Mary Karr

Born: January 16, 1955                                Groves, Texas

Mary Karr is an award-winning poet and best-selling memoirist. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed and New York Times best-selling memoirs The Liars' Club, Cherry, and Lit, as well as the Art of Memoir, and five poetry collections, most recently Tropic of Squalor.

Karr was born in Groves, Texas, on January 16, 1955, and lived there until she moved to Los Angeles in 1972. That same year, Karr started at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she studied for two years and met poet Etheridge Knight, one of her first mentors. Karr later attended and graduated from Goddard College, where she studied with the poets Robert Hass and Stephen Dobyns. 

Although a convert to Catholicism, Karr supports views at odds with Catholic Church teaching: on abortion, she is pro-choice, and she has spoken in favor of women's ordination to the priesthood. Karr has described herself as a feminist since age 12. However, she often refers to herself as Catholic lite. 

In 1989 Mary received the Whiting Award, in 1995 The PEN/Martha Albrand Award for The Liars' Club, and in 2005 a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2015, Mary received an honorary Ph.D. from Syracuse University and marked that occasion as their commencement speaker. She has also won the Pushcart prizes for both her poetry and essays.

Karr's memoir The Liars' Club was a New York Times bestseller for over a year and was named one of the year's best books. It explores her deeply troubled childhood in Southeast Texas in the 1960s. She was encouraged to write her personal history by her friend Tobias Wolff but has said she only took up the project when her marriage fell apart. She followed the book with a second memoir, Cherry (2000), about her late adolescence and early womanhood. 

A third memoir, Lit: A Memoir, which she says "details my journey from black-belt sinner and lifelong agnostic to unlikely Catholic," came out in November 2009. The memoir describes Karr's time as an alcoholic and the salvation she found in her conversion to Catholicism.

Her contributions in the area of poetry include Abacus (Wesleyan, 1987), The Devil's Tour (New Directions, 1993), Viper Rum (Penguin, 2001), Sinners Welcome (Harper Collins, 2006), Tropic of Squalor (Harper Collins, 2018.) Her published stories include "Learner's Permit" (excerpt from Cherry) and Nerve. In Non-Fiction, she published The Art of Memoir (Harper, 2015.)

 

In 2012, Mary woke up one day and found herself in the music business thanks to the help of another of our inductees in the Music Hall of Fame, Rodney Crowell. Crowell had read her book The Liars' Club, and he was taken by her unique writing style. This and the fact that she was raised in the same region. Their album KIN was released on June 5, 2012.

2015 Syracuse Commencement - Mary Karr - time edit version 
KIN - Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell Album Collaboration