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15 Studious Facts About CliffsNotes

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For decades, students desperate for a summary of Crime and Punishment or a thematic analysis of motherhood in Toni Morrison’s Beloved looked no further than the yellow and black guides available at their local bookstore. Started by a Nebraska bookworm in 1958, CliffsNotes has been the salvation of many a time-crunched, inquisitive—and yes, downright lazy—student. But who was Cliff, anyway? And who wrote the guides? Consider this your study guide.

1. THERE REALLY WAS A CLIFF.

Born in Rising City, Nebraska in 1919, Clifton Hillegass was a voracious reader who reportedly read five books a week up until his death at age 83. A math and physics major in college, he worked as a meteorologist for the Army Air Corps during World War II and eventually took a job distributing textbooks for the Nebraska Book Company. In 1958, he borrowed $4000 from the local bank and began channeling his love of literature into a series of guide books he called Cliff’s Notes. Within 10 years, his little black and yellow books were a million-dollar business. Hillegrass spent 40 years at the helm of his company, retiring after IDG Books Worldwide (publishers of the "For Dummies" series) bought him out for $14.2 million.

2. BEFORE THERE WAS CLIFF'S NOTES, THERE WAS COLE’S NOTES.

In the 1950s, Hillegass got to know a Canadian book store owner and publisher named Jack Cole, who put out a series of study guides called Cole’s Notes. Cole convinced Hillegass to become the U.S. distributor for his guides, starting with a run of 16 Shakespeare titles. Reluctantly, Hillegass agreed, and in 1958 printed 33,000 copies of the guides. With his wife mailing letters to contacts while his daughter stuffed envelopes, Hillegass ran the business out of his Lincoln, Nebraska basement. He sold more than half of the guides, which he renamed, in the first year, and managed to grow his sales each following year. By 1964, Hillegass’s side business had become so lucrative, he quit his job at the Nebraska Book Company and devoted himself full-time to writing and distributing Cliff’s Notes.

3. THE NAME HAS SUBTLY CHANGED OVER THE YEARS.

By the early '60s, Cliff Hillegass was producing so many of his own study guides, he stopped distributing Cole’s Notes. To signify this break, he dropped the apostrophe, and "Cliff’s Notes" became "Cliffs Notes." For decades the company operated under this name, until John Wiley & Sons, which became publisher in 2001, streamlined the name to CliffsNotes.

4. CLIFF NEVER INTENDED THEM TO BE "CHEATER BOOKS."

With their chapter-by-chapter plot summaries, character descriptions, and analysis of structure, themes and other elements, CliffsNotes' literature guides became, for many students, a substitute for doing the actual reading. This dismayed Hillegass, who always maintained that his booklets should be used as supplemental aides. For decades, the company printed an edict alongside Hillegass’s signature inside its guides: "These notes are not a substitute for the text itself or for the classroom discussion of the text, and students who attempt to use them in this way are denying themselves the very education that they are presumably giving their most vital years to achieve."

5. THE COMPANY STILL MAINTAINS THEY ARE STUDY GUIDES.

With plot summaries, pre-written reports and other shortcuts scattered across the internet, the threat of CliffsNotes seems almost quaint these days. Still, the company (now owned by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) upholds Hillegass’s vision of CliffsNotes as a literary supplement rather than a substitute. "Most people use CliffsNotes by reading a chapter of the book or an act of the play, and then reading the corresponding section in the CliffsNotes," its website asserts, perhaps wishfully.

6. GRAD STUDENTS WROTE A LOT OF THEM.

CliffsNotes has long promoted the fact that teachers and professors write its literary guides. But in interviews, Hillegass revealed that most of the work fell to graduate students. This was primarily a strategic move, since Hillegass didn’t want to overburden his guides with scholarly details and asides. "Someone involved in 20 years of teaching Shakespeare often has too specialized a knowledge," he said in a 1983 interview.

7. SOME TEACHERS USED THEM.

In a 1985 interview with The Chicago Tribune, the executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English admitted some of his members used CliffsNotes. Many of these teachers utilized the guides when they were students, and found them helpful in planning lessons. Others, meanwhile, read the guides in order to catch would-be plagiarists. Writer Jessica Reaves remembered her mother, an English teacher, kept a collection of CliffsNotes at home. "Every time my mom wrote a test or even a quiz on a book she was teaching, she would first sit down with the corresponding Cliffs Notes (and any spinoff cheater books that were on the scene) and painstakingly write the test around the information in the booklets," Reaves wrote in Time magazine. "In other words, she made it virtually impossible to cheat."

