American Writers, Supplement VI by Jay Parini

By Jay Parini

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From these experiences, she published Encounters with Chinese Writers in 1984, the same year in which her daughter, Cody Rose, was born to her and Clevidence. Her daughter's birth prompted the self-reflection that resulted in An American Childhood in 1987. Shortly after this time, she was divorced from Clevidence and married Robert D. , moving to Middletown, Connecticut. Sometime during this period, she converted to Roman Catholicism. In 1989 Dillard published The Writing Life, a characteristically elegant and witty set of reflections on the challenges of being a writer, with her only novel, The Living—a revision and expansion of a 1978 short story—appearing in 1992 and a collection of her work, The Annie Dillard Reader, appearing in 1994.

This questioning attitude is one that Dillard's parents, especially her mother, would foster: "Torpid conformity was a kind of sin; it was stupidity itself, the mighty stream against which Mother would never cease to struggle. " ANNIE DILLARD / 21 Dillard's reflections on her high school years suggest the mood of the period and reveal once again the elite company in which she grew up. " Although she was initially dazzled by the atmosphere of these social events, her descriptions of Pittsburgh society elsewhere in An American Childhood suggest her eventual rejection of this world, with its rigid rules and predictable lives.

Dillard's early experiences prompted her to cross all kinds of borders, both in her writing and in her life. As a girl, she was tomboyish, hanging out with boys to play baseball and to throw snowballs at cars passing through the neighborhood. Her difficult, rebellious high school years led her parents to send her to Hollins College in Virginia, where she flourished, being named to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year. According to Nancy C. Parrish, Hollins provided an environment that was at once competitive and collaborative, enabling Dillard's writing to flourish and initiating a community of women writers that would be important throughout her life.

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