Jodi Picoult

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Jodi Picoult
Picoult served as the 2013 Harry Middleton Lecturer at the LBJ Presidential Library
Picoult served as the 2013 Harry Middleton Lecturer at the LBJ Presidential Library
BornNesconset, New York, U.S.
SpouseTimothy Warren Van Leer (m. 1989)

Jodi Lynn Picoult (/ˈdi ˈpk/[1]) is an American writer. Picoult has published 28 novels, as well as short stories, and has also written several issues of Wonder Woman. Approximately 40 million copies of her books are in print worldwide,[2] translated into 34 languages.[3] She was awarded the New England Bookseller Award for fiction in 2003.[4]

Picoult writes popular fiction which can be characterised as family saga. She frequently centers storylines on a moral dilemma or a procedural drama which pits family members against one another. She is often characterised as an author of chick-lit. Over her writing career, Picoult has covered a wide range of controversial or moral issues, including abortion, the Holocaust, assisted suicide, race relations, eugenics, LGBT rights, fertility issues, religion, the death penalty, and school shootings. She has been described as, "a paradox, a hugely popular, at times controversial writer, ignored by academia, who questions notions of what constitutes literature simply by doing what she does best."[5]

Early life[edit]

Picoult was born in Nesconset, New York, on Long Island and has one younger brother.[6] She graduated from Smithtown High School East in June, 1983. She has described her family as "non-practicing Jewish".[7] Picoult wrote her first story at age five, titled "The Lobster Which Misunderstood". Picoult's mother and grandmother were both teachers, and she says that their influence on her was very important.[6]


Picoult studied creative writing at Princeton University with Mary Morris, and graduated in 1987 with an A.B. in English after completing a 320-page-long senior thesis titled "Developments."[8] She published two short stories in Seventeen magazine while still in college. Immediately after graduation, she began a variety of jobs, ranging from editing textbooks to teaching eighth-grade English. She earned a master's degree in education from Harvard University. Picoult has two honorary Doctor of Letters degrees; one from Dartmouth College in 2010, the other from the University of New Haven in 2012.[citation needed]

In 2016, Picoult was selected to be Princeton's Class Day Speaker before commencement.[9]


Picoult became the writer of the DC Comics series Wonder Woman (vol. 3), following the departure of Allan Heinberg.[10][11] Her first issue (number 6) was released on March 28, 2007, and her last was issue number 10, released on June 27, 2007.[citation needed]

Nineteen Minutes, Picoult's novel about the aftermath of a school shooting in a small town, published on the 9th March 2007, was her first book to debut at number 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Her book Change of Heart, published on March 4, 2008, was her second novel to debut at number 1 on that list.[12] Handle with Care in 2009 and House Rules in 2010 also reached number 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.[citation needed]

Jodi Picoult is aware that she is often pigeon-holed as chick-lit author, but stated that what she loses in critical acclaim, she gains in influence: "I’m never going to win the Nobel prize for literature, not going to win a National Book award, never even going to be nominated. What you trade for that is sales and readership. And I would rather reach more people. It would be very nice to not be unfairly accused of being a bad writer, but hopefully if you do pick up one of my books, you will be quickly disabused of that notion."[2]

In November 2019, Picoult participated in the criticism of Brooke Nelson, a college student who was mentioned in her local newspaper as saying she thought that author Sarah Dessen's YA novels were not suitable for the Common Read program run by Northern State University, Aberdeen, and had instead advocated for the inclusion of Just Mercy, a memoir by civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson.[13] Picoult described Nelson's views as "sinister" and "demeaning to women", and encouraged her followers on Twitter to "fight the patriarchy" in response to Nelson's comments.[14][15] When the story was reported in Jezebel,[16] The Guardian,[17] The Washington Post,[18] and Slate,[14] Picoult posted an apology on Twitter, noting that her remarks had resulted in harassment and bullying of Nelson.[19][20]


In 2016, Picoult joined the advisory board of Vida: Women in Literary Arts,[21] a "non-profit feminist organization committed to creating transparency around the lack of gender parity in the literary landscape and to amplifying historically-marginalized voices, including people of color; writers with disabilities; and queer, trans and gender nonconforming individuals".[22] Picoult's website says that VIDA: Women in Literary Arts is a research-driven organization.[citation needed]

