Sue Monk Kidd is a writer whose work explores themes of faith and family in southern life. She is best known for her 2002 novel The Secret Life of Bees, which has sold over 8 million copies and been translated into thirty-six languages.
Kidd was born in Albany, on August 12, 1948, to Leah and Ridley Monk, and raised in nearby Sylvester, in Worth County. Though encouraged to write at an early age by her parents and teachers, she initially pursued a career in nursing after graduating from Texas Christian University in 1970. Upon returning to Georgia, Kidd worked as a nursing instructor at the Medical College of Georgia (later Georgia Health Sciences University), before committing herself to her literary pursuits. She studied creative writing at Emory University and Anderson College (later Anderson University) in Anderson, South Carolina, and published her first book, God’s Joyful Surprise, in 1987. Other works of nonfiction would follow, but it was Kidd’s first novel, The Secret Life of Bees (2002), that earned her wide acclaim.
According to Kidd, the book was “deeply influenced” by her hometown of Sylvester, although it takes place in South Carolina. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, The Secret Life of Bees is a coming-of-age story that follows fourteen-year-old Lily and her mother figure, Rosaleen, as they flee the past and are taken in by a trio of Black beekeepers, the Boatwright sisters. An instant success, The Secret Life of Bees remained for more than two years on the New York Times best-seller list and was later adapted for both stage and screen.
Since 2002, Kidd has continued to publish both fiction and nonfiction works, including The Mermaid Chair (2005) and The Invention of Wings (2014), a fictional account of the lives of the Grimké sisters, nineteenth-century American abolitionists, and Hetty, the young enslaved girl whom they owned. While it failed to achieve the commercial success enjoyed by The Secret Life of Bees, the book was a New York Times best-seller and received support and acclaim from talk-show host Oprah Winfrey among others.
Kidd and her husband Sanford have two adult children, Ann and Bob. Her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, is also a writer, and the two coauthored the memoir Traveling With Pomegranates (2009).