Born in Kingport, Tennessee, in 1944, the daughter of a doctor, Lisa Alther is one of few American lesbian novelists who have achieved mainstream readership and an international audience. Alther received a BA in English Literature from Wellesley in 1966 and studied Publishing Procedures at Radcliffe. After graduation she worked briefly for Atheneum Publishers in New York before moving to rural Vermont. Alther wrote fiction steadily for years, without success, collecting more than 250 rejection slips without getting published. She was stubborn however, and determined to succeed. And when she was finally successful, with Kinflicks in 1975 she was phenomenally successful.
She has written 5 novels: Kinflicks, Original Sin, Other Women, Bedrock and Five Minutes in Heaven. All five have made bestseller lists and been translated into several languages.
She takes a biographical approach to her characters (like her, each protagonist is rooted in a rural Southern childhood before being turned loose in the world) and she keeps her focus on the problem making sense of life, particularly sex and love. In an Alther novel sexuality begins heterosexual (these are conventional Southern characters, after all) only to become wildly experimental with all kinds of follies and disasters, before settling into patterns of a solid lesbian relationship.
She tends to follow gay or androgynous characters from childhood on, and charts both their inexhaustible sensuality and their increasing mental clarity. They work their way through gender stereotypes and discard conventional wisdom to come up with answers and solutions which work for them; getting themselves into ridiculous dilemmas and challenging some of America's most cherished cultural assumptions about social justice, dignity, and love, along the way.
Her novels are both profound and very funny, and whilst she is often described as a “feminist author”, the appeal her books is by no means limited to women.