Carol Shields

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Carol Shields
BornCarol Ann Warner
(1935-06-02)June 2, 1935
Oak Park, Illinois, US
DiedJuly 16, 2003(2003-07-16) (aged 68)
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
EducationHanover College (BA)
University of Ottawa (MA)
Donald Hugh Shields
(m. 1957)

Carol Ann Shields CC OM FRSC (née Warner; June 2, 1935 – July 16, 2003) was an American-born Canadian novelist and short story writer. She is best known for her 1993 novel The Stone Diaries, which won the U.S. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the Governor General's Award in Canada.

Early life and education[edit]

Shields was born Carol Ann Warner in Oak Park, Illinois.[1] She studied at Hanover College, in Indiana,[1] where she received a BA in English in 1957, and became a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. A United Nations scholarship encouraged Shields to spend a junior year abroad 1955–1956 at the University of Exeter in England. Shields did post-graduate work at the University of Ottawa, where she received an MA in 1975.

In 1955, while on British Council sponsored study week in Scotland, she met a Canadian engineering student, Donald Hugh Shields. The couple married in 1957 and moved to Canada, where they had a son and four daughters. Shields later became a Canadian citizen.[1]


In 1973, Shields became editorial assistant for the journal Canadian Slavonic Papers while living in Ottawa 1968–1978. Her first novel, Small Ceremonies, was published in 1976, followed by The Box Garden in 1977. That year she worked as a sessional lecturer in the English Department at the University of Ottawa.[2] She taught Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia while living in Vancouver from 1978 to 1980.

Shields' third novel, Happenstance, was published in 1980; that year, she and her husband settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, after he was hired to teach in the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Engineering. It was here that Shields wrote her better-known books.

From the fall of 1982 onward, Shields taught in the English Department at the University of Manitoba, first as an Assistant Professor (1982–1992), then as an Associate Professor (1992–1995). She published the novel Swann in 1987, and The Republic of Love in 1992. The Stone Diaries (1993) won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1993 Governor General's Award, the only book to have ever received both awards.[3] It won the U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award in 1994, and was nominated in 1993 for the Booker Prize. The Stone Diaries was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly. It was also chosen as a "Notable Book" by The New York Times Book Review, which wrote "The Stone Diaries reminds us again why literature matters."

Shields was made Full Professor of English in 1995, and, in 1996, she became chancellor of the University of Winnipeg.

Shields was the author of several short story collections, including Various Miracles (1985), The Orange Fish (1989), and Dressing Up for the Carnival (2000). She was the recipient of a Canada Council Major Award, two National Magazine Awards, the 1990 Marian Engel Award, the Canadian Authors Award, and a CBC short story award. She was appointed as an officer of the Order of Canada in 1998 and was elevated to companion of the Order in 2002. Shields was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Order of Manitoba.

Carol Shields won the 1998 Orange Prize for Fiction for her 1997 novel Larry's Party. Her last novel, Unless (2002), was nominated for the 2002 Giller Prize, the Governor General of Canada Literary Award, the Booker Prize and the 2003 Orange Prize for Fiction. It was awarded the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. On retirement in 2000, Shields became Professor Emerita at the University of Manitoba. That year, after Don's retirement, the couple moved to Victoria, British Columbia.

Shields also studied the works of Jane Austen. She wrote the biography entitled Jane Austen, which won the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction in April 2002, an award accepted by her daughter Meg on her behalf in Toronto, on April 22, 2002.

Her last novel, Unless, contains a passionate defense of female writers who write of 'domestic' subjects.

Carol Shields wrote plays including Departures and Arrivals which has been performed hundreds of times by both amateur and professional theaters. Other celebrated plays include Thirteen Hand (1993), Fashion, Power, Guilt, and the Charity of Families (co-authored with daughter Catherine Shields)(1995), and Unless (with daughter Sara Cassidy) (2005). Collections of poems by Shields were published in 1972 Others, 1974 Intersect, and 1992 Coming to Canada.

Two collections of essays written by women about what they were not told became best sellers in Canada. Dropped Threads (2001) and Dropped Threads 2 (2003) were edited by Shields and her friend and colleague Marjorie Anderson.

Death and legacy[edit]

Shields died in 2003 of breast cancer at age 68 in Victoria.[1][4]

Following her death, six of her short stories were adapted by Shaftesbury Films into the dramatic anthology series The Shields Stories. Her earlier short story collections were republished as Collected Stories of Carol Shields in 2005. Films based on Carol Shields's novels include Swann (1996) and The Republic of Love (2003). Her final novel, Unless, was adapted as a play in 2016 by Alan Gilsenan.[5]

Shields' eldest daughter, Anne Giardini, is also a writer. Giardini has contributed to the National Post as a columnist, and has published her first novel, The Sad Truth About Happiness. Anne's second novel, Advice for Italian Boys, was published in 2009.[6] Giardini and her son, Nicholas, edited a book of Shields' thoughts and advice on writing, Startle and Illuminate, published in 2016.[7]

Shields' youngest daughter, Sara Cassidy, has published many children's books and young adult novels, including Slick (2010), Windfall (2011), A Boy Named Queen (2016), and Nevers (2019), which was nominated for the Governor General's Award for young people's literature.

In 2020, the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction was announced as a new literary award to honour writing by Canadian and American women.[8]

Honours and awards[edit]



Graphic novels[edit]

  • Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush, 2016 (with Patrick Crowe and art by Selena Goulding)

Short stories[edit]


  • Others, Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1972.
  • Intersect, Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1974.
  • Coming to Canada, Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1992.


  • Departures and Arrivals, 1990
  • Thirteen Hands, 1993
  • Fashion Power Guilt and the Charity of Families, 1995 (with Catherine Shields)
  • Anniversary: A Comedy, 1998 (with Dave Williamson)
  • Women Waiting, 1983
  • Unless, 2005
  • Larry's Party - the Musical, 2000 (adapted by Richard Ouzounian with music by Marek Norman)
  • Thirteen Hands and Other Plays. Toronto: Vintage, 2002.


  • Susanna Moodie: Voice and Vision, 1976


  • Jane Austen. New York: Viking, 2001.


  • Dropped Threads: What We aren't Told. Toronto: Vintage, 2001. (edited with Marjorie Anderson)
  • Dropped Threads 2: More of What We aren't Told. Toronto: Vintage, 2003. (edited with Marjorie Anderson)



  1. ^ a b c d Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (July 18, 2003). "Carol Shields, Pulitzer-Prize Winning Novelist, Dies at 68". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Carol Shields". The Guardian, Alex Clark, 18 Jul 2003
  3. ^ "The 'indecently curious' Carol Shields". Donna Bailey Nurse, Maclean's, May 1, 2016
  4. ^ Barbara Ellen, "Human Shields". The Guardian, April 28, 2002.
  5. ^ Julie Crawford, "Family mystery at the heart of Carol Shields' final novel". North Shore News, October 14, 2016.
  6. ^ Marsha Lederman, "Daughter of Carol Shields reflects on her own literary awakening". The Globe and Mail, February 13, 2015.
  7. ^ Marsha Lederman, "Collection of Carol Shields's advice illuminates the writing life". The Globe and Mail, May 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Deborah Dundas, "New $150,000 Carol Shields fiction prize 'to shine a light on women writers'". Toronto Star, February 7, 2020.
  9. ^ "The 1995 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction". Pulitzer Prize website
  10. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.

External links[edit]