8. …BUT MOST TEACHERS HATED THEM.

"The sole purpose of Cliffs Notes is to get a kid through a course and fake it," one teacher told the Tribune. Said another: "What's onerous is not that they summarize the plot, but that they offer commentary on what to think about literature that is accessible and vibrant." In addition to what they considered pre-packaged analysis and summary, teachers have constantly battled with students who plagiarize the guides. Pre-internet, some instructors tried to stay ahead of the problem by assigning books that had no corresponding CliffsNotes. Others took even more drastic measures, like a teacher in Washington, D.C. who told the Tribune he once went into the bookstore next door to his school and moved all the Cliffs Notes copies of Moby-Dick, which he was teaching at the time, to the romance section.

9. THE COMPANY RESPONDED TO CRITICISM BY REVISING ITS GUIDES.

After years of deflecting claims by angry teachers that it was helping students cheat, CliffsNotes in 2000 began updating its literary guides to encourage critical thinking and get students engaging with the source text. The new guides asked questions, referred students to web sources, and offered more background information about each book’s author and the time period in which it was written.

10. SPY MAGAZINE LAUNCHED A PARODY SERIES IN THE LATE '80s.

In 1989, the satirical magazine Spy put out "Spy Notes," a CliffsNotes parody that focused on hip urban novels by authors like Brett Easton Ellis, Jay McInerney, and Jill Eisenstadt. Sample essay questions included "Who’s cooler, McInerney or Ellis?" and "Why do so many authors rely on dead-mother plot devices?" "Spy Notes" got rave reviews from lit critics, but CliffsNotes was not amused. Thinking the booklets too closely resembled its study guides in form—including yellow-and-black covers—and in content, Cliffs Notes sued Spy and won, but had the case overturned on appeal. Summing up the legal intricacies of the case, Spy founder Kurt Anderson told the Chicago Tribune, "We’re not trying to start a competing line of study aids for lazy students."

11. THE PASS/FAIL GRADING REVOLUTION HURT SALES.

Between 1969 and 1975, sales of Cliffs Notes plummeted from 2.8 million per year to less than 1.8 million. The reason? Hillegass and general manager Dick Spellman blamed the rise of experimental grading systems like pass/fail, which swept the nation beginning in the early '70s. "Students weren’t interested in grades anymore," said Spellman in 1983.

12. THEY GOT SHUT OUT OF BARNES & NOBLE.

In 2002, the bookselling chain abruptly took CliffsNotes off its shelves. This wasn’t because the study guides weren’t selling well—quite the contrary. Rather, Barnes & Noble wanted to exclusively stock SparkNotes, a competing study guide series it had purchased the previous year. The guides appeared on shelves for a dollar cheaper than CliffsNotes, giving Barnes & Noble a big sales boost. Eventually, the company lifted the ban, and these days you can find a trove of CliffsNotes titles on its website. 

13. COLLEGE BOOKSTORES BANNED THEM.

Twenty years ago, a group of professors at Villanova University signed a petition asking the school to discontinue sales of CliffsNotes in its campus bookstore. The university complied, and in doing so joined a growing number of schools like Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore in shutting out the popular study guides. Administrators acknowledged it was mostly a symbolic gesture, since students could simply buy the booklets from another source. "We don’t put our institution’s endorsement behind it," the associate dean for academic affairs told the Associated Press at the time. CliffsNotes, meanwhile, wasn’t taking any of this lying down. The company took out a full-page ad in Villanova’s student paper calling the move "censorship."

14. COMPETITION IS FIERCE THESE DAYS.

CliffsNotes has always had competitors. And for decades, the company was able to win out through the strength of its name and through its ties to bookstores, who would typically only sell a limited number of study guide brands. Nowadays, though, with online sources and digital publishers able to bypass traditional channels, the competition has exploded. Looking for a summary of Crime and Punishment? You have hundreds of options to choose from. Even contemporary titles like The Girl on the Train, an unofficial survey by the Observer found, have as many as 10 summary options available through channels like Amazon Kindle and Google Play.

