Ochsner, Gina 1970–
Ochsner, Gina 1970–
PERSONAL: Born 1970; married; children: four. Education: Graduated from George Fox University; attended graduate school at Iowa State University; attended University of Oregon.
ADDRESSES: Home—Keizer, OR. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Houghton Mifflin Company, Trade Division, Adult Editorial, 222 Berkeley St., 8th Fl., Boston, MA 02116-3764.
CAREER: Writer. George Fox University, Newberg, OR, part-time instructor. Also worked at a Brazilian Café, Ames, IA.
AWARDS, HONORS: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and Publication, 2002, H.L. Davis Award for Fiction, Oregon Books Awards, 2002, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award for short stories, 2003, Austin Chronicle Top Ten Pick, all for The Necessary Grace to Fall: Stories; Raymond Carver Award, Humboldt State; Katherine Ann Porter Award; Chelsea Award for Short Fiction.
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
The Necessary Grace to Fall: Stories, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2002.
People I Wanted to Be, Mariner/Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.
Also contributor to Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, New Yorker, Kenyon Review, and Nimrod. Contributor to Best American Nonrequired Reading.
SIDELIGHTS: While raising a family and teaching-part time at her alma mater in Oregon, Gina Ochsner has published short stories in periodicals as well as in two collections. Her first collection, The Necessary Grace to Fall, features eleven tales set in various locales. Many of the stories feature characters that are dead or are bothered by death. For example, the title story "The Necessary Grace to Fall," focuses on a man named Howard who works as an insurance investigator. Howard becomes obsessive over the case of a female policyholder who dies by drowning. His interest is piqued in part because the woman lived near him as a child, and his investigation eventually uncovers problems in his marriage. In the Virginia Quarterly Review, a reviewer called the book a "clever collection of haunting, desolate stories."
Ochsner's second collection, People I Wanted to Be, was called "offbeat" and "affecting" by a critic writing in Publishers Weekly. "Ochsner knows that vindication and inspiration often come from unlikely places," The critic also wrote, "and she can capture this contradiction gorgeously in a gesture." Each story in this collection features a character who is aware of a major fault in himself or herself and would like to be without it or learn how to handle it. The characters take chances, though they nearly always fail. Death and the dead also remain important themes, and many fantastical elements are also present.
Ochsner has traveled around Eastern Europe and Russia, and she has set many of the stories from People I Wanted to Be in these locales. For example, "From the Fourth Row" focuses on a character named Jiri and the unusual events taking place at his worksite in Prague. A Czech is also at the center of "Signs and Markings." The story features a Czech street worker who is in an unfulfilling relationship with a nurse; it also explores the effects of occupation on the country.
Ochsner's work often focuses on the cold winters experienced in extreme northern climates and the effect on those who live there. Her story "A Blessing" revolves around Nikolai and Vera, a couple who used to live in Siberia but now reside in Oregon. Another story in which the cold plays a role is "Articles of Faith." In this tale, a Finnish husband and his Russian wife are trying to conceive. Outside in the frozen yard, their miscarried or dead children exist in ghost form. Gillian Engberg, writing in Booklist, wrote that "Ochsner's flawed, wholly sympathetic characters miraculously stumble into small moments, shaped with a delicious sense of the absurd, which connect them to a world that's magical, merciful, and infinite."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of People I Wanted to Be, p. 1266.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2005, review of People I Wanted to Be, p. 254.
Oregonian, February 13, 2005, Jeff Baker, "Comb That Wet Dog, Gina," author profile.
Publishers Weekly, April 4, 2005, review of People I Wanted to Be, p. 42.
Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 2002, review of The Necessary Grace to Fall: Stories, p. 128.
Diagram, http://www.thediagram.com/ (June 29, 2005), biography of Gina Ochsner.
Houghton Mifflin Books Web site, http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/ (June 29, 2005), biography of and interview with Gina Ochsner.
Writers on the Edge Web site, http://www.writersontheedge.org/ (February 15, 2003), biography of Gina Oschner.