From an early age you have understood the power of the written word, and the power of fiction to teach us about ourselves and our relations with others. Shortly after graduating from Carleton College in 1979, with a major in English, you began writing short stories, and within three years one piece was accepted by Harper's Magazine.
There followed in rapid succession a series of award-winning novels: The Book of Ruth, which earned the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for best first novel in 1989 and was selected for Oprah's Book Club in 1996; The Short History of a Prince,which won the Chicago Tribune's Heartland Prize for Fiction and the Publisher's Weekly "Best Book of the Year" in 1999; A Map of the World, which was named a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year" and one of the top ten books of the year by Publishers Weekly, and was also an Oprah's Book Club selection, also in 1999; and Disobedience, published in 2001, which was recommended as a School Library Journal Adult Book for Young Adults. In 1993, in recognition of your achievements and your promise, you received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.
Critics have said you “offer fresh perspectives on the puzzles of time, memory and consciousness, and keenly gauge the many shades of guilt and audacity, grief and sacrifice, tenacity and goodness.” They write that your stories are “about how people, by bonding together, can transcend tragedy and loss with love, tolerance and humor,” and that you are “a novelist of surpassing gifts, wit and wisdom about the human condition as it persists through challenging times.”
You have honored the reading public by challenging us with your wit and wisdom, and St. Lawrence through your participation in our Writers Series, reading from your works and meeting with students and faculty on campus. Today St. Lawrence in turn honors you with the degree Doctor of Literature, honoris causa.