15. THE COMPANY DOESN’T MAKE MUCH OFF ITS LITERATURE GUIDES ANYMORE.

CliffsNotes, like its competitors, has tried to stay relevant with literature guides (all now available online for free) to contemporary classics like All the Pretty Horses, The Kite Runner, and The Poisonwood Bible. But the growth side of the business these days lies with the company’s study guides, test prep guides, and subscription content. Earlier this year, publisher Houghton Harcourt Mifflin announced a subscription service that would offer personalized feedback for students using its test prep and subject learning guides. CliffsNotes's famed literature guides, though, weren’t right for the service, a company rep told Education Week. "We’re not going to write your paper for you," he said.

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How a Shoemaker Became America’s Most Controversial Mystic—and Inspired Edgar Allan Poe
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Andrew Jackson Davis may not be a prominent figure now, but in the 19th century, he amassed a dedicated following that helped give rise to Spiritualism, a once-popular religion that believed in communicating with the dead. Davis used the teachings of a German doctor named Anton Mesmer to enter trance states that he claimed allowed him to see into space, the afterlife, other worlds, and even the human body. His metaphysical exploits earned him the nickname the “Poughkeepsie Seer,” and while frequently derided by his contemporaries, he inspired at least one well-known American writer: Edgar Allan Poe.

A HUMBLE SHOEMAKER

By all accounts, Davis had a fairly unremarkable childhood. He was born in Blooming Grove, New York, in 1826. His father, a shoemaker, was prone to drink, so Davis and his sister picked up odd jobs to support the family. Most of his schooling came from a then-popular program where teachers taught advanced students, who then taught one another. Ira Armstrong, a shoemaker/merchant he apprenticed under, later recalled that Davis's education “barely amounted to a knowledge of reading, writing and the rudiments of arithmetic.”

In the 1830s, Anton Mesmer’s teachings became popular in America thanks to several impassioned lecturers in New York and New England. Mesmer, who had found fame in Europe in the late 18th century, believed he could use magnets and his own touch to move “magnetic fluids” through the body, healing his patients of everything from the common cold to blindness. Though his theory of animal magnetism, as he called the existence of such fluids, was discredited by the French Academy of Sciences in 1784, medical professionals later became curious about Mesmer’s ability to manipulate his patients into altered mental states. Doctors—conventional or otherwise—studied the phenomenon of mesmerism, traveling across the country to demonstrate their findings.

It’s this mesmerist renaissance that first brought Davis into the public eye. In 1843, a Dr. James Stanley Grimes traveled to Poughkeepsie, New York, advertising his ability to induce trance states. Many Poughkeepsie residents attended the production—including Davis, although he wasn't entranced as advertised. The visit excited the community, especially a tailor and acquaintance of Davis's named William Levingston, who began dabbling in mesmerism himself. One day in early December, Levingston asked if he could mesmerize Davis, and he succeeded where Grimes had failed: Davis, while blindfolded, was able to read a newspaper placed on his forehead, and listed the various diseases of a group of witnesses.

Rumors soon swirled about Davis’s abilities. After that first session, Levingston mesmerized him nearly every day, and hundreds crowded into Levingston’s home to gawk at the spectacle. The sessions followed a pattern: Davis would enter a trance state and diagnose visitors with maladies, and then Levingston would sell remedies. The pair eventually began to travel, taking their show to Connecticut.

Some of Davis’s advice was unorthodox. For deafness, as Davis wrote in his autobiography, The Magic Staff, he once recommended a patient “catch thirty-two weasels ... take off their hind legs at the middle joint, and boil that oil which Nature has deposited in the feet and the parts adjacent thereto.” This preparation, he went on, “must be dropped (one drop at a time) in each ear, twice a day, till the whole is gone—when you will be nearly cured!”

Sketch of Andrew Jackson Davis on a yellow background
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However, Davis swore off parlor tricks in 1844 after he claimed to have teleported 40 miles in his sleep. During the episode, he purportedly spoke with the ghosts of the Greek physician Galen and the Swedish scientist and philosopher Emmanuel Swedenborg, who hinted that Davis had a higher purpose. Galen gifted him with a magic staff, although he was not allowed to keep it. The tale mirrored that of Joseph Smith’s, who around 1827 had claimed a holy messenger guided him to golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written. The year after the teleportation episode, Davis decided to part ways with Levingston, and moved to New York City in the company of Silas Smith Lyon, a doctor, and two Universalist ministers, William Fishbough and Samuel Byron Britton.

