Lionel Shriver

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Lionel Shriver
Born Margaret Ann Shriver
(1957-05-18) 18 May 1957 (age 66)
Gastonia, North Carolina, USA
Occupation Journalist, novelist
Nationality American
Period Late 20th century, early 21st

Lionel Shriver (born May 18, 1957) is an American journalist and author. She is best known for her novel We Need to Talk About Kevin which won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2005.

Early life and education

Shriver was born Margaret Ann Shriver on May 18, 1957 in Gastonia, North Carolina, to a deeply religious family (her father is a Presbyterian minister). At age 15, she informally changed her name from Margaret Ann to Lionel because she did not like the name she had been given, and as a tomboy felt that a conventionally male name fitted her better.[1]

Shriver was educated at Barnard College, Columbia University (BA, MFA). She has lived in Nairobi, Bangkok and Belfast, and currently lives in London.

Personal life

She is married to jazz drummer Jeff Williams. She also taught metalsmithing at Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp in New Milford, Connecticut.



Shriver wrote seven novels and published six (one novel could not find a publisher) before writing We Need to Talk About Kevin, which she called her "make or break" novel due to the years of "professional disappointment" and "virtual obscurity" preceding it. In an interview in Bomb magazine, Shriver listed her novels' subject matter up to the publication of We Need to Talk About Kevin as "anthropology and first love, rock-and-roll drumming and immigration, the Northern Irish Troubles, demography and epidemiology, inheritance, tennis and spousal competition, [and] terrorism and cults of personality...." Rather than writing traditionally sympathetic characters, Shriver prefers to create characters who are "hard to love."[2]

We Need to Talk About Kevin was awarded the 2005 Orange Prize.[3] The novel is a thriller and close study of maternal ambivalence, and the role it might have played in the title character's decision to murder nine people at his high school. It provoked much controversy and achieved success through word of mouth.[4] She said this about We Need To Talk About Kevin becoming a success:

“I’m often asked did something happen around the time I wrote Kevin. Did I have some revelation or transforming event? The truth is that Kevin is of a piece with my other work. There’s nothing special about Kevin. The other books are good too. It just tripped over an issue that was just ripe for exploration and by some miracle found its audience.”[5]

In 2009, she donated the short story "Long Time, No See" to Oxfam's 'Ox-Tales' project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Her story was published in the 'Fire' collection.[6]

Shriver's book So Much for That, was released March 2, 2010.[7] In this novel, Shriver presents a biting criticism of the US health care system. It was subsequently named a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction.[8] Her work The New Republic was published in 2012.

Her most recent novel, Big Brother: A Novel, which was inspired by the morbid obesity of one of her brothers, was published in 2013.


Her experience as a journalist is wide, having written for The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Economist, contributed to the Radio Ulster program Talkback [9] and many other publications.[10] In July 2005, Shriver began writing a column[11] for The Guardian, in which she has shared her opinions on maternal disposition within Western society, the pettiness of British government authorities, and the importance of libraries (she plans to will whatever assets remain at her death to the Belfast Library Board, out of whose libraries she checked many books when she lived in Northern Ireland).

In online articles,[12][13] she discusses in detail her love of books and plans to leave a legacy to the Belfast Education and Library Board.


She expressed criticism of the American health system in an interview in May 2010 while at the Sydney Writers' Festival in Australia, in which she said she was "exasperated with the way that medical matters were run in my country" and considers that she is taking "my life in my hands. Most of all I take my bank account in my hands because if I take a wrong turn on my bike and get run over by a taxi, I could lose everything I have."[14][15] She is a patron of UK population growth rate concern group Population Matters.[16] She was interviewed on Newsnight on BBC Two (on British television) the night of December 17, 2012, questioned about the issue of whether the United States should change laws surrounding guns after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.[17]



  2. Shute, Jenefer. "Lionel Shriver". Bomb magazine. Fall 2005. 26 July 2011.
  3. Orange Prize citation
  4. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  5. Irish Times
  6. Oxfam: Ox-Tales
  7. Book Review of So Much for That The Times March 2010
  8. National Book Awards finalists 2010
  9. (PDF link).
  11. The Guardian column
  12. Belfast Telegraph
  13. Irish Times
  14. How a death can mould a health reform crusader, Eleanor Hall, ABC Online, 24 May 2010, accessed 1 June 2010
  15. US author scathing on Obama health reform, story/interview transcript and audio, Eleanor Hall, ABC Online The World Today, 24 May 2010, accessed 1 June 2010
  16. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  17. BBC News, (Newsnight) "Lionel Shriver: US citizens feel need to 'counterbalance state'", December 17, 2012

Further reading

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External links