An American novelist and non-fiction writer, she is best known for The Poisonwood Bible (1998), a novel about a missionary family that moves to the Belgian Congo. She also received attention for her 2007 non-fiction work, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which details her family's experiment of eating only locally-grown food.
She studied classical piano and biology at DePauw University in Indiana and went on to receive a Master's degree in evolutionary biology and ecology from the University of Arizona. She published her debut novel, The Bean Trees, in 1988.
She was a founding member of a band called Rock Bottom Remainders.
She married Steven Hopp in 1994. The couple's daughter, Lily, was born two years later.
She was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Bill Clinton.