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"One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family," Conroy once said (Starr 3). Pat Conroy received this gift from Don and Peg Conroy on October 26, 1945 in Atlanta, Georgia. His writings are reflections of this life he received so long ago. He was born into a traditional Catholic family. His father was a Marine Corps fighter pilot, and his mother was a socially eager house wife (Disc. Auth. 1-2). Pat was the first of seven children and 6 miscarriages. Family life was so bad that his sister once said, "The miscarriages were the lucky ones." Pat says he served in the Marine Corps since the day he was born (Burns 5). His harsh father’s job required the family to move constantly. Conroy has moved 23 times in his life (Castro 2). He changed school 11 times in 12 years (bdd 1). They finally settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. Pat finished high school there in 1963(Disc. Auth. 1). He attended the Citadel on a basketball scholarship (Castro 2). While there, he became the literary editor for the school magazine (Disc. Auth. 1). He also became captain and MVP of the basketball team (Bdd 1). While he was attending the Citadel, he learned many important lessons of life (Burns 5).
Pat Conroy gained a lot of inspiration for his writing while attending college. His first book, The Boo, was published in 1970. It is based on a relationship with Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Nugent Courvoise, Assistant Commandant of Cadets, nicknamed Boo (Burns 1). It was a kind account of the Citadel (Disc. Auth. 2). Conroy once said The Boo was his longest letter to the world. In 1980, Conroy decided to write another book with influence from his alma mater. The Lords of Discipline was a story about the Carolina Military Institute, primarily based on The Citadel. It took the reader behind the doors of the barracks and showed what no one outside ever knew before (Disc. Auth. 2). It was extremely controversial and even caused him to lose his ring. The Lords of Discipline is the only book banned from the campus. The vulgar language in the book may offend some readers (Pumphrey 1). It was nominated for the Robert Kennedy Book Award in 1981. It was made into a movie in 1983 (Disc. Auth. 3).
After Conroy graduated The Citadel in 1967, he started teaching English at various local high schools. In 1969, he was hired at a small school off the coast teaching underprivileged black children. The Water is Wide is the story of his battles with illiteracy and the school board (Burns 1). It also tells about his graduation from college and being filled with liberalism and a desire to erase racism in the South. When he began writing the book he saw it as a chance to show his disapproval of the South Carolina school system. He told an interviewer, "When I began to write the first chapters I was blazing. What concerned me most was denouncing the people who had brought me down. But when I began to cool off I realized I had played a major part in my own downfall." (Locher 114) He was fired when he was accused of unorthodox teaching (Burns 1). The book was published in 1972. He stayed in the local community saying, "I do not want to be accused of nailing people to the wall in the book and then fleeing" (Locher 114) The Water is Wide won the Ansfield-Wolf Award by the Cleveland Foundation in 1972. It was also made into the movie Conrack in 1974 (Disc. Auth. 3).
The Great Santini was Conroy’s first true novel. It was published in 1976. It was truly an auto-biography of Conroy’s life as the son of a fighter pilot who brought his military training home to his wife and kids. In the story, the eldest son struggles to free himself from his abusive father’s ruthlessness (Disc. Auth. 1-2). This book started Conroy’s career as a writer. Conroy’s father was not happy of the perception of him in the book, but apparently cooled down because of his appearance at a book signing where he signed as "The Great Santini". Peg Conroy
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