Born Lula Carson Smith in Columbus, Georgia, Carson McCullers was an excellent pianist from a young age, but was plagued by illness. A bout of rheumatic fever during her senior year of high school lead to her decision to give up a career as a pianist and pursue a career as a writer. At the age of seventeen, she left for New York City and enrolled in a creative writing course at Columbia University. While in New York, she married James Reeves McCullers, Jr., and the two moved to North Carolina in 1937.
Her first book, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, was published in 1940 and became an immediate sensation. McCullers gave voice to the isolated misfits of the American South, and this novel thrust her into the public eye. That same year, McCullers attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Middlebury, making important connections with other writers.
However, as McCullers’ career ascended with her later novel The Member of the Wedding as well as several works for the theater, her personal life became more chaotic, and her health deteriorated. Her husband committed suicide in 1953, and McCullers’ health continued to slow down her writing.
Despite her personal setbacks, her writing remains important today as part of the Southern Gothic literary tradition.
Source: The Carson McCullers Project