She was a member of the inaugural Writers Council of the National Writing Project in 2013,[23] an organization which recognizes the "universality of writing as a communicative tool and helps teachers enhance student writing".[24] This inaugural group consisted of 30 published authors.[citation needed]

She was a spokesperson for Positive Tracks,[25] which empowers young people to fundraise through the power of athletics and partners with other charitable organizations.[citation needed]

In 2010, Picoult led the 5th Annual Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hero Half Marathon & Relay 5K Walk around Occom Pond and through the town of Hanover, New Hampshire.[26]

She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the New Hampshire Coalition Against the Death Penalty,[27] an organization that successfully sought to end the death penalty in the state of New Hampshire through outreach, education and advocacy.[citation needed]

She was the co-founder, with Marjorie Rose, of the Trumbull Hall Troupe in 2004 as a means of providing children with a fun, educational theatre experience. Children from grade 6 through grade 12 audition to be in an original musical written by Picoult and composer Ellen Wilber. The proceeds are donated to local charities.[28] The organization's contributions since its founding have exceeded $120,000.[citation needed][when?]

On January 21, 2017, Picoult spoke at the New Hampshire Women's Day of Action and Unity in support of the Women's March on Washington.[29][30][31][32]

Book banning[edit]

In March 2023, 20 of Picoult's books were banned by Florida's Martin County School District. According to Picoult, the complaint was made by a sole parent who characterized her books as "adult romance", which Picoult has refuted, saying: "What [the books] do have, however, are issues like racism, abortion rights, gun control, gay rights, and other topics that encourage kids to think for themselves." Picoult called out Moms for Liberty for demanding the removal of her books.[33][34]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • New England Bookseller Award for Fiction (2003)[35]
  • Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association (2005)[36]
  • Book Browse Diamond Award for novel of the year (2005) [37]
  • Lifetime Achievement Award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America[citation needed]
  • Fearless Fiction Award from Cosmopolitan magazine (2007) [38]
  • Waterstone's Author of the Year (UK)[citation needed]
  • Vermont Green Mountain Book Award (2007) [39]
  • New Hampshire Granite State Book Award[citation needed]
  • Virginia Reader's Choice Award (2007)[40]
  • Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award (2006) [41]
  • Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award (2007)[42]
  • New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit (2013–14)[citation needed]
  • Princeton Alumni Weekly Our Most Influential Alumni list[43]
  • Sarah Josepha Hale Award Medalist (2019)[44]

Personal life[edit]

Picoult has been married, since 1989, to Timothy Warren van Leer, whom she met in college.[45] They reside in Hanover, New Hampshire with their three children: Samantha, Kyle Ferreira, and Jake. Picoult has published two books with her daughter Samantha.[46]

Recurring characters[edit]

"It's always great fun to bring a character back, because you get to catch up on his/her life; and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel—you already know how he speaks, acts, thinks."[48]


Film and television adaptations[edit]


