Steinke, Darcey 1964-

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STEINKE, Darcey 1964-

PERSONAL: Born 1964, in VA; married Michael Hornsburg (a literary agent and author); children: Abbie. Education: Goucher College, B.A.; University of Virginia, M.A.

ADDRESSES: Office—University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677. Agent—c/o Bloomsbury Publishing, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.

CAREER: University of Mississippi, Oxford, writing instructor.

AWARDS, HONORS: Hoynes fellowship, University of Virginia; Wallace Stegner fellowship, Stanford University; Renee and John Grisham Writer-in-Residence Award, 1998–99; Notable Books of the Year designation, New York Times, for Up through the Water and Jesus Saves.



Up through the Water, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.

Suicide Blonde, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Jesus Saves, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Milk, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2005.


(Editor and contributor, with Rick Moody) Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.

Contributor to periodicals, including Spin.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Great Disappointment, an historical novel about the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

SIDELIGHTS: Darcey Steinke is the daughter of a minister, as is the protagonist of her second novel, Suicide Blonde. Jesse trades the suburbs for a perverse bohemian lifestyle in San Francisco, and there she falls in love with Bell, a bisexual who uses her as his link to heterosexuality while he cruises the gay bars for men. Jesse dyes her hair blonde and escapes through alcohol and into harmful relationships, including one with Madison, a cruel prostitute who draws Jesse into the life of a hooker. Other characters delve into Satanism and sadism and light candles pushed into the rotting heads of deer.

Elizabeth Young wrote in New Statesman & Society that "this is violent, sinister territory and Jesse … is forced into confronting the boundaries of her own morality…. This is an impressive debut, a rare attempt to decode the double helix of nihilism and death." A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that "Steinke reveals many hard-to-accept truths about sentimental love, self-delusion and obsession as she strips each character of dignity."

Charles Michaud wrote in Library Journal that in Jesus Saves "Steinke takes us on a Generation X tour through an American hell." The story is set in a Southern town that has lost its life to strip malls and subdivisions. Ginger, the daughter of a minister father who continues to mourn the death of his wife, drinks, smokes pot, and engages in sex with her boyfriend while observing her father being pushed aside in favor of a younger minister who is more adept at public relations than saving souls. A number of young people in the town have suffered sad fates. One girl was raped in the bathroom at Hardee's and another was found dead in a lake. Now Sandy Patrick, is missing, kidnapped from her summer camp by an abductor who drags her from place to place while the girl's picture can be seen on every utility pole and bulletin board. Booklist reviewer June Vigor commented that in this story, "Jesus is the savior of self-esteem and it is little girls who are dying for our sins."

Steinke and coeditor Rick Moody commissioned essays about the New Testament or about being a Christian for Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited. The fact that the contributors—which include Steinke and Moody—are not religious scholars, but rather poets, novelists, and playwrights, "makes this book about faith a most interesting read," according to Library Journal contributor John Moryl. America critic Emilie Griffin noted that the collection "is for recovering secularists who may … profess to find the Bible daunting but insist they're yearning for a way in."

Most of the contributors are young writers and include Benjamin Cheever, bell hooks, Barry Hannah, Joanna Scott, and Madison Smartt Bell. Jazz is referenced by the title of the volume, which is essentially a collection of riffs on Jesus and his apostles. Sally E. Parry wrote in the Review of Contemporary Fiction that "it is a pleasure to see an engagement with spirituality in a less than dogmatic manner, by writers who represent a variety of interpretations." Parry noted that the writers are of varying backgrounds, including white, black, Hispanic, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Buddhist, heterosexual, and gay.

Milk, a novel that focuses on three people, was described by Leann Restaino in Library Journal as an "enlightening and philosophical book that asks readers to consider other ways to define belief." Mary is a poet, the mother of a newborn, and the wife of an errant husband. Walter, her old friend from college, is a gay Episcopalian priest who mourns the loss of his now-deceased lover Carlos, and who has been transferred from his Manhattan parish to another in Brooklyn because he wrote a love letter to a teenaged boy. Mary finds comfort with John, a former monk who feels closer to God because of their relationship. John, who first shares an apartment with Walter, wants Mary to move in with him when he finds his own place, but she regrets leaving her husband.

A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that, "despite its complicated sense of morality, this novel reads like an exquisite sketch, as if the real bulk of the story has yet to be written." A Kirkus Reviews critic called Milk "a lyrical and earthy meditation on the limits and glories of being human."



America, February 21, 1998, Emilie Griffin, review of Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited, p. 22.

Booklist, September 15, 1997, June Vigor, review of Jesus Saves, p. 211; October 15, 1997, Ray Olson, review of Joyful Noise, p. 365.

Entertainment Weekly, June 29, 1992, review of Suicide Blonde, p. 59.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2004, review of Milk, p. 1114.

Library Journal, August, 1997, Charles Michaud, review of Jesus Saves, p. 136; October 1, 1997, John Moryl, review of Joyful Noise, p. 88; February 1, 2005, Leann Restaino, review of Milk, p. 71.

New Statesman & Society, April 23, 1993, Elizabeth Young, review of Suicide Blonde, p. 40.

Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1992, review of Suicide Blonde, p. 51; July 28, 1997, review of Jesus Saves, p. 49; December 20, 2004, review of Milk, p. 35.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 1998, Sally E. Parry, review of Joyful Noise, p. 258.

Time, October 26, 1992, review of Suicide Blonde, p. 89.


Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project Web site, (May 3, 2005), "Darcey Steinke."