Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938 in Erie county New York . Oates Grew up in the town of Lockport New York where she attended a one room schoolhouse throughout junior high. At the age of fifteen she submitted her first book to a publisher, about a drug addict who is reformed by caring for a black stallion, but the book was denied for being too dark.

After High School Oates enrolled at Syracuse University on a scholarship and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and first of her class in 1960. A year later Oates earned a master’s degree in English at the University of  Wisconsin and newly married to Raymond Smith (to whom she is still married) moved to Beaumont Texas. She enrolled in the Ph. D program at Rice University , it was here that she came across a copy of The Best American Short Stories and found one of her own short stories mentioned in it. This marked a turning point in Oates life.

Shortly after in 1963 she came out with her first published collection of short stories along with her first novel With Shuddering Fall in 1964. In 1962 Oates moved to Detroit where she lived and taught for the next sixteen years. During this period she wrote one of her earliest successes Them which focuses on the 1967 race riots from one fictional family’s point of view. This work winning the National Book Award in 1970.

Now Oates is a professor of English at Princeton University and has been since 1978. She is also a co-founder of the literary journal The Ontario Review. Oates over her time has written various novels short stories scripts and other literary work and over the years her subject matter has broadened to include mystery novels (some written under her pseudonym Rosamond Smith) and historical fiction.