Elaine Neil Orr
Elaine Neil Orr is a writer of fiction, memoir, and literary criticism. With stories set in Nigeria and the American South, she delves into themes of home, country, and spiritual longing. Swimming Between Worlds, her newest, is called by Charles Frazier, “a perceptive and powerful story told with generosity and grace.” Anna Jean Mayhew writes, “the riveting plot and real-life characters would not let me go.” In a starred review, Library Journal said of Orr’s last novel, A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa, “this extraordinary novel shines with light and depth.”
Her memoir, Gods of Noonday (Virginia, 2003), was a Top-20 Book Sense selection and a nominee for the Old North State Award. She is associate editor of a collection of essays on international childhoods, Writing Out of Limbo, and the author of two scholarly books.
In 2016, she was Kathryn Stripling Byer Writer-in-Residence at Wesleyan College, Macon, Georgia.
Orr has published extensively in literary magazines including The Missouri Review, Blackbird,
Shenandoah, and Image Journal, and her short stories and short memoirs have won several Pushcart Prize nominations and competition prizes. She has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Orr was born in Nigeria to medical missionary parents and spent her growing-up years in the savannahs and rain forests of that country. Her family remained in Nigeria during its civil war. She left West Africa at age sixteen and attended college in Kentucky. She studied creative writing and literature at the University of Louisville before taking her Ph.D. in Literature and Theology at Emory University. She is an award-winning Professor of English at North Carolina State University and serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University. She reads and lectures widely at universities and conferences from Atlanta to Austin to San Francisco to Vancouver to New York to Washington D.C., and in Nigeria.
Books:Swimming Between Worlds, April 2018
A Different Sun, April 2013