Emma Donoghue

(* 1969)

Emma DonoghueBiographical Sketch

Emma Donoghue (born Dublin, Ireland, October 24, 1969) is a playwright, literary historian and novelist now living in Canada.

Donoghue’s first novel was 1994’s Stir Fry, a contemporary coming of age novel about a young Irish woman discovering her sexuality. It was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in 1994. This was followed in 1995 by Hood, another contemporary story, this time about an Irish woman coming to terms with the death of her girlfriend. Hood won the 1997 Stonewall Book Award. Slammerkin (2000) is a historical novel set in London and Wales that was inspired by an 18th century newspaper story about a young servant who killed her employer and was executed. It was a finalist in the 2001 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Fiction and was awarded the 2002 Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction (despite a lack of lesbian content). The Sealed Letter (2008) is based on the Codrington Affair, a scandalous divorce case that gripped Britain in 1864. The Sealed Letter was longlisted for the Giller Prize, and was joint winner of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award.

Donoghue’s 2010 novel Room is the claustrophobic story of a young woman’s escape from her captivity in the hands of a sexual predator, told by the woman’s young son (who was born in the tiny single room where they had been locked during the years of their captivitiy). Inspired by the fate of Elisabeth Fritzl, the book was an international bestsellser, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, and winner of the the Irish Book Award 2010 and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. It was also shortlisted for the 2010 Governor General’s Awards in Canada and the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011.

Read more about Emma Donoghue on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Irish Book Awards
  • 2010: Best Irish Novel – “Room”
Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (Canada)
  • 2010: “Room”
British National Book Awards
  • 2011: Paperback of the Year – “Room”
American Library Association (ALA) Awards
  • 1997: Stonewall Book Award for Fiction – “Hood”
  • 2011: Stonewall Book Award for Non-Fiction – “Inseparable: Desire between Women in Literature”
  • 2011: Alex Award – “Room”
  • 2012: Booklist Editors’ Choice Award: Fiction – “Astray”
Lambda Literary Awards (USA)
  • 2009: Best Lesbian Fiction – “The Sealed Letter”
    – (tied with Chandra Mayor’s “All the Pretty Girls”)
Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction (Publishing Triangle – USA/Canada)
  • 2002: “Slammerkin”



  • Stir-Fry (1994)
  • Hood (1995)
  • Slammerkin (2000)
  • Life Mask (2004)
  • Landing (2007)
  • The Sealed Letter (2008)
  • Room (2010)
  • Frog Music (2014)
  • The Lotterys
    • The Lotterys Plus One (2017)
    • The Lotterys More or Less (2018)
  • Akin (2019)
  • The Pull of the Stars (2020)
Short Stories (Stand-Alone and Collections)
  • Going Back (1993)
    – Stand-alone short story.
  • Seven Pictures Not Taken (1996)
    – Stand-alone short story.
  • Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins (1997)
    – Fairy tales.
  • Error Messages (1999)
    – Stand-alone short story.
  • Ladies’ Night at Finbar’s Hotel (1999)
    – Contributor.
  • The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Short Stories (1999)
    – Editor.
  • Thicker Than Water (2001)
    – Stand-alone short story.
  • The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits (2002)
  • Here and Now (2006)
    – Stand-alone short story.
  • Touchy Subjects (2006)
  • How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity (2009)
    – Editor: Michael Chart; contains Donoghue’s story Dear Lang.
  • Tableau Vivant (2010)
    – Stand-alone short story.
  • Visiting Hours (2011)
    – Stand-alone short story; based on Donoghue’s radio play The Modern Family.
  • Three and a Half Deaths (2011)
  • Spelled Backward (2012)
    – Stand-alone short story.
  • Astray (2012)
  • Since First I Saw Your Face (2016)
    – Stand-alone short story.
  • The Big Cheese (2017)
    – Stand-alone short story.
Drama, Radio Plays and Screenplays
  • I Know My Own Heart (1993)
  • Ladies and Gentlemen (1996)
  • Trespasses (1996)
    – Radio play; subsequently reworked for the stage.
  • Kissing the Witch (2000)
  • Don’t Die Wondering (2000)
    – Radio play.
  • Kissing the Witch (2000)
    – Based on 5 short stories from Donoghue’s collection of the same name.
  • Exes (2001)
    – Five radio plays.
  • Pluck (2001)
    – Screenplay.
  • Humans and Other Animals (2003)
    – Five radio plays.
  • Mix (2003)
    – Radio play.
  • The Talk of the Town (2012)
  • Room (2015)
    Screenplay; based on Donoghue’s novel of the same name.
  • Signatories (2016)
  • Room (2017)
    – Stage play; based on Donoghue’s novel.
  • What Sappho Would Have Said (1997)
    A/K/A: Poems Between Women
    – Editor.
  • Passions Between Women: British Lesbian Culture 1668 – 1801 (1993)
  • We Are Michael Field (1998)
  • Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature (2010)


A Selection of Quotes


“[E]verywhere I’m looking at kids, adults mostly don’t seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo, but they don’t want to actually play with them, they’d rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there’s a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn’t even hear.”

“I remember manners, that’s when people are scared to make other persons mad.”

“Everybody’s damaged by something.”

“Sometimes when persons say definitely it sounds actually less true.”


Find more quotes by Emma Donoghue on Goodreads.