Zuber, Isabel 1932-

views updated

ZUBER, Isabel 1932-


Born July 28, 1932, in Boone, NC; daughter of Herman Roland (a university administrator) and Elizabeth Mae (a homemaker and university survey researcher; maiden name, Pennington) Eggers; married Richard Lee Zuber (a professor), 1954 (divorced, 1986); children: Jonathan Herman, Elizabeth Pennington. Education: Appalachian State University, B.A. (English and library science), 1954; University of North Carolina at Greensboro, M.L.S., 1988.


Agent—Stella Connell, The Connell Agency, 1 Christopher St., Suite 12G, New York, NY 10014.


Poet, author. Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, librarian, retired 2001. Center for Women Writers, Salem College, member of board of directors.


North Carolina Wrtiers Network, Selu Writers Retreat.


North Carolina Writers Network prize, 1987, for Oriflamb; Lee Smith award for fiction, Appalachian Writers Association, 1990; University of Tennessee Press prize, 1999, for "The Loves of Goldie Kilby"; Forsyth County Arts Council grant, 2002; First Novelist prize, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2003, for Salt.


Oriflamb (poems), North Carolina Writers Network (Carrboro, NC), 1987.

Winter's Exile (poems), Scots Plaid Press (Southern Pines, NC), 1997.

Salt (novel), Picador USA (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to literary journals, including American Voice, Arts Journal, Laurel Review, Iris, Poetry, Southern Review, Now and Then, Sandhills Review, and Shenandoah.


Palaces of Instruction, a collection of short stories; a novel titled Rowing the Destroyer; Red Lily, a poetry collection.


Poet and writer Isabel Zuber has produced two collections of poetry, including Winter's Exile, which contains poems about her father. Born in Boone, North Carolina, Zuber had a career as a librarian at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. Her writing is inspired by the past of the region in which she lives and a way of life that is now gone.

A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Salt "a beautifully conceived and gracefully executed first novel." The story is set at the beginning of the twentieth century in the small town of Faith, North Carolina, and follows the life of Anna Stockton, a young woman who becomes a hired girl to the Albas, an upper middle-class couple who expose her to music, poetry, and progressive ideas and whose son becomes an admirer. Anna's dreams of education and travel come to a halt, however, when she weds John Bayley, a twice-widowed farmer, after he seduces and impregnates her.

Anna bears John a total of five babies, raises his children from the previous marriages, and is a hardworking wife to him, while he increases his holdings and wealth. Her only respite comes when she travels to Kansas to be with her dying sister, and during the trip she experiences a brief encounter with a stranger. Anna returns to John's house, where she must read her books in secret. Booklist's Michelle Kaske commented that although Anna "is tied to her farm work and her family, she manages to carve out a life full of imagination, courage, and learning." Anna dies at forty, still yearning for the life she could never have.

Zuber told Lynn Hotaling in an interview for the Sylva Herald and Ruralite Online that she was inspired by a packet of letters written to her grandmother by her great-grandmother, but added that the character of Anna is not her grandmother, but rather a composite. She said that Salt was written over twenty years, out of "bits and pieces, all out of sequence, just as they spring into mind."

Gary Carden, who interviewed Zuber for Smoky Mountain News online, asked her to comment on the character of John, who Carden called "willful, ambitious, and controlling." Zuber said that "for John, the determining event that he is reminded of over and over is the early death of his father and his own failure to carry out his father's 'last charge.' If we add hardship and the loss of two wives, you have a man with underlying insecurities that can lead to a desperate need to dominate and control. He is far from a complete villain. He would not have attracted Anna without some redeeming qualities, and in some ways, she succeeds in bringing out the best in him."

In a review for the Independent Weekly Online, Joanne Brannon Aldridge wrote that Zuber "is an extraordinary storyteller, and Salt … is a celebration of the art of storytelling itself—both in the broader rendering of Anna's life and in the little 'stories' that run throughout the book. In these little stories, Zuber realizes the authenticity of the mountain setting and mountain life at the turn of the twentieth century." Betsy Groban wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Zuber "gets the historical details right, and her characters' emotions … are handled just as deftly." And Carolyn See noted in the Washington Post that "Zuber invents a world where the king is not mankind but the earth itself."



Appalachian Heritage, fall, 2002, Jane Hicks, review of Salt, p. 87

Appalachian Journal, winter-spring, 2003, Silas House, review of Salt, p. 245.

Booklist, February 15, 2002, Michelle Kaske, review of Salt, p. 995.

Charlotte Observer, September 1, 2002, Yates Forbis, review of Salt, p. 6H.

Library Journal, February 1, 2002, Ann H. Fisher, review of Salt, p. 134.

New York Times Book Review, June 30, 2002, Betsy Groban, review of Salt, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, February 11, 2002, review of Salt, p. 162.

Raleigh News and Observer, June 2, 2002, Ruth Moose, review of Salt, p. 5G.

Washington Post, March 22, 2002, Carolyn See, review of Salt, p. C4.

Winston-Salem Journal, January 3, 1988, Becky Gould Gibson, review of Oriflamb, p. C8; March 17, 2002, Kim Uncerwood, interview with Isabel Zuber, p. D1; March 31, 2002, Kathryn Milam, review of Salt, p. A20.


Blackbird,http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/ (December 15, 2003), Sarah Rachel Egelman, review of Salt.

BookReporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 10, 2003), Sarah Rachel Egelman, review of Salt.

Independent Weekly Online,http://www.indyweek.com/ (March 13, 2002), Joanne Brannon Aldridge, review of Salt.

Smoky Mountain News,http://www.smokymountainnews.com/ (March 13, 2002), Gary Carden, interview with Zuber.

Sylva Herald and Ruralite Online,http://www.thesylvaherald.com/ (March 21, 2002), Lynn Hotaling, review of Salt.