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Russell Banks
Russell Banks at the 2011 Texas Book Festival.
Russell Banks at the 2011 Texas Book Festival.
Born (1940-03-28) March 28, 1940 (age 82)
Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Notable works Continental Drift, Affliction, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplitter, The Darling, The Sweet Hereafter
Spouse Chase Twichell

Russell Banks (born March 28, 1940) is an American writer of fiction and poetry. As a novelist, Banks is best known for his "detailed accounts of domestic strife and the daily struggles of ordinary often-marginalized characters". His stories usually revolve around his own childhood experiences, and often reflect "moral themes and personal relationships".

Banks is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Russell Banks was born in Newton, Massachusetts on March 28, 1940 and grew up "in relative poverty". His father, Earl, deserted the family when Banks was aged 12. While he was awarded a scholarship to attend Colgate University, he dropped out six weeks into university and travelled south instead, with the "intention of joining Fidel Castro's insurgent army in Cuba, but wound up working in a department store in Lakeland, Florida". He married a sales clerk and they had a daughter.

According to an interview with The Independent, he started to write when he was living in Miami in the late 1950s, though an interview with The Paris Review dates this to Banks's subsequent spell living in Boston. He moved back to New England in 1964 and then to North Carolina, where he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded by the family of his second wife, Mary Gunst. In Chapel Hill, Banks was involved in Students for a Democratic Society and protest during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1976, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Banks divorced Mary Gunst in 1977 after 14 years of marriage. He was subsequently married to Kathy Walton, an editor at Harper & Row, for five years.

Banks now lives in Keene, upstate New York, though spends the winters in Miami. He was a New York State Author for 2004–2006. He is also Artist-in-Residence at the University of Maryland. He has taught creative writing at Princeton University. He is married to the poet Chase Twichell, his fourth wife. Banks has four daughters from his previous marriages.

Banks was the 1985 recipient of the John Dos Passos Prize for fiction. Continental Drift and Cloudsplitter were finalists for the 1986 and 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction respectively. Banks was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996.

Awards and honors

  • 1985 John Dos Passos Prize
  • 1996 Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2004-2006 New York State Author
  • 2012 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, shortlist, Lost Memory of Skin
  • Family Life (1975)
  • Hamilton Stark (1978)
  • The Book of Jamaica (1980)
  • The Relation of My Imprisonment (1983)
  • Continental Drift (1985)
  • Affliction (1989)
  • The Sweet Hereafter (1991)
  • Rule of the Bone (1995)
  • Cloudsplitter (1998)
  • The Darling (2004)
  • The Reserve (2008)
  • Lost Memory of Skin (2011)
Story collections
  • Searching for Survivors (1975)
  • The New World (1978)
  • Trailerpark (1981)
  • Success Stories (1986)
  • The Angel on the Roof (2000)
  • A Permanent Member of the Family (2013)
  • Waiting To Freeze (poetry) Waiting To Freeze (1969)
  • Snow (1974)
  • Invisible Stranger (1998)
  • Dreaming Up America (2008)
  • Voyager (2016)
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