The Raft By Peter Orner Essay

Peter Orner is an American writer who is currently on Fulbright in Namibia[1] 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[2] 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[edit]

Orner was born in Chicago.[3] He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1990 and later earned a law degree from Northeastern University and an MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop.


In 2001 Orner published his first book, Esther Stories,[3] 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."[4]

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[3] and was a New York Times Editor's Choice Book, and California Book Award winner.

In 2013, Little Brown released two books: a new edition of Esther Stories (with an introduction by Marilynne Robinson) and a new collection of stories, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge.

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 is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. He has taught at San Francisco State University, 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[5] in their Criticism category.[6][7] The book has garnered positive reviews in The New York Times,[8] the New Yorker,[9] 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.



External links[edit]

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ abc"Review: Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner". Toronto Star, John Freeman Jan. 28, 2012
  4. ^Margot Livesey (November 4, 2001). "The Past Is Another Small Town". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  5. ^Kellogg, Carolyn. "National Book Critics Circle announces finalists, but misses one of the biggest novels of 2016". Retrieved 2017-01-17. 
  6. ^"Reading into connections". Toronto Star, December 3, E24.
  7. ^"AM I ALONE HERE?". Kirkus Reviews, Aug. 21st, 2016
  8. ^Dames, Nicholas (2016-12-02). "Reading and Writing". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-26. 
  9. ^"Briefly Noted Book Reviews". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-01-26. 

Chicago-born Peter Orner is the author of two novels published by Little, Brown: THE SECOND COMING OF MAVALA SHIKONGO, 2006 and LOVE AND SHAME AND LOVE, 2010. And two story collections also published by Little, Brown: ESTHER STORIES, 2001, 2013 with new foreword by Marilynne Robinson and LAST CAR OVER THE SAGAMORE BRIDGE, 2013. His latest book an essay collection/ memoir, AM I ALONE HERE?: NOTES ON READING TO LIVE AND LIVING TO READ (Catapult, 2016) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His work has been translated into French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese.

Peter is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. Currently, he is on a Fulbright Fellowship in Namibia where he is teaching at the University of Namibia. He lives with his family in Windhoek. 

Peter is also the editor of three non-fiction books/oral histories for the Voice of Witness Series: UNDERGROUND AMERICA: NARRATIVES OF UNDOCUMENTED LIVES (VOW/ McSweeney's, 2008), HOPE DEFERRED: NARRATIVES OF ZIMBABWEAN LIVES (VOW/ McSweeney's, 2011) (co-edited with Annie Holmes), and LAVIL: LIVE, LOVE AND DEATH IN PORT-AU-PRINCE (VOW/ Verso Press, 2017) (co-edited with Evan Lyon). 

Peter's fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, Granta, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, The Southern Review, Ploughshares and many other publications. Stories have been anthologized in Best American Stories and twice received a Pushcart Prize. Peter has been awarded the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy in Rome, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a two-year Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship. He's also received a California Book Award (LOVE AND SHAME AND LOVE), the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Writing (ESTHER STORIES) and has been a finalist for the Pen/ Hemingway Award ESTHER STORIES, the Los Angeles Times Book Award (THE SECOND COMING OF MAVALA SHIKONGO), and the Northern California Book Award (LAST CAR OVER THE SAGAMORE BRIDGE) . 

Recently, Peter also wrote introductions for the re-issue of Mavis Gallant's novels, A FAIRLY GOOD TIME, (New York Review of Books, 2016) and Gina Berriault's story collection WOMEN IN THEIR BEDS (Counterpoint, 2017)

A film of one of Peter's stories, "The Raft," (with screenplay by Peter and Rob Jones) and starring Ed Asner premiered at the Woods Hole Film Festival in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 2015, and has been screened at festivals around the country. 

Peter also regularly teaches on the fiction faculty at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. For many years he worked with wonderful graduate students as a professor at San Francisco State University and served as chair of the department. He's also taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop (Visiting Professor), Northwestern, the University of Montana (William Kittredge Visting Writer, 2009), Washington University (Visiting Hurst Professor, 2008), Bard College (Bard Fiction Prize Fellowship, 2007), Miami University, and on the law faculty of Charles University in Prague.

He's a graduate of the University of Michigan, Northeastern University School of Law, and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Peter is also a former member of the Bolinas, California Volunteer Fire Department in Bolinas, California. He collects coffee cups - and leaves half drunk cups of coffee over the house - and is a frequent but mediocre swimmer. 

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