Julie Orringer, the 2006 Zale Writer-in-Residence, knows how to make writing breathe underwater. Her dramatic voice is wholly penetrating and swift, as an interviewer for Powell’s Books website notes, “Orringer’s sentences practically cartwheel down the page.” Despite the harsh environments that her characters are often placed in. They are sentences that never lose their buoyancy.
Orringer was born in Miami in 1973, but was raised in both New Orleans and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Though Orringer looked to pursue career in medicine, she moved toward studying English after hearing a lecture by author Denis Johnson. She graduated from Cornell University and received an M.F.A. from the acclaimed Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 1997 her short story “What We Save” won the Smart Family Foundation Award of the Yale Review, and in 1998, “When She Is Old and I Am Famous” won the Paris Review’s Discovery Prize.
After she was awarded the Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, Orringer wrote a story collection, How to Breathe Underwater (2003). The nine stories document tragedy or awkwardly painful circumstances, especially among young women transitioning from childhood to adulthood; many explore the struggle to stay afloat in transitional periods. As Donna Seamen of The New York Times Book Review commented, “even the grimmest of these stories conveys, along with anguish, a child’s spark of mystery and wonder.” The book received several awards, including the San Francisco Chronicle’s Best Book of the Year.Orringer’s debut novel, The Invisible Bridge, will be released in May 2010. Set in Hungary and Paris, the eagerly awaited novel chronicles the lives of three brothers whose lives are devastated by war.