspired by the true story of a mysterious rare illuminated Hebrew manuscript known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, “People of the Book” is a sweeping adventure through five centuries of history. From its creation in Muslim-ruled, medieval Spain, the illuminated manuscript makes a series of perilous journeys: through Inquisition-era Venice, fin-de-siecle Vienna and the Nazi sacking of Sarajevo. Actress Catherine Zeta Jones has acquired film rights for “People of the Book.”
Brooks and her husband, author Tony Horwitz, and two sons, Nathaniel and Bizuayehu, divide their time between homes in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Sydney, Australia.