About Emma Donoghue


            Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1969. She is the youngest of 7 siblings and had a very stable yet boring childhood. Donoghue explains that “My first nine years in Dublin are a monochrome blur: a very pleasant blur but a blur nonetheless. Eating, reading, chatting, baths, sleeping in the same house; walking up the hill to the same convent school, wandering around the same two woods.”  She was glad for the way she was raised, but she didn’t feel very much excitement about life until she moved to New York at the age of 9. She lived there for a year with her parents and two other siblings, the three youngest children all together. Her eyes were opened to a different type of lifestyle in a fast paced city full of diverse people. Although she lived very sheltered during her year in New York, she experienced a very different world from what she was used to in Ireland.

            At the age of 10 Donoghue returned to her normal life in Dublin, however she had changed dramatically. “Americanized vowels; a new tilt to my chin; a louder voice; a questioning attitude to Irish Catholic certainties” says Donoghue. She continued to go to high school in Dublin, but feels that her experience in New York changed her greatly and helped her mature. Donoghue shares that “…it was in New York that I first learned that lesson every child could do with, and every writer needs: that there's no such thing as normal. That life is all about encounters with others.”  

Life as an Adult

            Donoghue attended University College Dublin for undergraduate school where she received her Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and French. She then moved to England to continue her education at the University of Cambridge where she  earned her PhD in English. She stayed in England for 8 years but she also traveled between Ireland and Canada. In 1998, she decided to settle down in Canada  with her partner and her 2 children.

Becoming a Writer

            Donoghue realized that she wanted to be a writer when she was about 14 years old. This was the same time that she discovered that she was a lesbian. Being a writer and being a lesbian have always been connected for Donoghue. She began writing poetry at a young age until she went to University College Dublin. She enjoyed writing poetry at first because you don’t need to specify a gender. Her first novel was written at the age of 19, and when she was 21 years old she met Caroline Davidson, a literary agent who believed in Donoghue’s talent as a writer. Davidson landed Donoghue a two novel deal with Penguin when she was 23, and since then Donoghue has earned her living as a writer. She has had a very successful career as a writer and has won numerous awards for her work.

Awards and Successes

While all of Donoghue's works are excellent and demonstrate her talent as a writer, a few of her novels have stuck out above the rest. Her novel Room written in 2010 was an international bestseller and a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. Slammerkin, a novel she wrote in 2000, won the Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction. Lastly, her novel Hood written in 1995 won the 1997 Stonewall Book Award for literature. This award was previously known as the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Book Award for Literature.