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Joan Didion (1934–2021), award-winning novelist and journalist

by Linnea Crowther

Joan Didion was a novelist and journalist who won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for her 2005 book “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

Acclaimed writing

Didion got her start at Vogue magazine after winning their 1956 Prix de Paris essay contest. She began to rise as a notable young writer in the 1960s, with her first novel “Run, River” as well as articles for magazine including Life, Esquire, and the Saturday Evening Post. In her early nonfiction, Didion became part of the New Journalism school as she explored the America of the 1960s and ‘70s. She later published many of those articles in the collections “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” and “The White Album.”

Didion continued to write novels, including “A Book of Common Prayer” and “Democracy.” She and her late husband, novelist John Gregory Dunne, wrote several screenplays together. Among their screenplays was the 1976 box office hit remake of “A Star Is Born.” Her award-winning “The Year of Magical Thinking” was a memoir of her grief in the year after Dunne’s death, while Didion was also caring for their daughter who would die less than two years later at the age of 39. In 2017, Didion was featured in the Netflix documentary “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold.”


Notable quote

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” —from Didion’s 1976 essay “Why I Write”

Tributes to Joan Didion

Full obituary: The New York Times

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