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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Human because of our language

“Words are our life. We are human because we use language. So I think we are less human when we use less language.” – Carol Shields

Born on this date in 1935, Shields was American-born (Illinois) but became a well-known novelist and short story writer in her adopted country of Canada.   And, after becoming a renowned writer, her life came full circle when she won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel The Stone Diaries, along with  Canada’s equivalent, the Governor General's Award - the only novel to ever win both.

Shields first moved to Canada in the 1960s to do her master’s degree in English, and then she returned after marrying a Canadian citizen.  She started her writing career as an editorial assistant for the journal Canadian Slavonic Papers in the late 1970s and taught creative writing in British Columbia before moving over to the University of Manitoba, where she taught the rest of her life.  She died in 2003.

Side-by-side with her teaching she wrote short stories and a number of well-received novels before her major achievement with The Stone Diaries.  Shields also won the 1998 Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel Larry's Party, and her last novel Unless (in 2002) won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was nominated for The Booker Prize.      

“There are chapters in every life which are seldom read,” Shields wrote about what should and should not be shared by writers.  “And if they are, they should not be shared aloud.” 

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