James Carroll was born in Chicago in 1943, and grew up in Washington, D.C. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969, and left it in 1974 to become a writer. He is the author of several texts on religion and politics, receiving the National Book Award for his memoir, An American Requiem. Carroll's other work includes the novels Secret Father, The City Below, Memorial Bridge, Prince of Peace, Moral Friends, and Madonna Red, in addition to various plays and Forbidden Disappointments, a book of poetry published in 1974. Carroll's work has received the Melcher Book Award, the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award, and National Jewish Book Award in History, and has been frequently been named among the Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times.
Carroll is a member of the Council of PEN-New England, which he chaired for four years. He has been a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at the Harvard Divinity School. He is a trustee of the Boston Public Library, a member of the Advisory Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis University, and a member of the Dean's Council at the Harvard Divinity School. Carroll is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences where he chairs the Academy's Visiting Scholars Center, and is a member of the Academy's Committee on International Security Studies. Scholar-in-Residence at the Academy, he is at work on a history of the Pentagon. Carroll's op-ed column appears weekly in the Boston Globe, and he lives in Boston with his wife, the novelist Alexandra Marshall, and their two children.