Russell Banks, 1940–, American writer, b. Newton, Mass., grad. Univ. of North Carolina (1967). Banks is known for fiction that explores the bleaker aspects of American working-class life with empathy and a touch of dark humor. He began writing poetry, e.g., Waiting to Freeze (1969) and Snow (1974), turning to fiction with the novel Family Life (1975). His early works, e.g., the novel Hamilton Stark (1978) and the short stories of Trailerpark (1981), chronicle grim lives lived in grim places. He examines issues of class and race the novels Continental Drift (1985), about the intersecting lives of an American workman and a Haitian woman, and Cloudsplitter (1998), a fictional account of John Brown's life. Other novels include Affliction (1989, film 1997), which treats father-son conflict, alcoholism, and violence; The Sweet Hereafter (1991, film 1997), which details the aftermath of a fatal school bus accident; Rule of the Bone (1995); The Darling (2004); and Lost Memory of Skin (2011). Additional stories are collected in Success Stories (1986), The Angel on the Roof (2000), and A Permanent Member of the Family (2013). Dreaming Up America (2008), originally written for a French audience, examines the myths and realities of U.S. history.
See D. Roche, ed., Conversations with Russell Banks (2010); studies by R. Niemi (1997) and K. T. McEneaney (2010).