New Jersey may be best known for its Atlantic City casinos and the millions of visitors who come seeking strategies for maximizing wins. However, many people may not realize that “The Garden State” is also home to some of the most famous American authors of all time. Without any further ado, let’s dive into five of the best authors to come out of New Jersey!
George R.R. Martin
We can’t start this list with anyone but George R.R. Martin, the famous author of A Song of Ice and Fire. Those unfamiliar with the popular series of books may be more familiar with the TV adaptation Game of Thrones.
Although the books might not have received as many awards, the television series received a total of 164 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, with 59 wins, an impressive figure to say the least.
George R.R. Martin may have at one point played chess tournaments to pay the bills and even dabbled in teaching, but he eventually decided to become a full-time author — and it’s pretty clear that this paid off handsomely.
Martin is still going strong, as his newest television adaptation, House of the Dragon, is also based on one of his works, Fire & Blood, which also happens to be a part of the Game of Thrones universe. He’s even working on the next addition to the saga, Winds of Winter.
Next on the list is Allen Ginsberg, perhaps one of the most outspoken authors and poets to ever come out of New Jersey.
He was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926, and throughout his early years lived in Paterson, where he attended school. He began his writing career very early, publishing many pieces of writing in the Paterson Morning Call, a local newspaper.
Ginsberg was a massive anti-conformist, which stood out in his works. He was also a huge advocate for gay rights and anti-capitalism, both views at the time being extremely controversial.
Together with Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg formed what would become the Beat Generation in the late 1940s and continued into the ’50s and ’60s. This extremely influential poetry movement detailed life in America following the First World War.
One of his most famous works is Howl, which also happens to be the title of a biopic about him starring James Franco. However, there is another biopic titled Kill Your Darlings, with Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role.
Although Junot Diaz was technically born in the Dominican Republic, he immigrated to New Jersey as a young boy.
Interestingly enough, before attending college, he wasn’t in the least interested in writing — until he read the works of Toni Morrison. It was during his time at Rutgers University that he started working for the University Press, which was his official start in the writing world.
He may not be a native New Jerseyan per se, but his writings have been influential due to, among other reasons, the juxtaposition of his Dominican and American cultural roots.
In fact, this combination of cultures can be seen throughout his writing, particularly in one of his most popular novels, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
He often receives praise for his inclusion of immigrant culture and diversity in his works. This can also be seen in his collection of short stories, Drown, written in 1996. He’s currently an editor at Boston Review and a professor at MIT.
Matthew Quick was born in 1973 and grew up in Oakland, NJ, where his writing career started to take form. He first earned a degree in English literature from La Salle University, followed by an MFA from Goddard College. First, he taught literature in high school in Southern New Jersey, where he became a tenured teacher.
However, Quick desired to be a writer more than anything else, which caused him to leave his tenured teaching position and write what would become one of the most popular books of the time, the Silver Linings Playbook. It was so popular that it became a New York Times Bestseller, followed by a movie adaptation starring none other than Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
Thanks to the Silver Linings Playbook, he was a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award and the TIME 100 Most Influential People of 2013 list. He has many other novels under his belt, including Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Boy 21, We Are the Light, and many more!
One of the older authors on our list, Judy Blume was born in 1938 in Elizabeth, NJ. She is often credited as one of the driving forces behind the advent of YA (young adult) novels — novels explicitly designed around topics that youth and young adults could relate to.
Two of her most famous works centered around teen angst include Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. These books perfectly illustrate some of the issues and frustrations children and youth may face during their formative years.
Blume also tackled many other complex topics from the viewpoint of a young adult that virtually nobody had bothered to write about before, with menstruation and death being two of them.
Together with her husband, she opened a bookstore in Florida aptly named Books & Books.