Yesterday, June 12, was Susan Engberg’s birthday and to celebrate that occasion we’ve decided to feature her in our archival photo of the week. Engberg is the author of four short story collections, including Pastorale, A Stay by the River, Sarah’s Laughter, and Above the Houses. Her work has attracted substantial praise. Writing in The New York Times, critically-acclaimed novelist Russell Banks called the stories in Engberg’s first collection, Pastorale, “so good that they could change your life.” The collection went on to win the 1983 Banta Book Award. In 1991 Michiko Kakutani, lead book reviewer for The New York Times, compared Sarah’s Laughter to the work of Virginia Woolf and described the stories as “impressive.” Most recently, Publishers Weekly called Engberg’s, Above the Houses, “gorgeously crafted.”
Susan Engberg was born in Dubuque, Iowa to parents of German and Danish descent. Her family has lived in the American Midwest since the mid nineteenth century. In 1962 she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Lawrence University in Wisconsin with a B.A. in English. Following her graduation, Engberg traveled the country and held a variety of jobs. She worked as an editorial assistant at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, transcribed manuscripts for Yale University in New Haven, and edited stories for the Iowa Review. In 1979 she and her husband, Charles, an architect and jazz musician, settled in Milwaukee with their two daughters. Today they reside in a riverside condo in the city’s Fifth Ward.
Engberg has written that she likes to “slow stories down to give characters just enough to get their questions asked.” This allows her to investigate the eternal questions. “I never tire,” she says “of taking note of those words and actions that seem to carry us all forward—or set us back.”