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Joan Didion

Joan Didion gazes somberly to her right.
Photo by Robert Birnbaum. Courtesy of Robert Birnbaum.

(1934 – 2021)

California Connection

  • Fifth-generation Californian, lived in Southern California for 25 years


Biography current as of induction in 2014

One of America’s leading authors since the 1960s, Didion has achieved that rare combination of critical acclaim and wide popularity. Her spare and carefully crafted prose, which explores contradictions and seeks truths beyond the accepted mythology of the state, has defined California to readers around the world. Her later essays have explored universal themes of life, love and loss.

Didion was born and raised in Sacramento. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Didion won Vogue Magazine’s prestigious Prix de Paris student writing contest and worked as an editor at the magazine for seven years. Her first book of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) brought her into the national spotlight. Today she is the author of five novels, nine nonfiction books, screenplays, and many articles for magazines such as the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. Her book meditating on the death of her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking, won the 2005 National Book Award and spent over 24 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.


  • National Book Award
  • National Medal of Arts and Humanities
  • National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
  • Writer’s Guild of America’s Evelyn F. Burkey Award

View more inductees from the 8th class, inducted in 2014.