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Carol Ann Shields, (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.
Shields was born in Oak Park, Illinois. She studied at Hanover College Indiana, where she 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. Later, 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.
In 1973, Shields became editorial assistant for the journal Canadian Slavonic Papers while living in Ottawa 1968–1978. In 1977, Shields was a sessional lecturer in the English Department at the University of Ottawa for a year. She later taught Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia while living in Vancouver 1978–80. In 1980, she and Don settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, after Don was hired to teach in the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Engineering. Winnipeg was where she wrote her major books. From the fall of 1982 onward, Carol 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). Shields was made Full Professor of English in 1995, and, on retirement in 2000, she became Professor Emerita at the University of Manitoba. In 1996, she became chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. In 2000, after Don's retirement, the couple moved to Victoria, British Columbia, where she died in 2003 of breast cancer at age 68.
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. Giardini and her son, Nicholas, edited a book of Shields' thoughts and advice on writing, Startle and Illuminate, published in 2016. Shields' youngest daughter, Sara Cassidy, has published young adult novels including Slick (2010) and Windfall (2011).
Shields was the author of several short story collections, including Various Miracles (1985), The Orange Fish (1989), and Dressing Up for the Carnival (2000). These were collected together in Collected Stories of Carol Shields (2005). She also wrote novels Small Ceremonies (1976), The Box Garden (1977), Happenstance (1980), Swann (1987), and The Republic of Love (1992). She was the recipient of a Canada Council Major Award, two National Magazine Awards, the 1990 Marian Engel Award, the Canadian Author's 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.
The Stone Diaries (1993) won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Governor General's Award, the only book to have ever received both awards. 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."
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.
Shields was also intensely interested in 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, Ontario, 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 Hands" (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".
Following her death, six of her short stories were adapted by Shaftesbury Films into the dramatic anthology series The Shields Stories. Films based on Carol Shields's novels include "Swann" (1996) and "The Republic of Love" (2003).
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.
Honours and awards