There, Lyon placed Davis into trance states several times a day, during which time he would lecture on science and philosophy while also diagnosing patients. Fishbough, meanwhile, would transcribe Davis’s transmissions, which were published as his first book, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelation, and a Voice to Mankind in 1847. Davis combined Spiritualism with utopianism, describing a heaven-like space where all would be welcome by a Mother and a Father God. Academics of the time soon noticed Davis’s insights were nearly identical to writings that Swedenborg had published years before: Both Davis and Swedenborg claimed to see a spiritual world beyond our own, where all humans could be welcomed into heaven, regardless of religion.

Christian leaders called Davis’s text heretical, while newspapers referred to the book as “ridiculous” and “incomprehensible.” One professor of Greek and Latin at the University of New York said the book was “a work of the devil,” and displayed an “absurd and ridiculous attempt at reasoning.” Joseph McCabe, in his 1920 book Spiritualism: A Popular History from 1847, declared that there was “no need to examine the book seriously” since it contained so many scientific errors. Notably, The Church of New Jerusalem, founded on Swedenborgian ideas, never publicly endorsed Davis’s theories.

Despite this criticism, Davis attracted passionate defenders. George Bush, a Swedenborgian scholar and distant relative of George W. Bush, was among his champions. He insisted that a simple youth like Davis had no access to Swedenborg’s texts and must have been communing with spirits. In 1846, when the French mathematician Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier postulated the existence of the planet Neptune, supporters were quick to write the New York Tribune claiming Davis had already discovered the eighth planet. “As to the asserted fact that this announcement by Mr. Davis was made in March last,” Bush declared, “I can testify that I heard it read at the time; and numerous gentlemen in this city are ready to bear witness that I informed them of the circumstance several months before the intelligence reached us of Le Verrier’s discovery.”

Detractors were just as vocal. When Fishbough admitted to extensively editing Davis's words, a reviewer at the London Athenaeum couldn’t contain his derision: “That a seer ‘commercing’ with the Mysteries of Nature should have needed an editor in this technical sense is remarkable enough," he wrote. "It might have been supposed that the Revelations which brought to an uneducated man the secrets of Science might have brought him grammar, too, to express them in.” Fishbough countered that it would have simply been too much work for Davis to pay attention to such tiny details.

"MARTIN VAN BUREN MAVIS"

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of the more prominent people occasionally making fun of Davis was Edgar Allan Poe. In the satirical “Mellonta Tauta,” Poe wrote in a preface that “Martin Van Buren Mavis (sometimes called the ‘Toughkeepsie Seer’)” had translated the story—thus poking fun at Davis and his acolytes. Poe also included Davis in his “50 Suggestions,” brief witticisms published in 1849 that took aim at popular beliefs and theorists of the time: “There surely cannot be ‘more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of’ (oh, Andrew Jackson Davis!) ‘in your philosophy,’” Poe wrote.

Yet Davis’s The Principles of Nature may also have inspired the prose poem “Eureka,” in which Poe proposed his theory of the universe. The work has puzzled critics since its inception: Poe’s use of humorous nicknames in the text (he refers to Aristotle as “Aries Tottle”) point to “Eureka” being a satire, but historians have pointed out that several of Poe’s intuitive concepts actually anticipated the study of scientific phenomenon like black holes and the expanding universe.

Several historians have also remarked on the way Davis’s demonstrations in New York influenced Poe’s short story “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” which follows a mesmerist who puts an old man into a trance on his deathbed and watches his body float between life and death. Davis had claimed his trances put him in a state near death, freeing his mind to travel to spiritual realms. In his book Occult America, writer Mitch Horowitz notes that Poe completed the story in New York the year he met Davis. Dawn B. Sova also mentions in Edgar Allan Poe A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work that Poe used his observations of Davis’s trance sessions to complete the story.

For his part, Davis himself seemed somewhat taken with Poe. Of meeting him in 1846, he wrote in Memoranda of Persons, Places and Events, “My sympathies are strangely excited. There are conflicting breathings of commanding power in his mind. But … I saw a perfect shadow of himself in the air in front of him, as though the sun was constantly shining behind and casting shadows before him, causing the singular appearance of one walking into a dark fog produced by himself.”

Charlatan or not, it was an eerie observation to make of a writer who would meet his end three years later.

