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Peter Orner is an American writer who is currently on Fulbright in Namibia where he is teaching at the University of Namibia. He is the author of two novels, two story collections and a book of essays. Orner holds the Professorship of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College and was formerly a Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University and a volunteer fire fighter in Bolinas, California.
Early life and education
In 2001 Orner published his first book, Esther Stories, which won a prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction, and was a 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 2006, Orner published his first novel, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, which was set in Namibia, where Orner worked as an English teacher in the 1990s; it won the Bard Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Orner was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, as well as the two-year Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship in 2007 and 2008.
Orner served as 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. His 2011 novel, Love and Shame and Love received positive reviews and was a New York Times Editor's Choice Book, and California Book Award winner.
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, and the Southern Review. His work has been anthologized in Best American Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and twice won a Pushcart Prize.
Orner currently 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.
A film version of one of Orner’s stories, The Raft, with a screenplay by Orner and director Rob Jones, and starring Edward Asner has played a number of film festivals.
In 2016, Orner released a collection of essays, Am I Alone Here, which was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards in their Criticism category. The book has garnered positive reviews in The New York Times, the New Yorker, and a number of other publications.
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 a sewer department worker for the city of Highland Park, Illinois, where once he worked side-by-side with Alex Gordon, a Chicago-based journalist and author of College: The Best Five Years of Your Life.
- National Book Critics Circle Awards, Finalist in Criticism Category (2016)
- 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)
- "Review: Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner". Toronto Star, John Freeman Jan. 28, 2012
- Margot Livesey (November 4, 2001). "The Past Is Another Small Town". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
- Kellogg, Carolyn. "National Book Critics Circle announces finalists, but misses one of the biggest novels of 2016". latimes.com. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
- "Reading into connections". Toronto Star, December 3, E24.
- "AM I ALONE HERE?". Kirkus Reviews, Aug. 21st, 2016
- Dames, Nicholas (2016-12-02). "Reading and Writing". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-26.
- "Briefly Noted Book Reviews". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-01-26.
- Official website
- Orner's Esther Stories, The New York Times
- 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