Sue Monk Kidd had written the first chapter of her bestselling book The Secret Life of Bees in the early 1990s. The chapter focused on a girl with a bedroom full of bees, inspired by her childhood home. Originally, Kidd was told by a teacher at a conference that the piece did not have the potential to be a novel and should be adapted as a short story. But when Monk attended the National Arts Club in New York City a few years later, a literary agent encouraged her to adapt the story into a novel. The Secret Life of Bees, published in 2001, is set in South Carolina during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, just after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A young girl, Lily, runs away from home with her Black housekeeper, Rosaleen, and finds refuge with three Black beekeeping sisters. The Secret Life of Bees spent more than two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list. Like many of Monk’s other works, Bees tackles themes of gender, race, religion, and mental health. Adapted in 2008, the film starred Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okenedo, and Dakota Fanning.
Award winning author Sue Monk Kidd was born in Albany, Georgia on August 12, 1948. She grew up in the small town of Sylvester, on the same plot of land where her great-great-grandparents had lived, by parents Leah and Ridley Monk. As a child she enjoyed listening to entertaining stories told by her father, who owned an independent insurance agency, and attending Baptist church three times a week with her three brothers. Her parents and teachers encouraged her to pursue writing from a young age, but Kidd pursued nursing instead. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 with a nursing degree, and then worked as a registered nurse and college nursing instructor at the Medical College of Georgia. During that time, she married Sandy Kidd, the couple moved to Anderson, South Carolina, and she gave birth to her son, Bob, and daughter, Ann.
While in South Carolina, Kidd began taking writing classes at Anderson College, now Anderson University, as well as at Emory University. She also read The Seven Storey Mountain, the autobiography of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, which Kidd says reconnected her to her desire to write. To fund her writing courses, Kidd began writing for the interfaith magazine Guideposts. Although she always wanted to write fiction, Kidd began her writing career by authoring several books about Christian spirituality, including When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions. At this time, she began questioning her Baptist faith and started attending an Episcopal church. Kidd explored feminist theology and wrote about her journey towards connecting with the divine feminine in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. Following the success of Bees, Kidd continued to write successful fiction including The Mermaid Chair in 2006 and The Invention of Wings in 2014. In 2009, Kidd coauthored the memoir Traveling with Pomegranates with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, who is also a writer.
Kidd’s most recent novel, The Book of Longings (2020) tells the fictional story of Ana, the wife of Jesus Christ. The title reached #5 on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction List and has been translated into at least 17 languages. Kidd now lives in North Carolina with her husband and dog, Barney.