  1. ^ "Jodi Picoult: Leaving Time". Nat Geo Live. National Geographic. December 1, 2014. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Jodi Picoult: 'Trump supporters need my book'". The Guardian. December 23, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  3. ^ Yabroff, Jennie (April 11, 2009). "Does Jodi Picoult Hurt Literature?". Newsweek. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  4. ^ "New England Book Awards". New England Independent Booksellers Association. Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  5. ^ Geoff Hamilton and Brian Jones (2010), Encyclopedia of Contemporary Writers and Their Works, Infobase Publishing
  6. ^ a b Moor head, Joanna (July 17, 2009). "My Family Values". The Guardian (interview). ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  7. ^ "A Conversation with Jodi About Keeping Faith". Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  8. ^ Picoult, Jodi Lynn (1987). "Developments". English. Dataspace (Princeton University Senior Theses).
  9. ^ "Novelist Picoult Selected as 2016 Class Day Speaker". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  10. ^ "Bestselling Author Tackles Comic Books: Bestselling Novelist Jodi Picoult Writing 'Wonder Woman'". April 26, 2007. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  11. ^ Wood, Sean M. (March 26, 2007). "Novelist Takes a Comic Turn". San Antonio News.
  12. ^ Cowles, Gregory. "Print & E-Books". New York Times.
  13. ^ "Common Read hits 10 years at Northern". Aberdeen News. November 12, 2019. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  14. ^ a b Graham, Ruth (November 15, 2019). "The 2017 College Grad Who Got Attacked by a Horde of YA Authors Had No Idea What She Was Getting Into". Slate Magazine. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  15. ^ Shapiro, Lila (November 16, 2019). "Famous Authors Drag Student in Surreal YA Twitter Controversy". Vulture. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  16. ^ "Bestselling Authors Band Together to Dunk on a College Student". Jezebel. November 13, 2019.
  17. ^ "War of words breaks out after YA novelist's fans go after critical reader". The Guardian. November 15, 2019. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  18. ^ "A student opposed a YA novel for mandatory college reading. The backlash from famous authors was fierce". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  19. ^ "Sarah Dessen Is Sorry". Jezebel. November 11, 2019. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  20. ^ Picoult, Jodi (November 16, 2019). "Tweet". Twitter. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  21. ^ "VIDA Welcomes Jodi Picoult to Its Advisory Board!". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  22. ^ "About VIDA". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  23. ^ "National Writing Project Launches Writers Council to Draw Attention to the Importance of Writing". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  24. ^ Taylor, James. "Jodi Picoult · Biographical sketch". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  25. ^ "Grassroot Soccer and Positive Tracks Expand Partnership". January 13, 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  26. ^ "Bestselling Author Jodi Picoult Will Lead 5th Annual CHaD Hero Half Marathon & Relay 5K Walk". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  27. ^ "Board of Directors and Advisory Committee". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  28. ^ "About Us". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  29. ^ Taylor, James. "Book Tours, Book Signings, Special Events, and Appearances". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  30. ^ Duffort, Lola (January 22, 2017). "Thousands Gather at State House for N.H.'s Version of Women's March". Concord Monitor. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  31. ^ Tuohy, Dan. "Picoult to Speak at Women's Rally at State House". New Hampshire Union Leader. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  32. ^ "Massive Women's March Turnouts Prompt Change of Plans in D.C., Chicago". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  33. ^ Mueller, Julia (March 13, 2023). "Jodi Picoult doubles down against Florida book bans in new op-ed". [[The Hill]]. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  34. ^ Lapin, Andrew (March 13, 2023). "Holocaust novel by Jodi Picoult removed as Florida school district purges libraries to comply with state law". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  35. ^ "New England Book Awards". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  36. ^ "2005 Alex Awards". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), July 30, 2007. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  37. ^ "Current and Previous Winners of the BookBrowse Awards". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  38. ^ "Cosmo Celebrates Fun and Fearless Fiction". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  39. ^ "Green Mountain Book Award". Department of Libraries, Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  40. ^ "Past Winners". Virginia State Reading Association, Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  41. ^ "Lincoln Award Past Winners". Google Docs. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  42. ^ "Past Winners". Maryland Association of School Librarians, Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  43. ^ "Our Most Influential Alumni". Princeton Alumni Weekly. December 29, 2017. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  44. ^ Taylor, James. "Jodi Picoult · Biographical sketch". Jodi Picoult. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  45. ^ "Jodi Picoult Weds Timothy van Leer". New York Times. November 19, 1989. Retrieved May 29, 2007.
  46. ^ Heese, Monica (June 29, 2012). ""Between the Lines," by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer". Washington Post.
  47. ^ "Jodi Picoult author interview". Retrieved January 13, 2023.
  48. ^ "Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult". Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  49. ^ "THE PI-CULT: December, 2007 – Edition". Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  50. ^ "novels about family, relationships, love, & more". Jodi Picoult. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  51. ^ Gay, Roxanne (2016-10-11). "Jodi Picoult's New Novel Reviewed by Roxanne Gay". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  52. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 10, 2021). "Netflix Buys Wish You Were Here From Bestselling Author Jodi Picoult". Deadline Hollywood.


External links[edit]

Preceded by Wonder Woman writer
Succeeded by