Sara Paretsky is credited with "transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel" based on her series of 16 books featuring the feminist detective V.I. Warshawski. The New York Times wrote that Paretsky "always makes the top of the list when people talk about female operatives," and Publishers Weekly noted, "Among today's PIs, nobody comes close to Warshawski."
Paretsky's work helped to expand the genre of detective fiction and open doors for other female writers. By introducing a strong and believable female investigator, she challenged views of women in this literature as either "vamps or victims." Her books tackle important social issues, ranging from racism and classism, to the treatment of persons with mental illness and homeless individuals, to domestic violence, political corruption, and more. She founded the Sisters in Crime organization to support women writers.
Paretsky's memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence, described her development from a Kansas farm girl, growing up in Lawrence and Douglas County, to bestselling author, and it was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2008, Bleeding Kansas, her story of the struggles of families farming the Kaw River Valley from the time of the Civil War to that of the Iraq War, received great critical acclaim.
Paretsky earned a B.A. in political science at the University of Kansas, and a M.B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She has received honorary degrees from institutions including Columbia College and DePaul University. She was named the 2011 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, and awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers' Association. While at KU, she chaired the first university Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the KU Women's Hall of Fame and received the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award.