In The Bean Trees, the main character acquires a child named Turtle and meets a family of Guatemalan immigrants whose daughter was taken by the government in an effort to force them to speak out about their underground teaching circle. They were forced to escape torture and death in their home country, but are also forced to evade the authorities in the United States. The sequel to The Bean Trees, her 1993 novel Pigs in Heaven, examines the conflicts between individual and community rights, through a story about a Cherokee child adopted out of her tribe. In Animal Dreams, the American sister of the main protagonist is kidnapped by US-backed Contras while working to promote sustainable farming in Nicaragua. In The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver examined the role of the United States and other political powers in colonial and post-colonial Africa.
Kingsolver has said, "If we can't, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread."