Mary Doria Russell (born August 19, 1950) is an American writer of speculative fiction novels.
Russell was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Her parents were both in the military, her father a Marine Corps drill instructor and her mother a Navy nurse. She was raised as a Catholic but left the church at age fifteen, and her struggles to figure out how much of that culture to pass on to her children fueled the prominence of religion in her work. She graduated from Glenbard East High School and later she earned a Ph.D. in biological anthropology at the University of Michigan.
Russell's first two novels, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God—sometimes called the Sparrow series or Emilo Sandoz sequence —were published by Random House Villard in 1996 and 1998. They feature first contact with aliens. Both explore the problem of evil, how to reconcile the idea of a benevolent deity with a factual universe filled with pain and evil (Theodicy). The Sparrow won the Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree annual science fiction book awards (below), and it was the basis for Russell winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1998. For the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, chief editor John Clute calls Russell an "author who established a strong reputation for cognitive subtlety and narrative power in her brief sf career; after the Emilio Sandoz sequence ... she turned her interest to other fields. ... Because of the quality of its writing, and the seriousness of its examination of various issues, some critics claimed that The Sparrow could not therefore be sf. Russell herself seems not to have encouraged the claim."
Russell's historical novel A Thread of Grace (2005) is set in Northern Italy during World War II, and features both the Italian resistance and the plight of Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecution throughout Europe. Much of story is based on accounts by survivors from the period, when many Italian citizens allowed Jews seek safe harbor in their farmlands, cities, and ports. (Russell herself is of Italian heritage and is a convert to Judaism.)..
Quotes by Mary Doria Russell
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