Literally Speaking: Arizona’s Writers

When I was living in Washington, D.C., I remember pondering the personalities of the places I lived. Living in the district made me feel immersed in issues of justice and efficiency, among other things. When reflecting on Arizona, I thought of its distinct Southwest culture. This culture, as far as I have seen, is expressed through dance, music, and tangible artwork. However, I didn’t believe Arizona is well-known for its literature.

My curiosity coming out of Arizona got the best of me, and here are a few authors and literary figures with Arizona-desert origins.

Diana Gabaldon
A resident of Scottsdale, Ariz., Diana Gabaldon is the author of the “Outlander” series. She grew up in Flagstaff and has a Ph.D. in ecology. Outlander is a popular series that revolves around romance and time travel.

Barbara Kingsolver
While Barbara Kingsolver currently resides in Virginia, she spent some time in Tucson, studying at the University of Arizona. She began her fiction writing career in the Phoenix Metro area after winning a short story contest. Her best-known novel is “The Poisonwood Bible.”

David Foster Wallace
Another graduate of the University of Arizona, David Foster Wallace is known for “Infinite Jest,” which was ranked by Time Magazine as one of the best English-language novels in the late 1990s. He taught as a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. until his death in 2008.

Zane Grey
This author owned property in the Mogollon Rim in Arizona and wrote about the frontier with great appreciation. Grey’s best-seller, “Riders of the Purple Sage,” was published in 1912. Eventually, Grey began to spend more time away from his home in Arizona after seeing a major boom in tourism.

Jayne Cortez
Jayne Cortez lived in Fort Huachuca, Ariz. and helped to shape the African-American movement in arts and literature. She published various poetry books and was a popular spoken word performer as well as a lyricist. She was known for her strong political stances and dynamism.

Stephanie Meyer
Possibly the most popular author out of Arizona, Stephenie Meyer is the author of the “Twilight Saga.” She currently resides in the Cave Creek area and based many scenes from the “Twilight” books on her experience living in Arizona and Washington state.

Do you know of any other major Arizona literary figures? Let me know at arabusa@asu.edu or on Twitter @marie_eo!