Biography Early life Gloria Jean Watkins was born on September 25, 1952 in Hopkinsville , Kentucky . She grew up in a working class family with five sisters and one brother. Her father, Veodis Watkins, was a custodian and her mother, Rosa Bell Watkins, was a homemaker. Throughout her childhood, she was an avid reader. Her early education took place in racially segregated public schools , and she wrote of great adversities when making the transition to an integrated school, where teachers and students were predominantly white. She graduated from Hopkinsville High School in Hopkinsville , Kentucky , earned her B.A. in English from Stanford University in 1973 and her M.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1976. In 1983, after several years of teaching and writing, she completed her doctorate in the literature department from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a dissertation on author Toni Morrison . She also taught at Yale.