Joyce Carol Oates (born June 16, 1938) is an American author. Oates published her first book in 1963 and has since published over fifty novels, as well as many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. Her novel them (1969) won the National Book Award, and her novels Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), and Blonde (2000) were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. As of 2008, Oates is the Roger S. Berlind '52 Professor in the Humanities with the Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University, where she has taught since 1978.
Oates was born in Lockport, New York to Carolina Oates, a homemaker, and Frederic Oates, a tool and die designer. She was raised Catholic but is now an atheist. Oates grew up in the working-class farming community of Millersport, New York, and characterized hers as "a happy, close-knit and unextraordinary family for our time, place and economic status". Her paternal grandmother, Blanche Woodside, lived with the family and was "very close" to Joyce. After Blanche's death, Joyce learned that Blanche's father had killed himself and Blanche had subsequently concealed her Jewish heritage; Oates eventually drew on aspects of her grandmother's life in writing the 2007 novel The Gravedigger's Daughter. A brother, Fred Junior, was born in 1943, and a sister, Lynn Ann, who is severely autistic, was born in 1956.
At the beginning of her education, Oates attended the same one-room school her mother attended as a child. She became interested in reading at an early age, and remembers Blanche's gift of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as "the great treasure of my childhood, and the most profound literary influence of my life. This was love at first sight!" In her early teens, she devoured the writing of William Faulkner, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, Charlotte Brontë, and Emily Brontë, whose "influences remain very deep". Oates began writing at the age of 14, when Blanche gave her a typewriter. Oates later transferred to several bigger, suburban schools, and graduated from Williamsville South High School in 1956, where she worked for her high school newspaper. She was the first in her family to complete high school.