Davis himself would live a long and rich life. He continued to lecture and write books until the 1880s, doing away with his scribe for later publications. He then earned a traditional medical license and moved to Boston, serving as a physician until his death in 1910. Though he sought to distance himself from the spectacle of spiritualism later on in life, Davis’s humble background and curious rise to fame made the “Poughkeepsie Seer” one of movement’s most notable figures—and one who still maintains a strange resonance today.

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15 Facts About Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees
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A tale of love and loss, sisterhood and trauma, Sue Monk Kidd's 2002 novel The Secret Life of Bees has won the hearts of millions of readers around the world. But few know the full truth behind this inspirational novel.

1. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES IS A BILDUNGSROMAN.

A bildungsroman is a novel that charts the moral or psychological growth of its protagonist. It's also known as a coming-of-age story. In this case, Kidd's novel follows the journey of its narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Lily Melissa Owens. After escaping her abusive father T. Ray, Lily finds solace with the beekeeping Boatwright sisters, and confronts the terrible truth about her mother's death.

2. THE NOVEL TACKLES RACE RELATIONS IN THE 1960S.

Set in South Carolina during the civil rights movement, The Secret Life of Bees presents examples of overt racism. In one scene, a trio of white men harasses Lily's mother-figure Rosaleen Daise, who is black. At the same time, the novel challenges pernicious racial stereotypes. Before meeting the Boatwrights, Lily, who is white, assumes all black women are uneducated laborers or maids like Rosaleen. Through her time with the sisters, who are accomplished business owners, the novel's heroine recognizes her own prejudices, and grows to realize her ignorance.

3. ASPECTS OF LILY'S CHILDHOOD MIRRORED KIDD'S OWN.

Upon the novel's 10th anniversary, Kidd offered a long list of autobiographical elements that can be found within The Secret Life of Bees. "Both Lily and I were adolescents during the summer of 1964, and like Lily, I was powerfully affected by the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the racial unrest that fomented during those hot, volatile months," she wrote on her website. "I, too, had an African-American caretaker. I, too, wanted to be a writer ... Lily and I created fallout shelter models for our 7th-grade science projects and wrote papers called 'My Philosophy of Life' before either of us were old enough to have a philosophy." Kidd clarifies, however, that she did not lose her mother when she was a child and her father was "nothing like T. Ray."

4. KIDD VISITED HONEYHOUSES AND BEEHIVES WHEN SHE WAS WRITING THE NOVEL.

"Some of those scenes where Lily is experiencing that rush of feeling and emotion when the bees come swirling out of their hives, I could never have gotten that from a book," the author told BookPage. "The fear and delight of all that and the sounds of it … the way your feet stick to the floor in a honeyhouse … the senses are alive in all of that experience."

5. BEES WERE A BIG PART OF KIDD'S CHILDHOOD.

In one way, Kidd lived in a honeyhouse of her own. "When I was growing up, bees lived inside a wall of our house, an entire hive-full of them—that is to say, 50,000 or so. They lived with us, not for a summer or two, but for 18 years," Kidd wrote on her website. "The room vibrated with bee hum. At times, the whole house seemed to hum. I remember my mother cleaning up the honey that leaked from the cracks and made tiny puddles on the floor. Being a good Southern family, we normalized the situation and went on with our lives."

6. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES WAS KIDD'S FIRST NOVEL, BUT NOT HER FIRST BOOK.

Ahead of The Secret Life of Bees, the Georgia-born author wrote three books about aspects of Christianity: God's Joyful Surprise (1988), When The Heart Waits (1990), and The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (1996). It wasn’t until she was in her forties that Kidd shifted her focus to fiction, beginning with short stories. The Secret Life of Bees came out in 2002, when Kidd was 53 years old.

7. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES HAS A SPIRITUAL CONNECTION TO KIDD'S EARLIER BOOKS.

The novel includes Christian iconography, notably the Black Madonna that adorns the Boatwrights' honey jars. Its coming-of-age plot also touches on spiritual awakening. As Kidd said in the 2002 interview with BookPage, "I think of it as something deeper and more profound happening to [Lily] at the level of soul, and I wanted her to have a real transformation and a real awakening … to this other realm."

8. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES'S MEMORABLE MARY FIGUREHEAD WAS BASED ON A REAL ONE IN A MUSEUM.

