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John Pipkin was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland.
He attended Washington & Lee University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and received his Ph.D. in British Literature from Rice University. He has received research and writing fellowships from the Harry Ransom Center, the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program, and the MacDowell Colony.
John’s new historical novel is entitled, THE BLIND ASTRONOMER’S DAUGHTER (Bloomsbury USA, 2016). Kirkus Reviews calls the book, “a fascinating look at the particular manias and obsessions of those who study the stars amid turmoil on Earth.”
His first novel, Woodsburner (Anchor, 2010), was winner of The New York Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, The Massachusetts Center for the Book Fiction Award, and The Texas Institute of Letters Steven Turner First Novel Prize, and was also named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Christian Science Monitor. Woodsburner revolves around the consequences of the fire accidentally set by American naturalist Henry David Thoreau to 300 acres of woods near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.
John lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and son. Before moving to Austin, he was an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Rhetoric at Boston University. John is currently the Writer-in-Residence at Southwestern University in Georgetown where he teaches literature and creative writing. He also teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, and the MFA Program at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the former Executive Director of the Writers’ League of Texas.
In late-eighteenth-century Ireland, accidental stargazer Caroline Ainsworth learns that her life is not what it seems when her father, Arthur, throws himself from his rooftop observatory. Caroline had often assisted her father with his observations, in pursuit of an unknown planet; when astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus, Caroline could only watch helplessly as unremitting jealousy drove Arthur to madness. Now, gone blind from staring at the sun, he has chosen death over a darkened life. Grief-stricken, Caroline abandons the vain search, leaves Ireland for London, and tries to forget her love for Finnegan O’Siodha, the tinkering blacksmith who was helping her father build a telescope larger than his rival’s. But her father has left her more than the wreck of that unfinished instrument: his cryptic atlas holds the secret to finding a new world at the edge of the sky.
As Caroline reluctantly resumes her father’s work and confronts her own longings, Ireland is swept into rebellion, and Caroline and Finnegan are plunged into its violence. This is a novel of the obsessions of the age: scientific inquiry, geographic discovery, political reformation, but above all, astronomy, the mapping of the solar system and beyond. It is a novel of the quest for knowledge and for human connection — rich, far-reaching, and unforgettable.