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Karen Joy Fowler

Award-winning and bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

  • About Karen Joy Fowler

    Karen Joy Fowler is the author of three story collections and six novels, including We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award as well as the California Book Award for Fiction for 2013, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize the first year the prize was open to Americans.  She is also the author of The Jane Austen Book Club, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for nineteen weeks and was made into a major motion picture. In addition, her novel Sister Noon was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Consistently acclaimed by critics, most of her titles have been New York Times Notable Books and named to many best-of-year lists.

    Fowler’s lectures are filled with same imagination, sharp wit, and honesty that fill the pages of her book. A master of multiple genres, including science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction and short stories, Fowler’s lectures have wide-appeal for book lovers of all types.

    Fowler is also the co-founder of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award and the current president of the Clarion Foundation (also known as Clarion San Diego).

    Born and raised in an academic family in Bloomington, Indiana, she holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in South Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.  She lived for many years in Davis, California, and now lives in Santa Cruz.

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  • Praise for Karen Joy Fowler


    Karen’s visit at Luther College was simply wonderful. Students and faculty alike responded very well to her convocation talk, which opened the semester beautifully. She had an important message for students, one that reinforced the themes of our first-year course. Her talk was also clever and memorable for the faculty, staff and community audience. We appreciated her generous interactions with advanced student writers and with first year students—even with a long, long line of students waiting to have their book signed! It was a great event!

    Luther College

    Praise for Booth

    Razor-sharp…Fowler sets the stage in remarkable prose….The nuanced plot is both historically rigorous and richly imagined. This is a winner.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    It’s been nine years since we had a new Karen Joy Fowler novel. . . . It’s definitely one we deserve.

    Entertainment Weekly

    Fowler presents an omniscient, bird’s-eye view of these lives, along with a nod to what could be apocryphal. The result is an engrossing portrayal of a nineteenth-century family living through the U.S.’ most turbulent era.


    Booth is a triumph! No one writes like Karen Joy Fowler, and in this gripping family saga, she has taken a piece of American history we thought we knew and told it slant. With wit, heart, and revelatory insight,  she teases ghosts from their shadows, transforming the way we see the past, shedding new light on our troubled present.”

    Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

    Like Tolstoy before her, and Natalia Ginzburg, Karen Joy Fowler understands that the only way to write about history is as clattery, complex dramas of ordinary people and their families—they become the stuff of history later. Booth is a subtly devastating meditation. . . . Its world—dense, granular, intricate—is created with immense care and precision, and rendered in prose of limpid, lyrical beauty. This is her finest, most beautiful novel to date.

    Neel Mukherjee, author of A State of Freedom

    What an extraordinary story. What a family. Gripping, clever, and the central issue is alive and kicking today.

    Sir Tom Courtenay

    Praise for Black Glass

    A splendid book, displaying a dazzling range of style, tone, and odd, true insights. Fowler is one of a kind.

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    Praise for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

    Fowler’s interests here are in what sets humans apart from their fellow primates. Cognitive, language and memory skills all come into playful question. But the heart of the novel—and it has a big, warm, loudly beating heart throughout—is in its gradually pieced-together tale of family togetherness, disruption and reconciliation. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is Fowler at her best, mixing cerebral and emotional appeal together in an utterly captivating manner.

    The Seattle Times

    Elegantly and humorously orchestrated…Knitting together Rosemary’s at times poignant, at times hilarious scraps of uncovered memories, Fowler creates a fantastical tale of raw, animalistic love.

    O, The Oprah Magazine

    [The novel] lies somewhere between psychological thriller, scientific theory and coming-of-age story, a seemingly untenable combination. But Fowler, through wit and mastery of her craft, handles the complexity effortlessly.

    USA Today

    This brave, bold, shattering novel reminds us what it means to be human, in the best and worst sense.

    The Miami Herald

    Rosemary’s voice—vulnerable, angry, shockingly honest—is so compelling and the cast of characters, including Fern, irresistible. A fantastic novel: technically and intellectually complex, while emotionally gripping.

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    Piquant humor, refulgent language, a canny plot rooted in real-life experiences, an irresistible narrator, threshing insights, and tender emotions—Fowler has outdone herself in this deeply inquisitive, cage-rattling novel.

    Booklist (starred review)

    A strong, unsettling novel…Fowler explores the depths of human emotions and delivers a tragic love story that captures our hearts.

    Library Journal (starred review)

    Rosemary’s experience [is] a fascinating basis for insight into memory, the mind, and human development.

    Publishers Weekly

    In this curious, wonderfully intelligent novel, Karen Joy Fowler brings to life a most unusual family. Wonderful Fern, wonderful Rosemary! Through them we feel what it means to be a human animal.

    Andrea Barrett, author of Servants of the Map and Ship Fever

    Karen Joy Fowler has written the book she’s always had in her to write. With all the quiet strangeness of her amazing Sarah Canary, and all the breezy wit and skill of her beloved Jane Austen Book Club, and a new, urgent gravity, she has told the story of an American family. An unusual family—but aren’t all families unusual?  A very American, an only-in-America family—and yet an everywhere family, whose children, parents, siblings, love one another very much, and damage one another badly.  Does the love survive the damage?  Will human beings survive the damage they do to the world they love so much?  This is a strong, deep, sweet novel.

    Ursula K. Le Guin, author of LaviniaThe Unreal and the Real, and the Earthsea Cycle

    We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a dark cautionary tale hanging out, incognito-style, in what at first seems a traditional family narrative. It is anything but. This novel is deliciously jaunty in tone and disturbing in material. Karen Joy Fowler tells the story of how one animal—the animal of man—can simultaneously destroy and expand our notion of what is possible.

    Alice Sebold, New York Times-bestselling author of The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon

    You know how people say something is incredible or unbelievable when they mean it’s excellent? Well, Karen Joy Fowler’s new book is excellent: utterly believable and completely credible – a funny, moving, entertaining novel that is also an important and unblinking review of a shameful chapter in the history of science.

    Dr. Mary Doria Russell, biological anthropologist and author of The Sparrow and Doc

    It’s been years since I’ve felt so passionate about a book. When I finished at 3 a.m., I wept, then I woke up the next morning, reread the ending, and cried all over again.

    Ruth Ozeki, author of My Year of Meats and A Tale for the Time Being

    This unforgettable novel is a dark and beautiful journey into the heart of a family, an exploration of the meanings of memory, a study of what it means to be ‘human.’ In the end the book doesn’t just break your heart; it takes your heart and won’t give it back.

    Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake

    A funny, stingingly smart, and heartbreaking book. Among other things, it’s about love, family, loss, and secrets; the acquisition and the loss of language. It’s also about two sisters, Rosemary and Fern, who are unlike any other sisters you’ve ever met before.

    Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Pretty Monsters

    Praise for The Science of Herself

    An astonishing narrative voice, at once lyric and ironic, satiric and nostalgic . . . Fowler can tell stories that engage and enchant

    San Francisco Chronicle

    Praise for Sarah Canary

    Unforgettable... Incandescent…Bewitching.

    Los Angeles Times Book Review

    Praise for Sister Noon

    A playful, mysterious, highly imaginative narrative set in the San Francisco of the 1890's...Robust, sly, witty, elegant, unexpected and never, ever, boring.

    Margot Livesey, The New York Times Book Review

    Praise for Wit’s End

    Fowler's understated wit and storytelling skills are in full flower

    The Boston Globe
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