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Peter Orner is an American writer, and the author of two novels, Love and Shame and Love (2011), a New York Times Editor's Choice Book, and California Book Award winner and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (2006), a novel set in Namibia where Orner worked in the 1990s, winner of the Bard Fiction Prize and Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His also the author of Esther Stories (2001), winner of the Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction, and finalist for the Pen Hemingway Prize and the Young Lion’s Award from the New York Public Library. Of Esther Stories, the New York Times wrote, “Orner doesn’t just give bring his characters to life, he gives them souls.”
In 2013, Little Brown released two books, a new edition of Esther Stories, with an introduction by Marilynne Robinson along with a new collection of new stories, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge (2013).
Orner's stories and essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney's, The Believer, the Southern Review, and elsewhere. His work has been anthologized in Best American Stories, Best American Non-Required Reading, and twice won a Pushcart Prize. Orner was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (2006), as well as the two-year Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship (2007-2008). A film version of one of Orner’s stories, "The Raft" with a screenplay by Orner and director Rob Jones is currently in production and stars Edward Asner, star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Fort Apache, The Bronx, and Up. Orner is also the editor of two non-fiction books, Underground America (2008) and Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives (2010), both published by McSweeney’s/ Voice of Witness.
Orner is a Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, and has taught at The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, The Warren Wilson MFA Program, The University of Montana, Washington University, Miami University, Bard College, and Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.
Chicago-born, Orner currently lives in Bolinas, California. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1990 and later collected a law degree from Northeastern University and an MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop. His older brother is Eric Orner, the creator of the comic The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green. He also has two younger siblings, William and Rebecca Orner. Orner has a long time association with Camp Nebagamon, an overnight camp at Lake Nebagamon in northern Wisconsin, where he has been a counselor, wilderness trip leader, and village director. He has also worked as human rights observer in Chiapas, Mexico, a cab driver in Iowa City, and for the sewer department in Highland Park, Illinois where once he worked side by side with Chicago-based journalist and author of College: The Best Five Years of Your Life, Alex Gordon.
- California Book Awards, Silver Medal for Fiction (2012)
- Virginia Commonwealth University First Novelist Award (2007)
- Guggenheim Fellowship (2006)
- Lannan Literary Fellowship (2006)
- Bard Fiction Prize (2007)
- Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize Best Fiction (2007)
- Rome Prize in Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters (2002–2003)
- Samuel Goldberg Award for Jewish Fiction
- New York Times Notable Book (for Esther Stories)
- Finalist, PEN/Hemingway Award
- Finalist, Young Lions Fiction Prize (2002)
- Finalist, John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize (2006)
- Peter Orner's home page
- NYT on Orner's Esther Stories
- An interview with Orner
- Excerpts from The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
- "First Love", a novel excerpt, Narrative Magazine.
- 2007 Bard Fiction Prize
- VCU First Novelist Prize
- Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives
- Interview with Peter Orner on Notebook on Cities and Culture