Debra Monroe is the author of four books of fiction, and two memoirs.
Her first book, The Source of Trouble, published in 1990, won the prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award for Fiction, and was acclaimed as a “fierce debut” that presents “ever-hopeful lost souls with engaging humor and sympathy” (Kirkus Reviews). Her second book of stories, A Wild, Cold State, published in 1995, was described by The Boston Globe as “fine and funky, marbled with warmth and romantic confusion, but not a hint of sentimentality.” When her first novel, Newfangled, was published in 1998, the Washington Post called it “rangy, thoughtful, ambitious, and widely, wildly knowledgeable, teasing out the tension between pop culture and private life.” Her fourth novel, Shambles, published in 2004, was praised by the Texas Observer for “the depth as well as the heartbreaking particularity of the hellholes–real and imagined–that make Shambles a novel of graceful ease and substance.” Her first memoir, about being the white mother of a black daughter in a small Texas town, On the Outskirts of Normal, was published in 2010 to national acclaim. Her new memoir, My Unsentimental Education, published in 2015, “tracks a runaway life with consummate control and aphoristic wit” (Phillip Lopate), and was widely praised for its humor, lyricism, for its “stinging revelations” (Dallas Morning News), for its “fresh insights” and “funny-sad” moments (Chicago Tribune).
Debra Monroe’s work has been admired for its style, “prose that shimmers like a jazz solo, full of sass and danger” (Jonis Agee), and for its irreverent perspective on American life: “Her characters, like her prose, have hard edges. They also have big hearts, dark humor, and purely unique ways of opening themselves up for our inspection. This book makes you want to take the author out for a drink and tell her your troubles” (Antonya Nelson). Her books have been widely reviewed and won many awards, including the Flannery O’Connor Award, the John Gardner Fellowship, The Violet Crown Award, the Quarterly West Novella Competition, and more. They have appeared on “Best Ten” lists in Elle magazine, the “Hot Type” list in Vanity Fair, as a “Recommended Reading” pick in O, the Oprah Magazine, and in Borders Bookstores’ “Original Voices” series, and she has been nominated for the National Book Award twice. She has published poems, stories, and essays in many magazines and journals. She was born in North Dakota and raised in Wisconsin. She has since lived in Kansas, Utah, North Carolina, and Texas, where she lives now, and she teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University.