Born: August 19, 1950
Ohio connection: Resident
Mary Doria Russell was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, to military parents. A religious transformation was one of the defining experiences of her life. Raised a Catholic, she converted to Judaism in middle age with decades of atheism in between. Religious aspects made their way into Russell’s first novel, The Sparrow (1996), where the hero is a Jesuit priest. Although her characters travel to the planet Rakhat in this novel and its sequel, Children of God (1998), Russell does not consider herself a science fiction writer. Religious faith is a primary theme of her work and her third novel, A Thread of Grace (2005), is the story of the Jewish underground during the Nazi occupation of Italy in World War II. Russell’s doctorate in paleoanthropology has led to positions at Case Western Reserve University as well as forensic consulting for law enforcement agencies and field work and research expeditions. She lives in South Euclid, Ohio.
Recipient of various grants, awards, and fellowships, National Science Foundation and other institutions, 1980-86; Trotter Award (two) for scientific work on skeletal material, c. 1980s; Tiptree Award, 1996, and shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, 1997, both for The Sparrow, British Science Fiction Association Best Novel, 1997; Arthur C. Clarke Prize, 1997; John W. Campbell Award, Best New Novelist, 1998; Cleveland Council for the Arts Literature Prize, 1998.