December 27, 1969
Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States
Author and essayist Sarah Vowell's eclectic and humorous observations on American life, both past and present, made her a popular presence on the literary scene, which in turn led to a second career as a talk show guest and voice actor for "The Incredibles" (2004). Born Sarah Jane Vowell in Muskogee, Oklahoma on December 27, 1969, she moved with her parents and twin sister, Amy, to Bozeman, Montana when she was eleven years of age. She earned her bachelor's degree in modern languages and literatures from Montana State University in 1993 before gaining her master's degree in art history from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. Vowell released her first book of essays, Radio On: A Listener's Diary, the following year, which caught the attention of Ira Glass, host of the Public Radio International program "This American Life." Vowell began contributing segments to the series, which in turn led to writing assignments for McSweeney's, Salon and the San Francisco Weekly. Vowell soon established herself as a unique observer of American life, with an particular emphasis on the more obscure elements of United States history, through books like Take the Cannoli (2000) and The Partly Cloudy Patriot (2002). In 2004, a segment on "This American Life" about her making and firing a homemade cannon attracted the producers of the Pixar animated feature "The Incredibles," who tapped her to provide the voice of Violet Parr, the shy but resilient daughter of married superheroes. The following year, Vowell issued Assassination Vacation, her document of visits to locations across America where Presidents Lincoln, McKinley and Garfield were murdered, and began a sporadic tenure as guest columnist for The New York Times. The popularity of her books and radio essays led to regular appearances on talk shows like "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (NBC, 1993-2009), as well as occasional acting appearances in features like "Please Give" (2010) and the HBO comedy "Bored to Death" (2009-2011). During this period, Vowell's literary career continued unabated, and soon encompassed The Wordy Shipmates (2008), about the Puritan's influence on America; Unfamiliar Fishes (2011), which concerned the idea of "manifest destiny" through the history of Hawaii's annexation by the United States; and Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (2015), about the Revolutionary War hero the Marquis of Lafayette.