Peter Orner was born in Chicago and attended Northwestern University and the University of Michigan. He received a law degree from Northeastern University and an MFA from the University of Iowa.
Orner’s fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Granta, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, The Southern Review, The Forward, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Ploughshares. Stories have been anthologized in Best American Stories 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 the film’s director, Rob Jones, is currently in production and stars Ed Asner.
Esther Stories (Houghton Mifflin/ Mariner, 2001) was awarded the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction, and was a Finalist for the Pen Hemingway Award and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. Esther Stories was a 2001 New York Times Notable Book. Of the book, Margot Livesey wrote in the New York Times Book Review, “Orner doesn’t simply bring his characters to life, he gives them souls.”
The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (Little, Brown, 2006) is set in Namibia where Orner lived and worked in the early 1990′s. The novel was a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a San Francisco Chronicle Best-Seller, and winner of the Bard Fiction Prize. The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo has been translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and German.
Orner is also the editor of two non-fiction books, Underground America (2008) and Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives (co-editor Annie Holmes, 2010), both published by McSweeney’s/ Voice of Witness, an imprint devoted to using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. Harper’s Magazine wrote, “Hope Deferred might be the most important publication out of Zimbabwe in the past thirty years.”
Orner’s third book of fiction, Love and Shame and Love (Little, Brown, 2011) was recently called epic by Daniel Handler, “…epic like Gilgamesh, epic like a guitar solo.” (Orner has since bought Gilgamesh and is enjoying it.) Love and Shame and Love is illustrated throughout by the Orner’s brother Eric Orner, an comic artist and illustrator whose long time independent/ alt weekly strip The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green was made into a feature film in 2008. Eric Orner’s work is featured this year in Best American Cartoons edited by Alison Bechdel.
Orner has taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop (Visiting Professor, 2011), University of Montana (William Kittredge Visting Writer, 2009), the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College (2009) Washington University (Visiting Hurst Professor, 2008), Bard College (Bard Fiction Prize Fellowship, 2007), Miami University (Visting Professor, 2002), Charles University in Prague (Visting Law Faculty, 2000). Orner is a long time permanent faculty member at San Francisco State where he is an associate professor. He would like to divide his time between a lot of places, especially San Francisco and Chicago.
The Lonely Voice
Live From Prairie Lights
Herb and Rosalie Swanson at the Cocoanut Grove
Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives (McSweeney's Publishing)
Little Brown and Company, Houghton Mifflin, McSweeney's Publishing
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