Carolyn Chute

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Carolyn Chute (born Carolyn Penny, June 14, 1947) is an American writer and populist political activist strongly identified with the culture of poor, rural western Maine. Rod Dreher, writing in The American Conservative, has referred to Chute as "a Maine novelist and gun enthusiast who, along with her illiterate husband, lives an aggressively unorthodox life in the Yankee backwoods."[1]

Life and work[edit]

Chute's first, and best known, novel, The Beans of Egypt, Maine, was published in 1985 and made into a 1994 film of the same name, directed by Jennifer Warren. Chute's next two books, Letourneau's Used Auto Parts (1988) and Merry Men (1994), are also set in the town of Egypt, Maine.

Her 1999 novel Snow Man deals with the underground militia movement, something that Chute has devoted more of her time to in recent years. She was the leader of a group which was known as the Second Maine Militia and is a fierce defender of the Second Amendment, keeping an AK-47 and a small cannon at her home in Maine.[2] Chute also speaks out publicly about class issues in America and publishes "The Fringe," a monthly collection of in-depth political journalism, short stories, and intellectual commentary on current events. She once ran a satiric campaign for governor of Maine.

In 2008, she published The School on Heart's Content Road, which deals with a polygamist compound in Maine under scrutiny after an article on them goes national. The project was originally a novel of more than 2,000 pages, which has since been broken up into a projected five-part cycle.

Her jobs have included waitress, chicken factory worker, hospital floor scrubber, shoe factory worker, potato farm worker, tutor, canvasser, teacher, social worker, and school bus driver, 1970s-1980s; part-time suburban correspondent, Portland Evening Express, Portland, Maine, 1976–81; instructor in creative writing, University of Southern Maine, Portland, 1985.[3]

Chute is closely associated with the New England Literature Program, an alternative education program run by the University of Michigan's English department during the University's spring term. NELP students transcribed her 2008 novel The School on Heart's Content Road into an electronic format.

Chute was born in 1947 in Portland, Maine.[4] She now lives in Parsonsfield, Maine, near the New Hampshire border, in a home with no telephone, no computer, and no fax machine, and an outhouse in lieu of a working bathroom. She is married to Michael Chute, a local handyman who never learned to read. She has a daughter from a previous marriage, Joannah, and 3 grandchildren.


  • Up River: The Story of a Maine Fishing Community, with Olive Pierce (University Press of New England, 1996)
  • Inside Vacationland: New Fiction from the Real Maine, edited by Mark Melnicove (Dog Ear Press, 1985)
  • I Was Content and Not Content: The Story of Linda Lord and the Closing of Penobscot Poultry, by Cedric N. Chatterley and Alicia J. Rouverol (Southern Illinois University Press, 2000)
  • Late Harvest: Rural American Writing (Reed Business Information, Inc., 1991)


First prize for fiction, Green Mountain Workshop, Johnson, Vermont, 1977.

She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Thornton Wilder Fellowship.[5]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Dreher, Rod (2006-06-05) All-American Anarchists, The American Conservative
  2. ^ "A Writer in a Living Novel". New York Times. Retrieved on August 9, 2009.
  3. ^ Biography Encyclopedia
  4. ^ "Carolyn Chute Collection, 1984-2002". Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, Portland, Maine. Archived from the original on May 30, 2010. Retrieved May 30, 2010. 
  5. ^ Goucher College's Kratz Center for Creative Writing press release