Kirin Narayan was born in India to an American mother and Indian father, and moved to the United States to attend college. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California—Berkeley. Her first book, Storytellers, Saints and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu Religious Teaching (1989), won the first Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing from the American Anthropological Association and was co-winner of the Elsie Clews Prize for Folklore from the American Folklore Society. Her novel Love, Stars and All That (1994) was included in the Barnes and Nobles Discover Great New Writers program. In the course of researching women’s oral traditions in Kangra, Northwest Himalayas, she collaborated with Urmila Devi Sood to bring together a book of tales with discussions of their meaning and ethnographic context in Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon: Himalayan Foothill Folktales (1997). An interest in family stories and diasporic experience inspired My Family and Other Saints (2007). Teaching ethnographic writing led her to compose Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov (2012), that includes galvanizing extracts, prompts and writing exercises. Her forthcoming book, Everyday Creativity: Singing Goddesses of the Himalayan Foothills explores creativity and well-being among women singers in Kangra, and will be released by the University of Chicago Press in 2016.
Kirin Narayan has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the School of American Research, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the University of Wisconsin Institute for Research in the Humanities, and the University of Wisconsin Graduate School. She received a Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Wisconsin in 2011. Since 2001, she has served as an editor for the Series in Contemporary Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania Press. She currently serves on the Committee of Selection for the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.