In the novel, a religious service is held before a statue called Black Mary or Our Lady of Chains, which is the figurehead of a ship that carries a great significance to the Daughters of Mary, a group of women who follow a religion invented by August Boatwright. Kidd had seen a similar figurehead while visiting a Trappist monastery in South Carolina. "The day that I discovered her," Kidd said, "I was totally captivated by … the powerful imagery of this [figurehead] Mary that was surfacing from the deep, washing up from the deep, onto the shores of consciousness, so to speak."

9. THE BOATWRIGHT SISTERS REPRESENT A CELEBRATION OF FEMALE FRIENDSHIP AND SORORITY.

On her website, Kidd tells the story of how she came up with the Boatwright sisters' characters and setting. She had woken up in the middle of the night thinking about where Rosaleen and Lily were going to end up after escaping T. Ray. She picked up a selection of photos that she had hoped would spark creativity. "My eyes wandered back and forth between pictures of three African-American women, an uproariously pink house, a cloud of bees, and a black Mary, and suddenly, it fell in one unbroken piece into my head," she wrote. "My two runaways would escape to the home of three black sisters, who live in a pink house, keep bees, and revere a black Mary. This sudden revelation may have happened in part because down deep I wanted a way to write about the strength, wisdom, and bonds of women."

10. KIDD WAS INSPIRED BY TWO CLASSICS OF AMERICAN LITERATURE.

The Secret Life of Bees won applause for its insightful look into the inner lives of its female characters. It may be no surprise that its author says reading the groundbreaking feminist novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin, published in 1899, made a big impact on her. Kidd also cites Henry David Thoreau's Walden, the 1854 transcendentalist treatise on simplicity and self-reliance. When she read each book, Kidd told Scholastic, "I would say they were turning points in my life, but also I can look back and say they affected me deeply as a writer."

11. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES WAS A RUNAWAY HIT.

The novel spent more than two-and-a-half years on The New York Times bestseller list and more than 8 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide. It has also been translated into 36 languages.

12. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES ALSO EARNED CRITICAL ACCLAIM.

Many reviewers praised Kidd's beautifully rendered characters and setting. "Lily is a wonderfully petulant and self-absorbed adolescent, and Kidd deftly portrays her sense of injustice as it expands to accommodate broader social evils," The New York Times Book Review wrote. "August and her sisters, June and May, are no mere vehicles for Lily's salvation; they are individuals as fully imagined as the sweltering, kudzu-carpeted landscape that surrounds them."

In deeming the novel "buzz-worthy," People wrote, "populated with rich, believable characters and propelled by a swiftly paced plot, this debut novel is a cut above most coming-of-age tales."

The Secret Life of Bees was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Women's Prize for Fiction) in 2002, and won the American Booksellers Association's Book Sense Paperback of the Year award in 2004.

13. THE NOVEL WAS MADE INTO A STAR-STUDDED MOVIE.

Gina Prince-Bythewood, who wrote and directed Love & Basketball and other features, adapted The Secret Life Of Bees into a period drama. The cast included Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, Oscar nominees Queen Latifah and Sophie Okonedo, multiple Grammy winner Alicia Keys, and Dakota Fanning as Lily.

Kidd visited the film set in a tiny North Carolina town and marveled at how every detail of the production was just as she had imagined it. But months later, when she sat down in the movie theater to watch the film for the first time, she felt nervous. "I had no idea what I would see. I’d glibly said that handing over my novel to Hollywood had seemed like leaping out of an airplane, but sitting there waiting for the film to begin, it really did seem that way," Kidd wrote on her website. "The parachute opened, thankfully, and the whole thing floated rather nicely to earth."

The movie earned a People's Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Movie and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture.

14. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES HAS BEEN ADAPTED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL.

As part of Vassar College's Powerhouse Theater's summer season in 2017, the college and New York Stage and Film presented a workshop production of The Secret Life of Bees as a musical, which starred Orange is the New Black standout Uzo Aduba in the role of Rosaleen. The show featured music from Tony winner Duncan Sheik and a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage.

15. KIDD REALIZED THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES WAS BIG WHEN IT WAS FEATURED ON JEOPARDY!.

Under the category "Women Writers," the long-running quiz show offered this answer: “Sue Monk Kidd’s debut novel is about these insects.” Kidd recalled that moment on her website: "I blinked at the television. Finally, I came to life and shouted, 'What are bees?' Fortunately, the contestant did not need my help."

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