Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Peter Orner  

Pen Name: None

Genre: C:ADULT

Born: 1968 in Highland Park, Illinois


Illinois Connection

Orner grew up in Highland Park and graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston.

Biographical and Professional Information

The product of four generations of lawyers, Peter Orner moved to Washington after college, working as a limousine driver, with the expectation that he would go into politics. But then he went to Namibia, Africa to teach. Although he had fallen in love with writing, Mr. Orner followed in his family’s footsteps and got a law degree from Northwestern University. From there, he went directly into a graduate writing program at the University of Iowa. In 2001, Orner moved to the Bay area to teach at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is an Associate Professor at San Francisco State University and has taught mostly graduate-level writing while there. Orner's experiences in Africa became fodder for his first novel, ''The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo.'' His work there as a pro bono immigration lawyer helped in his editing of two non-fiction books, ''Underground America'' and ''Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives.'' Both books are published by McSweeney's/​ Voice of Witness, an imprint devoted to using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. His work has appeared in the ''Atlantic Monthly'' and ''The Best American Short Stories'', and has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes.Orner currently resides in Bolinas, California.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library


-- '''''Esther Stories''''' *Rome Prize in Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters *Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction *Pen Hemingway Award Finalist, *Young Lions Award Finalist, New York Public Library *Notable Book, New York Times, 2001 '''''The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo''''' *Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist *Best-Seller, San Francisco Chronicle *Bard Fiction Prize '''''Love and Shame and Love''''' *Silver Medal, California Book Award in Fiction *Ribalow Prize Finalist, Hadassah Magazine *Editors' Choice, New York Times *Lit Pick, San Francisco Chronicle *Editor's Choice, Chicago Tribune *Starred Review, Publishers Weekly *Starred Review, Kirkus '''''Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge''''' *Starred Review, Publishers Weekly '''''Am I Alone Here?''''' *Rome Prize *Bard Fiction Prize *Finalist in Criticism, National Book Critics Circle Award