Charmaine Craig was born in 1971 and grew up in Santa Monica, California. She studied literature with a focus on the Middle Ages at Harvard and received her Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, Irvine. She acted in several television and film productions.
Her début novel »The Good Men« (2002) is set in 14th-century Montaillou, a mountain village in the County of Foix in southern France. Life in the community has been uncovered with historiographic precision according to extensive sources dating to the inquisition trials by, among others, the renowned medievalist Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. Using this factual raw material, Craig creates fictional narrative threads with great accuracy around the heresy accusations and brings the complex characters to life. At the center of the chronological novel’s meandering perspectives is the story of Grazida Lizier, who enters a relationship with the local priest. While the ideas of purity are interpreted as a naïve adaption of the beliefs of the persecuted Cathars at the actual trial, Craig makes them appear as expressions of unwavering individuality, which priorities own’s own emotions over authoritarian teachings. In »Miss Burma« (2017), the author finds inspiration in the lives of her Burmese ancestors, which in turn are interwoven with the country’s history of civil war. While the grandmother belonged to the oppressed Karen minority, the grandfather was a successful industrialist until his imprisonment by the military dictatorship, and Craig’s mother Louisa achieved a near iconic status as the revolutionary beauty on whose head the government has put a bounty. The time frame extends from British rule to the Japanese invasion to the independence pervaded by continual conflict, massacres on ethnic minorities, and the systemic destruction of oppositionists, but the inherent politics are more part of the background. Instead, Craig draws an intimate portrait of a broken family that carries a plurality of cultures, languages and religions although each member balances the losses experienced through different kinds of discrimination against the basic desire for human connection. Enthusiastically received by critics, the novel was included in many best-of-the-year lists and was longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction in the US and the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK.
Craig teachers creative writing at the University of California in Riverside. She lives together with the writer Andrew Winer and their daughters in Los Angeles.