Robert Hellenga (August 5, 1941) is an American novelist, essayist, and short story author. His seven novels include The Sixteen Pleasures, The Fall of a Sparrow, Blues Lessons, Philosophy Made Simple, The Italian Lover, Snakewoman of Little Egypt, and The Confessions of Frances Godwin. In addition to these works, he has written a novella along with a collection of short stories in The Truth About Death and Other Stories. Hellenga has also published scholarly essays and literary or travel essays in various venues, including The National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Sophisticated Traveler, and The Gettysburg Review.
Hellenga grew up in Three Oaks, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan and his graduate work at the Queen’s University of Belfast, the University of North Carolina, and Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton and began teaching English literature at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1968. In 1973–74 he was co-director of the ACM Seminar in the Humanities at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and in 1982–83 he directed the ACM Florence programs in Florence, Italy. He has also worked and studied in Bologna, Verona, and Rome. He is currently Distinguished Writer in Residence and Professor Emeritus at Knox College. Helenga is married and has three daughters.
Hellenga has received awards for his fiction from the Illinois Arts Council and from The National Endowment for the Arts. The Sixteen Pleasures received The Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction published in 1994. The Fall of a Sparrow was included in the Los Angeles Times list of the "Best Fiction of 1998" and the Publisher’s Weekly list of the "Best 98 Books." Snakewoman of Little Egypt, was included in the Washington Post’s list of "The Best Novels of 2010" and Kirkus Reviews’ list of "2010 Best Fiction: The Top 25." The audio version of Snakewoman was a 2011 Audie Award Winner for Literary Fiction. The Confessions of Frances Godwin received The Society of Midland Authors Award for fiction published in 2014.