Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver, author and recipient of the National Humanities Medal, will deliver the 2008 commencement address Sunday. "Barbara Kingsolver is a writer whose works have been read and honored around the globe," President Richard Brodhead said in a statement announcing Kingsolver's selection in November. "She's also an extraordinary speaker. When she spoke at Duke in the spring of 2006, she captured a large audience with her warmth, humor and incisiveness." She is the mother of junior Camille Kingsolver and third consecutive commencement speaker with direct ties to Duke. Brodhead said Kingsolver's connection to the University would enhance her address to graduating students. "As a Duke parent, she will understand the special meaning of Duke's commencement ceremony, and I am delighted she will join us," Brodhead said. Bestselling author of "The Poisonwood Bible" published in 1998 and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Kingsolver also established the Bellwether Prize for Fiction in 1997 to reward writers of socially responsible literature. "Kingsolver is not only a premier American writer, but her personal and educational background demonstrates the influence of having an interdisciplinary background," Paula McClain, chair of the Academic Council and a professor of political science, wrote in an e-mail last November. "Her work is inspiring and thoughtful and brings together many facets of her own life into the pages of her fiction." Kingsolver is the author of twelve books, having penned "The Bean Trees" in 1987 and more recently 2007's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life," which she wrote with her husband Steven Hopp and daughter Camille. "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" chronicles her family's one-year commitment to being "lovacores"-eating only food grown by themselves and local farmers in southwestern Virginia. "It has a lot of advice for Duke students heading out in the world and taking the next few steps," said Lauren Genvert, a senior who served on the commencement committee. "I'm sure she'll impart a lot of wisdom to the Class of 2008." Kingsolver will be one of five-also including author Wendell Berry, public health leader Helene Gayle, broadcast executive James Goodmon and judge Patricia Wald-to be awarded an honorary degree at the ceremony. "Honorary degrees serve the dual purpose of recognizing extraordinary individuals and inspiring graduating students," Brodhead said in a statement April 3. "Students about to embark on their own careers, full of hope and promise, see at commencement these wonderful examples of how they might put their own learning to use in the future." Matt Johnson and Zak Kazzaz contributed to this story.


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