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Kim Barnes
Kim Barnes
Pulitzer finalist for In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country (memoir); recipient of PEN USA Award for Fiction; Pushcart Prize for essay; avid angler of high mountain rivers.
Fiction
Historical Fiction
Family
Drama
Where else you can find me
Personal website
Substack
Book a 1:1 with Kim
Hi!

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Talk soon,
Sam

Hello!

On my mind

Story is how we make sense of our lives. There is no art without concept. You've got the thing, and you've got the other thing. Let's consider inventive and breakthrough ways to think about your writing and your writing life!

Why I'm excited to talk with readers

I love to talk about life stories, whether yours or your characters'. I'm always looking for ways you might deepen meaning through echoing imagery, harmonic metaphor, and archetypal resonance.

Also!

Who, what, when, where, why...and how? Let's talk about it!

Pace e Bene,

Kim

Let's talk! Open to...👇
Freewheeling conversations
Questions about my writing
Questions about your writing
Writing in general
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My latest
My Substack
 by 
Kim Barnes
Where I've written

In the Kingdom of Men

1967. Gin Mitchell knows a better life awaits her when she marries hometown hero Mason McPhee. Raised in a two-room shack by her Oklahoma grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, Gin never believed that someone like Mason, a handsome college boy, the pride of Shawnee, would look her way. And nothing can prepare her for the world she and Mason step into when he takes a job with the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia. In the gated compound of Abqaiq, Gin and Mason are given a home with marble floors, a houseboy to cook their meals, and a gardener to tend the sandy patch out back. Even among the veiled women and strict laws of shariah, Gin’s life has become the stuff of fairy tales. She buys her first swimsuit, she pierces her ears, and Mason gives her a glittering diamond ring. But when a young Bedouin woman is found dead, washed up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Gin’s world closes in around her, and the one person she trusts is nowhere to be found.
 

Set against the gorgeously etched landscape of a country on the cusp of enormous change, In the Kingdom of Men abounds with sandstorms and locust swarms, shrimp peddlers, pearl divers, and Bedouin caravans—a luminous portrait of life in the desert. Award-winning author Kim Barnes weaves a mesmerizing, richly imagined tale of Americans out of their depth in Saudi Arabia, a marriage in peril, and one woman’s quest for the truth, no matter what it might cost her.

“Lyrical . . . It takes guts to title a novel after a line from the Bible—‘the Most high rules in the kingdom of men’—and then to begin Chapter 1 with possibly the most famous biblical reference available: ‘In the beginning.’ Following through, Kim Barnes casts her protagonist and narrator, a young American girl called Gin, in the image of a certain female character from a certain creation myth. . . . In the Kingdom of Men [is] something more than a novel about an Okie who causes trouble in a foreign land. It’s that, and a feminist bildungsroman.”

— Juliet Lapidos, The New York Times Book Review

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Hungry for the World

A Memoir

Hereis the story of how an intelligent and passionate young woman, yearning for an understanding of the world beyond her insular family life, found her way.

On the day of her 1976 high school graduation in Lewiston, Idaho, Kim Barnes decided she could no longer abide the patriarchal domination of family and church. After a disagreement with her father–a logger and fervent adherent to the Pentecostal Christian faith–she gathered her few belongings and struck out on her own. She had no skills and no funds, but she had the courage and psychological sturdiness to make her way, and to eventually survive the influence of a man whose dominance was of a different and more menacing sort. Hungry for the World is a classic story of the search for knowledge and its consequences, both dire and beautiful.

"Beautifully written ... We read her story and bleed for her."

The New York Times Book Review

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In the Wilderness

Coming of Age in Unknown Country

Poet Kim Barnes grew up in northern Idaho, in the isolated camps where her father worked as a logger and her mother made a modest but comfortable home for her husband and two children. Their lives were short on material wealth, but long on the riches of family and friendship, and the great sheltering power of the wilderness. But in the mid-1960's, as automation and a declining economy drove more and more loggers out of the wilderness and into despair, Kim's father dug in and determined to stay. It was then the family turned fervently toward Pentecostalism. It was then things changed.

In the Wilderness is the poet's own account of a journey toward adulthood against an interior landscape every bit as awesome, as beautiful, and as fraught with hidden peril as the great forest itself. It is a story of how both faith and geography can shape the heart and soul, and of the uncharted territory we all must enter to face our demons. Above all, it is the clear-eyed and moving account of a young woman's coming of terms with her family, her homeland, her spirituality, and herself.

In presenting Kim Barnes the 1995 PENJerard Fund Award for a work-in-progress by an emerging female writer, the panel of judges wrote that "In the Wilderness is far more than a personal memoir," adding that it stands "almost as a cautionary example of the power of good prose to distinguish whatever it touches." Indeed, In the Wilderness is an extraordinary work, courageous, candid, and exquisitely written.

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