National Book Award winner Alice McDermott is born this day in Brooklyn to first-generation Irish-Catholic parents in 1953.
McDermott’s Irish-Catholic upbringing on Long Island became the subject of much of her writing. She went to college at the State University of New York at Oswego, then worked in publishing for a year, unsuccessfully trying to rid herself of the writing bug. She went to graduate school at the University of New Hampshire and soon began publishing short stories in women’s magazines. Her first novel, A Bigamist’s Daughter, came out in 1982. Her second, That Night (1987), was nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
McDermott and her husband, a neuroscientist, have three children and lived in San Diego and Pittsburgh before settling in Bethesda. She taught at Johns Hopkins University while continuing to write novels, including At Weddings and Wakes (1992) and Charming Billy (1998), which beat out the favorite, Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full, for the National Book Award. Her 2006 novel After This was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.