Ilyon Woo has been obsessed with the Shakers since childhood, when her design-crazed parents began taking her on tours of Shaker villages. Her first book, The Great Divorce, is the true story of a nineteenth-century mother’s fight to recapture her children from this celibate Utopian sect.

Woo holds a B.A. in the Humanities from Yale College and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. She has received support for her research from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Whiting Foundation, among other organizations, and has written for the Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal.