Biography of Sue Monk Kidd

Sue Monk Kidd with Alicia Keys
Sue Monk Kidd with Alicia Keys.

Alexandra Wyman / Getty Images

Sue Monk Kidd spent the early days of her writing career penning memoirs, going on to publish her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, in 2002. Kidd's career has spanned genres of contemplative spirituality, feminist theology, and fiction. 

Birth: August 12, 1948 in Sylvester, Georgia.

Full Name: Sue Monk Kidd

Background and Education

Raised in Sylvester, a rural town in Georgia, Kidd was the daughter of an imaginative, story-telling father. She knew early on that she wanted to be a writer. She cites Thoreau's Walden and Kate Chopin's The Awakening as early influences that would eventually lead to a writing career rooted in spirituality.

In 1970, Kidd earned a B.S. degree from Texas Christian University in nursing. During her twenties, she worked as a Registered Nurse and college nursing instructor at the Medical College of Georgia. Kidd married Sanford “Sandy” Kidd, with whom she had two children. 

Literary Work

When she decided to enroll in writing classes, Kidd and her family were living in South Carolina where her husband taught at a small liberal arts college. Her goal was to write fiction, but she began her career writing nonfiction inspirational pieces, many of which she published in Guideposts Magazine, where she eventually became a Contributing Editor. Spiritual searching ensued, which Kidd chronicled in her first book, God's Joyful Surprise (1988). Two years later in 1990 her second spiritual memoir followed, entitled When the Heart Waits.

While in her forties, Kidd turned her attention to a study of feminist spirituality, resulting in another memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (1996). The book recounts her spiritual journey from a Baptist upbringing to non-traditional feminist spiritual experiences.

Kidd is best known for her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees (2002), in which she tells the coming-of-age story—set in 1964—of a fourteen-year-old girl and her black housekeeper, a modern classic that spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list, has been published in 35 countries, and is now taught in college and high school classrooms.

In 2005, Kidd followed with The Mermaid Chair, the story of a middle-aged married woman who falls in love with a Benedictine monk. Like The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair uses its female protagonist to explore spiritual themes. The Mermaid Chair was also a long-time bestseller and won the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction. Shortly thereafter, Firstlight, a collection of Kidd's early writings, was published by Guideposts Books in 2006 and by Penguin in 2007. 

Kidd co-authored her next memoir with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, after they traveled together in France, Greece, and Turkey. The resulting Traveling with Pomegranates (2009) appeared on The New York Times list and has been published in several languages.

Her third novel, The Invention of Wings, was published in 2014 by Viking and remained on The New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for over six months. The winner of several literary awards, The Invention of Wings won the SIBA Book Award and was selected for Oprah's Book Club 2.0. It has been translated into 24 languages and sold over a million copies. 

Sue Monk Kidd's Collected Works

  • God's Joyful Surprise (1988)
  • When the Heart Waits (1990)
  • The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (1996)
  • The Secret Life of Bees (2002)
  • The Mermaid Chair (2005)
  • Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd (2006)
  • Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey and France (with Ann Kidd Taylor) (2009)
  • The Invention of Wings (2014)